Famed legal professional to characterize man in Tempe police abuse case

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Famed attorney to represent man in Tempe police abuse case

TEMPE, AZ — Nationally renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump will represent a Black Tempe hotel employee who was held at gunpoint by an officer looking for a white suspect.

ABC15 was first to report on the allegations against Tempe Officer Ronald Kerzaya.

The incident occurred on Aug, 29 at the Hawthorn Suites hotel near Loop 101 and Southern Avenue. The hotel manager told Officer Kerzaya, who was already at the hotel for another matter, that a white man had pulled a gun on his staff. Kerzaya walked over to a side door and encountered employee Trevonyae Cumpian, who is Black. Officer Kerzaya’s body camera video shows he held Cumpian at gunpoint for three minutes, claiming he matched the suspect description. Kerzaya made Cumpian remain on his knees with hands up until he received confirmation that the man did work for the hotel.

Crump also represents the family of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in May, and Jacob Blake, who was shot by police in Wisconsin last month.

Crump is expected to appear with Arizona co-counsels Steve Benedetto and Heather Hamel at a Wednesday afternoon press conference to announce a notice of claim against the City of Tempe in the Cumpian case.

Officer Kerzaya was at the center of another use-of-force controversy last year. He used a Taser on a Black man who was holding his small child during a domestic violence call.

Cumpian and his attorneys will be demanding that Kerzaya be fired to end his “blatant and continual abusiveness towards Black men.” They also demand a supervisor be fired in connection with his response after the gunpoint incident. In addition, they want a settlement fund and a fund for victims of police brutality to be established out of the police budget, and they want Tempe to not use qualified immunity as a defense in the Cumpian case or similar cases.

Read the Notice of Claim in the Cumpian case here.