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Tempe hotel worker who was held at gunpoint by cop files $2.5 million claim against the city


Black hotel worker who was held at gunpoint by ‘hyperaggressive’ Arizona cop during search for white gunman files $2.5 million claim against the city

  • Trevonyae Cumpian, 28, filed a $2.5M claim against Tempe on Wednesday
  • On August 29, Cumpian was held at gunpoint by cop at hotel where he works
  • The officer was searching for a white man with a gun after 911 call from management
  • Officer Ronald Kerzaya mistakenly held Cumpian at gunpoint for two minutes
  • Cumpian walked out of the exit that Kerzaya was told the gunman was heading
  • After confirming that Cumpian worked at the hotel, Kerzaya released him
  • Kerzaya has a prior excessive force claim; Cumpian calls him ‘hyperaggressive’

By Keith Griffith For and Associated Press

Published: | Updated:

A black man has filed a $2.5 million claim against the Arizona city of Tempe, saying a ‘hyperaggresive’ police officer held him at gunpoint while looking for a white suspect at a hotel where he worked.

The claim – a precursor to a lawsuit – was filed on Wednesday by hotel employee Trevonyae Cumpian stemming from his August 29 detention by Tempe police Officer Ronald Kerzaya, the Arizona Republic reported.

Body-camera footage showed Kerzaya responded to a 911 call at the Hawthorn Suites hotel where management said there was a man with a gun. Kerzaya was initially without backup, and a manager told him that the armed man was white.

The manager, watching surveillance cameras, told Kerzaya that the gunman was headed for a particular exit, and the cop rushed outside and waited by the exterior door. 

Trevonyae Cumpian, 28, filed a $2.5M claim against Tempe on Wednesday

The incident occurred at the the Hawthorn Suites hotel in Tempe on August 29, when management called 911 to report a man roaming the building with a gun

While guarding the exit door, the footage shows, Kerzaya held Cumpian, who works as a front-desk employee, at gunpoint despite Cumpian not matching the suspect description. 

Kerzaya would not lower his gun until he confirmed the man was a hotel employee, which took about two minutes.

He then can be seen pointing his weapon at three others as he searches for the suspect, who was not found.

The claim calls for Kerzaya, who has been moved to an administrative role pending an investigation, to be terminated due to his ‘blatant and continual abusiveness toward black men.’

At a news conference Wednesday, Cumpian said he was racially profiled by Kerzaya.

‘Once things became hostile and he said I fit the description and had me get down to my knees with the gun on me, all I could think about was my daughter, my family, and my life flashed before my eyes,’ Cumpian said. ‘I thought I was going to die.’

The manager (above), watching surveillance cameras, told Officer Kerzaya that the gunman was headed for a particular exit, and the cop rushed outside and waited by the exterior door

When Cumpian exited the door that Kerzaya was guarding, Kerzaya ordered him to put his hands up. Cumpian is black, and the suspect description was of a white male

Cumpian complained that he was a hotel employee and told Kerzaya to stop pointing his gun at him, which seemed to enrage Kerzaya who told him to stop talking back

Nikki Ripley, a spokeswoman for the city, said the city hasn’t yet received Cumpian’s claim.

Benjamin Crump, one of Cumpian’s attorneys, said his client deescalated the situation, while Kerzaya seemed to do the opposite.

The police department previously said its initial review shows the encounter wasn’t handled with the professionalism or respect expected of its officers. An internal investigation is being conducted.

Kerzaya and the department came under fire for a 2019 incident in which Kerzaya used a stun gun on Ivaughn Oakry, who was holding his 1-year-old child in his own home.

The claim involving Cumpian seeks $2.5 million for emotional trauma and related therapy.

Kerzaya held Cumpian at gunpoint for about two minutes, until he confirmed that he was actually a hotel employee

Once confirming Cumpian’s identity, Kerzaya told him to leave the area and wait in the lobby

The claim also alleges a cover-up by the department to keep Kerzaya’s past conduct quiet. 

The attorneys said officials attempted to avoid providing the officer’s badge number and, when they did, they provided Kerzaya’s middle name of Aaron, instead of Ronald. 

They later provided his full name and Cumpian quickly discovered Kerzaya was at the center of an excessive-force lawsuit filed by Oakry.

The department stood by Kerzaya and the other officers involved following the incident with Oakry. 

An investigation determined their actions were within policy and Kerzaya underwent mandatory re-training in contact communication, defense tactics and enhanced de-escalation techniques.


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