APD's Copeland Suspended 90 Days
Oft-mentioned cop disciplined for April detainment
By Chase Hoffberger,
3:30PM, Wed. Oct. 21, 2015
A busy week in the APD disciplinary department concludes with the 90-day suspension of Officer Eric Copeland. Copeland, a six-year veteran, was suspended Tuesday for violating three department policies during a detainment on April 25.
Police Chief Art Acevedo wrote that Copeland, on patrol with a civilian rider that evening, violated the department’s Response to Resistance Policy, failed to act with an impartial attitude and courtesy toward a citizen, and produced an inaccurate report of the incident upon its conclusion. His 90-day suspension, the most Acevedo can levy upon him without firing (or “indefinitely suspending,” according to the parlance of civil service), comes with a string of additional terms and conditions, and will be unappealable. It’s hard to imagine a more severe punishment outside of termination.
According to the memo, Copeland told the civilian rider that “if you act like you’re going to fight with me, you are going to get hurt” before responding to anti-police rhetoric delivered from the detainee, Adrian Aguado, being held in the back of another officer’s squad car, by approaching Aguado, telling him he “seemed slow” and asking if he took any medications for “mental retardation.” Aguado shot back at the officer, slipped his left hand from his handcuffs, and challenged him to a fight. The two went back and forth a bit more before Copeland radioed for assistance, opened the rear door, and told Aguado to “turn around.” Aguado tried to – by stepping out of the vehicle and then presumably climbing back in – but seemed to have interpreted Copeland’s directions incorrectly. (Copeland later told Internal Affairs that he intended for Aguado to turn around inside the vehicle.)
As Aguado was stepping out of the squad car, Copeland pulled out his taser and zapped him. He fell to his knees before falling completely onto the ground. Once there, Copeland dropped his body onto Aguado and threw his right knee into Aguado’s left shoulder. Acevedo noted that dash-cam footage showed that Copeland failed to give “proper warning or time to respond to commands prior to activating the taser for a second cycle.” Aguado was re-handcuffed and placed back inside the vehicle.
Copeland acknowledged to Internal Affairs that he never tried to de-escalate the situation and that his comments concerning mental retardation may have “played a part” in agitating Aguado. He also noted that he “uttered some inappropriate statements” and failed to warn Aguado of the impending tasing. But his confessions and recollections failed to jibe with earlier statements. Earlier, when he offered a verbal account to his Sergeant, Jeff Greenwalt (for the response to resistance incident), and a written report to supplement the responding officer’s account, Copeland explained the situation as if “he walked up and saw Mr. Aguado trying to slip his handcuffs” and told Aguado not to slip them off, never acknowledging the lengthy discourse the two had before that escalation. He told Internal Affairs that it was, according to Acevedo, “not a good description of what happened,” and that he didn’t think the earlier back-and-forth was part of the R2R. Copeland also said that he gave a “poor and brief” summary of the events in his report and provided inaccurate information about the events immediately before and in between the two tasings.
In addition to the suspension, Acevedo notes that Copeland must “be evaluated” for potential needs for any counseling (to last at least 12 months, on his own dime); will be subject to termination if he fails to complete any recommended program; may have to undergo a mental or physical fitness for duty examination; must “voluntarily request that his name be permanently removed from the promotional eligibility list” (Copeland had applied for Corporal/Detective status on Oct. 9); undergo additional training; and endure one year on probation after returning to active duty.
Acevedo sometimes mentions whether an officer’s history had anything to do with a given punishment at the bottom of each disciplinary memo, but in this case nothing’s mentioned – possibly because the two most widely discussed situations Copeland has found himself in during his six years on the job have both been given varying degrees of official clearance. In April 2013, a grand jury declined to indict Copeland for an April 2012 incident in which he shot and killed Ahmede Jabbar Bradley after a routine traffic stop turned into a fight between the officer and driver. (Bradley reportedly tried to strangle Copeland with the cord to his radio microphone. Calls made to 911 during the fight noted that Copeland was losing the battle and in danger of being injured.) In May 2013, Carlos Chacon sued the city and the two officers alleging that Copeland and Officer Russell Rose used excessive force when they unjustly arrested him outside of an I-35 motel on April 29, 2011. Rose reportedly used his taser on Chacon, while Copeland’s on the record for throwing two punches to Chacon’s face. District Judge Sam Sparks granted Copeland immunity in the case, but a jury originally awarded $1 million in damages to Chacon, to be paid by the city and Rose. (That amount is currently under reconsideration.)
On Friday, Oct. 16, another officer, Trissey Padro, was suspended 20 days for juking a late April/early May timesheet to better her overtime pay and heading off to Las Vegas for a few days without getting permission from a supervisor a few weeks later. (Padro was also found by Internal Affairs to be in violation of Do Not Discuss orders.) Four days before that, on Oct. 12, nine-year veteran Darin Wesley was fired for tampering with his schedule, trying to re-submit a rejected overtime request (that Acevedo noted was factually inaccurate), and lying about needing to take off for impending home repairs so that he could benefit from court appearance overtime (as well as lying repeatedly to Internal Affairs through their investigation). Both Padro and Wesley have 10 days from their receipt of each discipline to appeal the suspensions.