PHOENIX, AZ — The Phoenix City Manager has instructed the City Attorney to launch an outside investigation into claims of a challenge coin with inappropriate messaging and imagery being circulated among some Phoenix police officers.
ABC 15 reported the obverse of the coin shows a man wearing a gas mask.
He is depicted as being shot in the groin, and the phrase “Good Night Left Nut” is also seen. On the back of the coin, there is a date that references an anti-police protest, which took place in August of 2017 in Phoenix.
Police shoot, then celebrate— Dave Biscobing (@DaveBiscobing15) February 6, 2021
Our latest our @abc15 investigation shows Phoenix Police officers kept trophy to commemorate shooting man in groin during protest. https://t.co/oe2sbOHoXW pic.twitter.com/QOTbX5Xj0M
The protest formed following a visit from then-President Donald Trump and a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center. Police said people started throwing rocks and bottles at officers, who then responded with pepper balls, pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The coin was allegedly circulated among some members of the police department following the protest, according to U.S. News.
This is what real leadership looks like, our Chief of Police- Jeri Williams 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/6s5lmAlGiL— SummerElise (@YUMMiESUMMiE) June 6, 2020
Dave Biscobing of ABC 15 reported that the chief was aware of the coin, but failed to investigate or discipline anyone regarding it.
One such iteration of “Good Night Left Side.”https://t.co/00vWtLU3Jl— Dave Biscobing (@DaveBiscobing15) February 6, 2021
Biscobing also tweeted that he learned from his social media followers that the similar-sounding phrase, “Good Night Left Side,” may have a sinister connotation:
“Some followers have pointed something very troubling about the message on the front of the coin kept by @PhoenixPolice officers.
“Google: ‘Good Night Left Side.’
“It’s based off a Neo-Nazi imagery / slogan.
“I did not know.
Or maybe they based it on the "good night alt right" that far left rioters have been using?— Chairman Pooh Bear (@GarrioValere) February 7, 2021
Video posted by ABC 15 shows a man who is supposedly Cobin assisting a woman who was on the ground after she got shot by either a gas canister or a pepper ball.
After getting her to a place of safety, Cobin told ABC 15 he returned and kicked the gas canister toward police in frustration:
“My instincts kicked in to help her. As me and this other lady went in and ran with her, we got shot in the back by the same officer again as we were fleeing.
“And then when we got her to safety, that’s when I turned around. I was pretty frustrated at that point.
“I got shot in the back while helping someone and that’s what provoked me to kick a tear gas canister back at them.”
Pay close attention to the details.— Dave Biscobing (@DaveBiscobing15) February 7, 2021
Chief Williams knew about the coin 1.5 years ago.
Phoenix claims a commander looked into allegations of the coin at some unspecified time and didn’t see any misconduct. But they couldn’t produce any records to live that happened.
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ABC 15 further reported that the officer who fired all three shots is Christopher Turiano, a 24-year member of Phoenix Police and a “grenadier” in the department’s Tactical Response Unit, which is responsible for responding to civil unrest and handling protests.
ABC 15 also reported Turiano is on the Brady list for choking a handcuffed man in 2004, internal police records show. Two other officers reported the choking, and Turiano was criminally charged. However, those charges were later dropped, according to ABC 15.
The Tactical Response Unit was the group that supposedly shared the coin, according to ABC 15’s report.
The Sgt, who oversees the unit with many members who kept the coin, is the same one who testified before the grand jury to get the street gang charges against protestors. https://t.co/Ha5cDY1bD9— Dave Biscobing (@DaveBiscobing15) February 7, 2021
The news station obtained the coin’s images from a class-action lawsuit that was filed by the activist group, Puente, against the Arizona Police Department for their response to the Aug. 22, 2017 protest.
When asked what he thought of himself being commemorated on the coin, Cobin said:
“I mean honestly, it looks pretty unprofessional that Phoenix police would commemorate that.”
The Phoenix Police Department told ABC 15 through a statement:
“The Phoenix Police Department did not participate in, encourage, fund or sanction the creation of any such challenge coin.
“There is also no indication such a coin was used for any public or official purpose on the department’s behalf.
“A review at the time by a commander with the department was unable to substantiate any claims of misconduct related to a challenge coin.”
Attorney Jared Keenan of ACLU Arizona, which has filed lawsuits against the police department, told ABC 15 he thinks police enjoy being violent toward protesters:
“They relish in the use of violence against these protesters. It sends a clear message that this is the appropriate way to act. It’s okay not only to use extreme violence against protesters, but to glorify it and relish in it.”
As part of the ongoing class-action lawsuit against the department for their protest response in 2017, Chief Williams and several members of the special unit were deposed, according to ABC 15.
Williams’ deposition took place in August 2019, and she was asked several questions about the coin and whether it would be appropriate for her officers to create or have an image like that.
Williams said, “No,” according to ABC 15.
Yet no officers were investigated or disciplined related to the coin, according to an email sent to attorneys seeking records in 2020.
In response to ABC 15’s request for any documents and actions related to the coin, the City of Phoenix responded:
“There are no records because the coin was not a department sponsored, or funded, coin.”
On Feb. 6, Chief Williams and City Manager Ed Zuercher posted a joint statement on social media:
“There are disturbing claims that members of the Phoenix Police Department circulated an inappropriate challenge coin related to a 2017 incident. ‘This is unacceptable and not in line with the behavior expected of my officers,’ said Chief Jeri Williams. ‘I not only expect more, but demand more from my officers.’
“There are now new allegations that the language on the coin may be connected to hate speech. ‘Hate speech in any form is unacceptable and even more so from officers who we rightfully hold to the highest standards of excellence,’ said Chief Williams. ‘It will not be tolerated. We will take disciplinary action against officers involved in any illegal or unethical behavior.’
“‘Working together with Chief Williams, I have instructed the City Attorney’s office to begin the process of outside investigation,’ said City Manager Ed Zuercher. ‘We do not accept hate speech at the city of Phoenix. It is unacceptable and we must have an independent look at these disturbing allegations so we can take appropriate action.’”
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