SUPERIOR, Ariz.—A former police commander using a department body camerafilmed himself having sex in his office and stored pornography on a work computer, according to court and investigative records that portray a law-enforcement agency dominated by officers previously fired or suspended from other departments.
The ex-commander, Anthony Doran, was the target of a Pinal County Sheriff’s Office administrative probe in March.A report from that investigation, obtained by The Arizona Republic,allegesa Superior police secretary discovered the sex video whileconducting official business on Doran’s computer.
The video, dated April 2017, apparently was stored on a jump drive that resembled a police radio and was attached to Doran’s computer. The sheriff’s reportdescribes a nearly 4-minute video showingDoran, then the agency’s second in command, wearing a uniform shirt with the Superior police insigniabut no pants or underwear.
“Anthony is sitting in an office chair and straddling him is a naked adult female (who is not a police employee),” the report states.
When confronted about the body-cam video, Doran said he did not deserve termination.
“I’ll admit to that (violation) and take my 40,” he said in the report, apparently referring to a one-week suspension.
A sheriff’s deputy further examinedthe computer’s hard drive and discovered a folder titled “fun times” containing more than 36 gigabytesof images, including pornography, pictures of Doran’s penisand images of a naked girl about age 5.
The personnelinquiry was then halted, and the case was referred for criminal investigation. But no charges were filed.
Doran, whom the Superior Town Councilterminated in March, said via email that the video and pornography were stored on apersonal flash drive that “had nothing to do with work.” Healso denied he was on duty when the video was filmed.
He said he lived at the police station in a room adjacent to the officeand workedflexible hours. At times, he saidhe would list himself as working even though he was not officially on duty.
The child depicted in photos is his daughter. And the images were not prurient or illicit, Doran said.
He saidhe was never given a chance to explain his side of the story, and the town manager refused to accept a resignation letter in lieu of firing.
Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmerconfirmed the child was Doran’sdaughter. He said investigators and prosecutors concludedno felony charges were warranted.
In 2013, the Pima County Sheriff’s Office terminated Doran for kissing and fondling a woman in his patrol car while on dutythen trying to delete sexually explicit pictures and texts from his cellphone, records show.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training agency suspended his certification for that conduct.Executive Director Jack Lane said a new inquiry is under way based onDoran’s alleged misconduct in Superior, a former mining town now with fewer than 3,000 residents about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix.
Revelations about the sex videowere publicly exposed this month in a civil complaint filed by Richard Manriquez,a Superior resident who alleges that Doran was among several officers who in 2016 searched his home unlawfully, beat himand falsely arrested him.
The lawsuit claims the town government is liable for civil-rights violations because officials, trying to cut costs and fill police vacancies, hired “second-chance officers” whom other departments had dismissed or punished for unethical behavior.
In most cases, the past misconduct was serious enough that officers had been placed on the “Brady List,” indicating their court testimony could be challenged based on past dishonesty. It is named after a landmark 1963 Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland, that requires the prosecution to share with defense lawyers all evidence that might exonerate a defendant.
“The town hires substandard officers with extensive misconduct records to save money,”the complaint states. “Once the town hires these substandard, ‘second-chance’ officers, it fails to appropriately train/retrain them.”
The lawsuitnames Doran and three other officers as co-defendants who arrested Manriquez. It also describes their backgrounds:
• Sgt. Joel “Christian” Ensley,now Superior’s interim police chief, was fired by Gila River Indian Community’s law enforcement agency in 2012 for allegedly lying on an application about prior misconduct issues at other police departments.
In 2010 Ensley was investigated criminally for misconduct as a Hayden, Arizona,police officer, according to court filings and state records. Investigators found he had conducted an unlawful search, tamperedwith evidence and committed perjury.
Before those incidents, state records indicate Ensley resigned from Apache Junction Police Department while facing nine internal affairs probes.
Ensley did not respond to an interview request.
• Officer Richard H. Mueller, while employed by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in 2012, allegedly got drunk at a Tempe, Arizona, bar, punched a man, ran from policeand sought to use his badge as a shield against arrest.
He was referred for termination, and Arizonasuspended his peace officer status for two years.Mueller, now with the Globe (Ariz.) Police Department, could not be reached for comment.
• Officer Bryan Lawrence in 2010 was suspended byArizona Peace Officer Standards and Training and forced to resign from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office after allegedly lying to a supervisor about time he took away from work. Lawrence, still listed as a member ofSuperior’s police force, could not be reached for comment.
In December, an Arizona Republic investigation showed how rural communities statewide hire tarnished police officers even when they have been fired elsewhere with their peace officer certifications suspended.
