Thanks mostly to O'Neal's prominent presence at the Tempe PD, the tribe had donated $75,000 to the East Valley agency as seed money for an Internet Crimes Against Children unit, which O'Neal was about to join as a volunteer detective.

But AZPOST records show that O'Neal then flunked the parts of its multiple-choice test concerning the laws of arrest and traffic control. That meant he had to take a three-hour retest, during which AZPOST allowed him (again, the agency says he got no special treatment) to refer to the Arizona Revised Statutes.

O'Neal passed this time, a relief to the Tempe PD, which already was calling him "Detective" in its press releases.

Jamie Peachey
O'Neal in 2003 with the Port of Los Angeles Police
Photo by Robert Mora/Getty Images
O'Neal in 2003 with the Port of Los Angeles Police


Miami New Times staff writer Gus Garcia-Roberts collaborated on this story.

AZPOST executive director Lyle Mann tells New Times that O'Neal also passed his physical agility test, among others, with flying colors. "I'm pretty sure Shaq was the only applicant we've ever had who basically stepped over the six-foot wall," Mann says, chuckling.

On June 14, 2008, 36-year-old Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal was sworn in as a fully certified peace officer with the Tempe Police Department.

Chief Ryff proudly told the news media that he hoped to use O'Neal's supposed expertise "as a forensic computer investigator in the crimes against children unit we're setting up."

Now, Shaquille O'Neal was a real cop with a gun, a shiny badge, and responsibilities that went beyond trying to stop Yao Ming or Dirk Nowitzki.

And the fading center still was about to collect a salary of $21 million from the Suns for the 2008-09 season.

The Tempe PD limited O'Neal's authority, ordering him to work under Detective Burke Mattlin's supervision at all times.

O'Neal had been a cop for two weeks when he made news generated by master media manipulator, Joe Arpaio.

None too pleased about the big fella's defection to the Tempe PD, Sheriff Arpaio struck back after a nasty video of O'Neal rapping about former teammate Kobe Bryant from the stage of a New York City nightclub went viral.

The offending lyrics included the following: "Kobe ratted me out, that's why I'm getting a divorce. He said Shaq gave the bitch a mil. I don't do that, 'cause my name is Shaquille . . . Kobe, tell me how my ass taste."

The sheriff publicly demanded the return of the two badges he had given O'Neal, and the media dutifully reported it like it was a big deal.

Someone at the Tempe PD publicly shrugged off the spat, saying it was just between good ol' Shaq and old Joe.

But O'Neal's life was about to turn upside down on more pressing fronts than Arpaio's dime-a-dozen badges.

Shaquille O'Neal returned to his family and his palatial home in Orlando during the summer of 2008.

Weeks passed, and he prepared to return to Phoenix for what would be his final season with the Phoenix Suns.

Then, in early September 2008, computer guy Shawn Darling says O'Neal asked him to come to Orlando. When he arrived at the 64,000-square-foot home, O'Neal was sitting at a huge desk in his office, worried beyond measure.

A woman had obtained a restraining order against him in an Atlanta court, claiming in elaborate detail that O'Neal was stalking her in various ways.

Alexis Miller's petition for the restraining order claimed that she had been in an affair with him for an unspecified period of time. It had ended, but O'Neal repeatedly continued to call her, allegedly breathing, Darth Vader-style, into the phone.

When the 23-year-old demanded that the caller identify himself, O'Neal, she said, would mutter in his recognizable basso: "Bitch. Ho."

Miller claimed that O'Neal also sent her menacing e-mails, including one in which he allegedly wrote, "I dnt no who the fuk u think u dealin wit u will neva be heard from. one phone call is all I gotta make now try me."

Shawn Darling says he perched himself at O'Neal's computer that September day in 2008 and scoured its hard drive, trying to ensure that no one would find any incriminating data stored there.

Darling made a suggestion.

"Why you using AOL for e-mail anyway?" he says he told O'Neal. "Why don't you have me set you up on your own server so that you can always have access to your old [e-mails]?"

Darling has claimed in his lawsuit that O'Neal agreed to the plan, though he wasn't quite buying that his computer had been wiped clean.

O'Neal allegedly then boxed up the computer and carried it out to a small boat docked behind his mansion. Another O'Neal associate joined him on the boat as Darling stayed on shore.

When the pair returned, O'Neal was holding the soaked, empty computer box. Darling says O'Neal told him that the Styrofoam in the box made the computer float, so he had taken it out and hurled it in the drink.

Darling claims O'Neal grabbed a laptop and drove with him in a Mercedes to the parking lot of a local bookstore. There, he responded anonymously (and negatively) in the comments sections of blogs reporting about Alexis Miller's restraining order.

Darling admits that he also routed all of O'Neal's e-mails from that day to his own hard drive, a safekeeping measure, he insists. He says O'Neal knew exactly what was going on and approved it, which O'Neal's legal team denies.

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