Longform

LGBT Advocates Cast a Pall on the Phoenix PD and the Valley's Gay Community

Chris Wilson sits quietly in a small, gray room. He's slouched forward, his forearms resting on his lap, his wrists handcuffed.

It's August 7, 2012, almost 9 p.m.

Wilson is tense, antsy.

A Phoenix police detective walks in, greets him, and explains that he has been accused of engaging in sexual contact with minors — two teens, one 17, the other 14.

Wilson nods.

The detective reads Wilson his rights, telling him he can remain silent or have an attorney present, and asks if he understands.

"Yes, I do," Wilson says.

"I know you didn't force these kids to do anything. I just wanna understand why it happened," the officer says to Wilson.

Wilson, 43 at the time, tells the interrogator a lot of flirting and sexual banter went on the afternoon in July when he picked up the two teenage boys from an apartment complex and took them to lunch at a Chili's in West Phoenix. Before driving them in his truck to the eatery, he says, the younger boy grabbed him and kept telling him he was "hot."

The detective says, "From what I understand now, it wasn't your intention . . . I think you were suckered into it by how he started stuff."

Wilson, dejected, says it doesn't matter: "Either way, it was my fault, man. It was all mutual. I should've known better. I was a fool."

Later, when he's asked whether he'd committed a crime, Wilson says: "I made a bad decision."


Chris Wilson knew all too well that his predicament appeared bleak. He'd been a cop for nearly two decades.

Before his interrogation began, when he was alone in the room, Wilson was caught on camera saying: "Fuck, I should've done it."

The investigator later wrote in his report, "It is unknown what this comment meant," intimating that Wilson may have been suicidal. "At the time Wilson was taken into custody, he was armed with a black handgun."

The Phoenix Police Department hired Wilson in August 1996. He worked his way up to detective, was assigned to the Community Relations Bureau, and served as a liaison to the gay community. He resigned shortly after his arrest.

Openly gay, Wilson was a prominent figure in a politically charged job and, according to coworkers, often bragged about his relationships with high-profile officials.

He worked out in the morning at a gym with then-Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot. He was close friends with Jim Bloom, chief of staff for Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek. And Sergeant Mark Schweikert, Wilson's supervisor, was wary of Wilson's personal relationship with then-Assistant Phoenix Police Chief Tracy Montgomery. Schweikert believed that Montgomery, also openly gay, protected Wilson, making him "untouchable."

But nobody could help Wilson as he sat in the interrogation room.

Wilson has been isolated in a cell since his arrest — the crimes he's accused of committing make him ineligible for bond. His former job and the nature of his charges make him a target for violence in jail.

His trial is scheduled for next month, but it probably will be delayed, as it has been before.

Wilson admitted to the older victim, in a phone conversation recorded by police, that his actions would contribute to negative perceptions about the police department and the gay community.

As a liaison to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens, Wilson attended various LGBT functions: dinners, galas, movie premières, parades, and fundraisers.

It was at one of these events that he met Caleb Laieski, a teenager who says he grew up in a West Valley home with a drug-addicted and alcoholic mother. He says he dropped out of high school to escape unrelenting bullying for being gay.

Laieski told police that bullies pulled down his pants in public almost every day. He said students veered their cars toward him as he walked to or from school.

Neither Laieski nor Wilson could tell police exactly when or where they first met — perhaps at a protest or an event at an art museum. But their professional relationship grew in 2012 when Laieski, at 17, was appointed to work in Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's office as a teen advocate for LGBT youth.

In turn, it was through Laieski's personal anti-bullying advocacy work that he met the young man who police say later became Wilson's second victim (who'll be called "Joey" in this story). And as investigators questioned the teens about their sexual encounters with the former detective, they learned that Laieski and Joey also had been sexual partners.

In Arizona, any sex act with a child younger than 15 is punished more severely.

Laieski was slapped with the same charges as Wilson — sexual conduct with a minor. But unlike Wilson, Laieski was released without bond as his case proceeds in Maricopa County Superior Court.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo