DPS alleges cover-up in officer-involved bar fight

2013-04-26T00:00:00Z DPS alleges cover-up in officer-involved bar fightThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

FLAGSTAFF - Members of a law-enforcement motorcycle club assaulted patrons at a Prescott bar and high-ranking officers tried to cover up the group's involvement, an investigative report released Thursday alleges.

Prescott Valley Police Chief Bill Fessler and Yavapai County sheriff's Sgt. Bill Suttle both left their jobs after the brawl along Prescott's Whiskey Row that sent a man to a hospital with a bloodied and swollen nose.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety report accuses Suttle and Fessler of obstructing the investigation and lying about the involvement of the Arizona Chapter of the Iron Brotherhood Motorcycle Club.

Two others - Phoenix police Officer Eric Amato and Greg Kauffman, a supervisor at an Ajo ambulance service - are accused of assault. The report also recommends a charge of disorderly conduct against an alleged victim, Justin Stafford, and says a second person received minor facial injuries.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will decide whether any formal charges are warranted.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves declined to comment beyond what's in the report, which came four months after the raucous fight.

The motorcycle club had been holding its Christmas party at another bar before the fight broke out. Stafford has acknowledged he was drunk when he approached Fessler and asked about the patches on his jacket. He previously told The Associated Press that he didn't see who hit him, and that a friend immediately whisked him out of the bar.

Stafford's father declined to comment Thursday on behalf of the family.

Suttle told a Prescott police officer that he "kind of" knew about the fight, saying a kid grabbed one of the bikers and they got into a "tussle," according to the department's report. The officer asked for the names of those involved, and Suttle gave him Kauffman's nickname, "Top Gun." The officer said he thought Fessler and Suttle were being "vague on purpose."

An internal review of the Yavapai County sheriff's employees said Suttle, Deputy Mark Boan and Capt. Marc Schmidt, who has left the job, appeared to be more loyal to the motorcycle club than to their jobs as law-enforcement officers.

Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Mascher apologized Thursday "for any trust we may have lost as a result of this event." Mascher is not a member of the motorcycle club and was not involved in the fight.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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