DPS report: Officer started Prescott bar brawl

A state police report on a Prescott saloon fight involving biker police officers says violence erupted when a Phoenix officer started throwing punches at another bar patron who asked about his motorcycle club’s patches.

Arizona Department of Public Safety detectives investigated the Dec. 22 fracas at the request of Prescott police because high-ranking members of several Yavapai County law-enforcement agencies also belong to the Iron Brotherhood motorcycle club and were involved in the brawl.

About 16 members of the law-enforcement club were celebrating the holidays on Whiskey Row when fighting broke out at Moctezuma’s Bar.

According to the DPS report, 23-year-old Justin Stafford was questioning Iron Brotherhood president Billy Fessler, who was Prescott Valley police chief at the time, about patches on his vest.

Suddenly, the report says, Phoenix police Officer Eric “Guido” Amato stepped in, grabbed Stafford by the throat and punched him several times, apparently breaking his nose.

The report says numerous witnesses, supported by video evidence, place blame for the outburst on Amato.

He and other club members told investigators that Stafford started the fight. “The dude got stupid, and he got touched. Did I want that to happen? No.”

Although DPS investigators did not issue criminal recommendations, their report identifies potential criminal “allegations” against four club members:

Amato, the club’s sergeant at arms: assault and disorderly conduct. A Phoenix police spokesman confirmed that his department also has an internal investigation under way, but he would not comment further.

Fessler, who has since resigned as police chief: obstructing a criminal investigation and false reporting.

William “Bill” Suttle III, club vice president who resigned from his job as a Yavapai County sheriff’s sergeant: obstructing and false reporting.

Greg Kaufman, a paramedic supervisor with Ajo Ambulance Services: assault and disorderly conduct.

A separate administrative review conducted by a Coconino County sheriff’s commander and released Thursday by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office concluded that at least two Yavapai County sheriff’s deputies — Suttle and Capt. Marc Schmidt — hindered investigators by lying and withholding information.

None of the Iron Brotherhood members could be reached for comment.

DPS detectives referred their report to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, where spokesman Jerry Cobb said the information is under review. No one has been charged since the incident.

The Iron Brotherhood claims on its website to be a fraternity of motorcycle-riding law officers who do not associate with criminals.

The DPS report notes that numerous members of the club made statements that were contradicted by videotape, other evidence and civilian witnesses.

The report said Kaufman acknowledged taking part in the altercation and possessing a knife.

During the criminal probe, records show, some Prescott-area officers in the club sought to portray Stafford as a Hells Angels associate out to discredit the Iron Brotherhood, but there was no evidence behind the claims.

Besides criminal charges and administrative actions by employers, those involved could face sanctions from the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. The regulatory agency is empowered to suspend or decertify officers for misconduct ranging from criminal offenses to lying or malfeasance.

Lyle Mann, the agency’s executive director, said the board will await completion of all investigations of the Whiskey Row incident before determining what actions to take against specific officers. (Source)


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