Superior and two neighboring towns, Hayden and Kearny, have employedmore officers with checkered histories than any other communities.
Superior has a department of nine officers. Records show most of them at some point were fired or disciplined by other police departments, sanctioned by the state or placed on a Brady List.
After The Republic story was published, Superior’s then police chief, David Neuss, defended the hiring of officers with troubled backgrounds in an interview with the Florence (Ariz.) Reminder & Blade-Tribune.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” said Neuss, who had resigned from the Pima County Sheriff’s Office years earlier after allegedly sending pornographic text messages. “We are still human.”
Neuss was fired from his job in Superior in March, around the time Doran came under investigation.
In a phone interview this week, Neuss said he was not given a reason for his terminationand claimed he’d done “a really good job” as Superior’s police chief.
“I had nothing to do with what happened with Doran,” he said.
Mayor Mila Besich-Lira, who took office in 2016, said the Town Councilis pursuing reforms “so we don’t continue this poor behavior.”
Asked whether hiring “second-chance” officers endangers the community’s safety and civil rights, Besich-Lira saidher administration inherited a flawed policing program, including the problems with Doran.
“This is not a behavior we tolerate,” she said. “We require higher ethics and integrity.”
Manriquez’s lawsuit describes a series of events that revealed alleged police misconduct.
Around 2:30 on the afternoon of Aug. 20, 2016, Superior police stopped a pickup truck for having a cracked windshield.
The driver was identified as Steve Olmos. He had a passenger, John Soriano.
A search of the cab found a half gram of marijuana and a glass pipe.
Olmos admitted owning the pipe, and Soriano denied it, but both men were arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. The charge against Soriano was dismissed; Olmos was convicted, according to court records.
Officers also found a key to a local motel in Soriano’s pocketand decided to get a search warrant. The lawsuit said Ensley “waited until 9:30 p.m. to ‘urgently’ seek telephonic approval” from Superior Justice of the Peace Larry Bravo, a former Kearny police officer.
Bravo authorized a search based on false information, according to the complaint.
In the motel room, officers found several people along with a small amount of marijuana and a shard of methamphetamine. One person was arrested.
At that point,Manriquez had no connection with the case but is Soriano’s uncle. Nevertheless, officers Doran and Ensley “decided to try to ‘amend’ the warrant to search a completely different location” — Manriquez’ home, according to the lawsuit.
Another call was made toBravo.
Late at night, police announced themselves at the home ofManriquez, described in court papers as a tiny, disabled man who weighs 120 pounds.
When Manriquez opened the door, one officer grabbed him by the arm, the suit said.Four officers “stormed in,” knocked Manriquez to the floor, beat him, and zapped him with a stun gun.
The court filing includes photographs of Manriquez’s face covered in bruises and cuts, allegedly the result of a police attack.
Manriquez took a “fighting stance” when he pulled awayand began yelling obscenities, according to the officers’ police report. They wrote that he was “assisted to the ground,” after which “several hard hand strikes had to be delivered.”
No drugs were found in the house. Manriquez was arrested on suspicion of felony aggravated assault on the officers, who were uninjured.
The Pinal County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute.
Lawsuit seeks damages
Manriquez’s brother, Carlos Manriquez, a retired deputy warden for the Arizona Department of Corrections, told The Republic he began investigating the police conductand retained Phoenix lawyer Martin Bihn when town officials withheld records.
Superior eventually provided 27 body-cam videos, but none showed the arrest of Richard Manriquez.
Instead, police claimed four officers’ equipment malfunctioned or did not get activated when the search warrant wasserved, the lawsuit said. However, the lawsuit asserts that footage from immediately before and after the arrest is available.
When family members pressed for information, the lawsuit says, Ensley filed a misdemeanor complaint against Richard Manriquezeven though county prosecutors had refused to press charges, according to the suit.
Bravo, who authorized the search, heard the case. The justice of the peace suppressed all evidence from the house andthrew out a drug paraphernalia charge.
Nevertheless,he found Richard Manriquez guilty of obstructing police.
Bihn said that conviction is under appeal.
“I don’t know what he did other than getting his face in the way of their fists,” the lawyer said.
After Richard Manriquez began challenging police, Bihn saidofficers waged a harassment campaign, spotlighting his house at night, making another arrestand tailing him until he was forced to move out of the mountain town.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages. Bihn said his client wants justicebut also hopes to expose a policing system that hurts the entire community.
The town needs an independent audit of its police department and its practices, Bihn said..
“A second chance is one thing,” he said. “But when you read some of the problems with these officers. … It gets to be a lot.”