A former Superior police commander filmed himself having sex in his office using a department body camera, and stored pornography on a departmental computer, according to court and investigative records that portray a law enforcement agency dominated by officers who were previously fired or suspended from other departments.
The ex-commander, Anthony Doran, was the target of an administrative probe in March by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. A report from that investigation, obtained by The Arizona Republic, alleges a Superior police secretary discovered the sex video while conducting official business on Doran’s computer.
The video, dated in April 2017, allegedly was stored on a jump drive that resembled a police radio and was attached to Doran’s computer. The sheriff’s report describes a nearly four-minute video showing Doran, then the agency’s second in command, wearing a uniform shirt with the Superior police insignia, but 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),” says the report.
When confronted about the body cam video, the report says, Doran said he did not deserve termination. “I’ll admit to that (violation) and take my 40,” he said, apparently referring to a one-week suspension.
Warning: Video contains graphic content
Superior Police Department hires more officers who have been fired or disciplined by other agencies. It’s a way to save money but has caused issues.
Emmanuel Lozano, Arizona Republic
A deputy examined the computer’s hard drive further and discovered a folder titled “fun times” containing over 36 gigabytes of images, including pornography, pictures of Doran’s penis, and pictures of a naked girl about age 5.
The personnel inquiry was then halted, and the case was referred for criminal investigation, but no charges were filed.
Doran, whom the Town Council terminated in March, said via email the video and pornography were stored on a personal flash drive that “had nothing to do with work.”
Doran also denied he was on duty when the video was filmed. He said he lived at the police station in a room adjacent to the office, and worked flexible hours. At times, he said, he would list himself as working even though he was not officially on duty.
Doran said the child depicted in photos is his daughter, and the images were not prurient or illicit. He said he 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 Volkmer confirmed the child was Doran’s daughter. He said investigators and prosecutors concluded no felony charges were warranted.
Records show that in 2013 Doran was terminated by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office for kissing and fondling a woman in his patrol car while on duty, then trying to delete sexually explicit pictures and texts from his cellphone.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training agency, also known as POST, suspended his certification for that conduct. Executive Director Jack Lane said a new inquiry is underway based on Doran’s alleged misconduct in Superior.
Arizona experts weigh in on whether or not an expansion of police-misconduct oversight is necessary. Carly Henry/azcentral.com
Revelations about the sex video were publicly exposed this month in a civil complaint filed by Richard Manriquez, a Superior resident who alleges Doran was among several officers who in 2016 searched his home unlawfully, beat him, and falsely arrested him.
The lawsuit claims Superior is liable for civil rights violations because town officials — trying to cut costs and fill police vacancies – hired “second-chance officers” who had been dismissed or punished by other departments 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.
“The town hires substandard officers with extensive misconduct records to save money,” the complaint says. “Once the town hires these substandard, ‘second-chance’ officers, it fails to appropriately train/retrain them.”
Besides Doran, the lawsuit names three other officers as co-defendants who arrested Manriquez. It also describes their background issues:
- Sgt. Joel “Christian” Ensley, who is 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 agencies. According to court filings and POST records, in 2010 Ensley was investigated criminally for misconduct as a Hayden police officer. Investigators found he had conducted an unlawful search, tampered with evidence and committed perjury. Before those incidents, POST 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 bar, punched a man, ran from police, and sought to use his badge as a shield against arrest. He was referred for termination, and Arizona POST suspended his peace officer status for two years. Mueller, now with the Globe Police Department, could not be reached for comment.
- Officer Bryan Lawrence in 2010 was suspended by Arizona POST 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 of Superior’s police force, could not be reached for comment.
In December, an Arizona Republic investigation showed how tarnished police officers statewide are hired by rural communities — even when they have been fired elsewhere, with their peace officer certifications suspended.
The Republic story noted Superior and two neighboring towns, Hayden and Kearny, have employed more officers with checkered histories than any other communities.
Superior, a mining town of 3,000 about 40 miles east of Mesa, has a department of nine officers. Records show most of them at some point were fired or disciplined by other police departments, sanctioned by POST and/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 Pinalcentral.com, a local news outlet.
“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 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 termination, and claimed he’d done “a really good job” as Superior’s police chief. “I had nothing to do with what happened with Doran,” he added.
Mayor Mila Besich-Lira, who took office in 2016, said the Town Council is 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 said her administration inherited a flawed policing program, including the problems with Doran.
“This is not a behavior we tolerate,” she added. “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 pocket, and decided to get a search warrant. The lawsuit says 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. The complaint says Bravo authorized a search based on false information.
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 except that he is Soriano’s uncle. Nevertheless, the lawsuit says, officers Doran and Ensley “decided to try to ‘amend’ the warrant to search a completely different location” — Manriquez’ home. Another call was made to Judge Bravo.
Late at night, police announced themselves at the home of Manriquez, who is described in court papers as a tiny, disabled man who weighs 120 pounds. When Manriquez opened the door, the lawsuit says, one officer grabbed him by the arm. 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.
A police report says Manriquez took a “fighting stance” when he pulled away, and began yelling obscenities. Officers 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, a retired deputy warden for the Arizona Department of Corrections, told The Republic he began investigating the police conduct, and retained Phoenix attorney Martin Bihn when town officials withheld records.
Superior eventually provided 27 body-cam videos, but none showed the arrest of Richard Manriquez.
Instead, the lawsuit says, police claimed four officers’ equipment malfunctioned or did not get activated when the search warrant was served. However, the lawsuit asserts, there was footage from immediately before and after the arrest.
When family members pressed for information, the lawsuit says, Ensley filed a misdemeanor complaint against Richard Manriquez, even though county prosecutors had refused to press charges.
The case was heard by Judge Bravo, who authorized the search.
Bravo suppressed all evidence from the house and threw out a drug paraphernalia charge. Nevertheless, he found Manriquez guilty of obstructing police.
Bihn said the conviction is under appeal. “I don’t know what he did other than getting his face in the way of their fists,” he said.
After Richard Manriquez began challenging police, Bihn said, officers waged a harassment campaign, spotlighting his house at night, making another arrest and tailing him until he was forced to move out of Superior.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages. Bihn said his client wants justice, but also hopes to expose a policing system that hurts the entire community. He said the town needs an independent audit of the Police Department and its practices.
“A second chance is one thing,” he added. “But when you read some of the problems with these officers. … It gets to be a lot.”
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