Black Lives Matter Metro Phoenix and the People’s Law Firm are demanding three Tempe, AZ police officers are fired after they repeatedly tased a man in his own apartment while he was holding his 1-year-old child.
The incident, which was captured by an officer’s body camera, took place on June 15, 2019, when 31-year old Ivaughn Oakry answered a knock on his door from Officer Ronald Kerzaya. Kerzaya was responding to a call on the police non-emergency line from the mother of Ivaughn’s children, MeKeyla Brand. According to audio of the call, Mekeyla alleged that “someone” had “put his hands” on her. During the call Ivaughn can be heard in the background shouting at MeKeyla to leave the home.
Later in the day, MeKeyla told police that Ivaughn had pushed her multiple times.
MeKeyla also stated that she had a verbal altercation with Ivaughn about thirty minutes before officers arrived at the apartment.
The body camera footage of the incident shows Officer Kerzaya knocking on Ivaughn’s door. When Ivaughn answers, Kerzaya says, “Okay, what’s happening?”
Ivaughn responds, “Nothing.”
Kerzaya says, “Well that’s not what I’m being told.” After Ivaughn says that he is in his home, the officer walks through the door without warning and orders the 31-year-old to put his hands behind his back. At least two other officers appear in the video during the confrontation with Ivaughn.
Ivaughn refuses Kerzaya’s demands and says, “Bro, you’re not allowed in here.”
Ivaughn’s children can be seen and heard crying in the video after Kerzaya accompanied by other officers enter the apartment and point tasers at their father.
Ivaughn repeatedly pleads for the officers not to tase him in front of his children.
About 46 seconds after Kerzaya enters Ivaughn’s home, the father’s 1-year-old baby walks up to him and Ivaughn picks him up. Kerzaya orders Ivaughn to put his baby down and says, “Look, you’re going to get tased.”
Kerzaya continues to order Ivaughn to put the child down, but Ivaughn refuses. At about 3:40 in the video, MeKeyla, the woman who called police after her altercation with Ivaughn, can be heard saying, “He didn’t do anything.” It is unclear at what point in the video Brand enters the apartment.
At about 4:35 in the video, MeKeyla repeats that “nothing happened.”
Officer Kerzaya responds to MeKeyla saying, “No, that’s not how this works. You called us out here. You need to get out of the apartment now.”
Ivaughn pulls out his cellphone and appears to begin recording the officers, still demanding the get out of his house.
Shortly after, an off-screen officer says, “Do it. Do it. Do it.” The three officers tase Ivaughn, causing him to scream and fall into a pile of clothes as he holds his baby. One of the officers quickly grabs the baby and hands him to Brand.
Ivaughn was later arrested and booked into Tempe city jail. He was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly pushing the mother of his children while intoxicated, and with child endangerment for picking up his baby before he was tased. Tempe city prosecutors dropped both charges in August.
Heather Hamel, the lawyer representing Ivaughn, alleged to New Times that Tempe police did not have a right to enter Ivaughn’s home that day, a point disputed by police. She said they did not have a warrant or permission.
At least three officers entered the home without a warrant, according to Hamel. The mother of the children was outside the house at the time the officers entered.
“The Fourth Amendment prohibits the police from entering a home without a search warrant or consent unless there are exigent circumstances,” Hamel wrote in a statement. “Tempe PD cannot argue such circumstances exist here because the woman who initiated a call was outside of the home when the police arrived.”
Tempe police published its own press release at about 10 a.m., denying the child was hurt. In its statement, the police department said no use-of-force violations occurred, but that it has implemented new training procedures in light of the incident. Tempe PD’s full statement at the bottom of this story.
“Although, Oakry was affected by the taser, the child was not injured and there was no evidence of the child being struck with the taser probes,” the statement says, adding that police had responded that day to “a call for service regarding a domestic violence assault.”
“Officers developed a lawful right to enter the residence to contact involved party, Ivaughn Oakry, for a domestic violence-assault investigation,” the statement goes on to say. “While attempting to speak to Oakry, he became verbally combative with officers. During this time, Oakry committed endangerment by picking up his one-year-old child who walked up to him and refused to put the child down… Officers on scene decided to deploy their tasers on Oakry on the opposite side of his body from where he was holding his child. When officers deployed their tasers and hit Oakry, he fell onto a pile of clothing in trash bags while holding the child. Oakry continued to resist but was eventually taken into custody by several officers. Officers were able to safely retrieve the child and bring the child to his mother.”
A Tempe Fire Medical Rescue team told police that neither the child nor Oakry were injured, the statement says, and that no evidence shows “the taser barbs or cords made contact with the child Oakry was holding.”