Phoenix Detective Loses Job After Assault on Fellow Cop

Phoenix police at an anti-neo-Nazi march.
Phoenix police at an anti-neo-Nazi march. Flickr via John Kittelsrud
In a scene that seems taken from "The Departed," a former Phoenix detective repeatedly punched another cop in the face during an argument over a case. But unlike the movie, the aggressive officer lost his license to work as a police officer in the state.

The cop-on-cop assault occurred last spring, on April 28, 2020. Detectives from the Phoenix Drug Enforcement Bureau had been working with another Phoenix police precinct on a controlled drug buy operation. Detective Erik Pearson was working undercover and had successfully made a drug buy at a hotel, according to Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZ POST) case notes obtained by Phoenix New Times through a public records request.

Pearson told investigators that he wasn't able to identify the drug dealer because another detective also working undercover was "monopolizing the radio and the marked units." Pearson said that he was "upset due to the stressful situation of marking an undercover drug buy and not being able get the suspect properly identified."

Two phone calls took place after the operation between Pearson and the other detective, who is identified in the AZ POST case notes as "Detective TM," and arguments over the operation and their disagreements on professional practices ensued. Pearson eventually drove to a parking lot where Detective TM and the other involved officers were meeting to share a pizza.

Detective TM was sitting behind the wheel of his parked car with the driver's side door open when Pearson approached him. The argument continued there, with both detectives yelling at each other. Detective TM attempted to end the argument by shutting his car door.

That's when the punching started.

Pearson reportedly punched the detective three times with a closed fist to the right side of his face. A witness described Detective TM as "dazed from the first strike," adding that he "offered no resistance or defense" to the subsequent punches. He suffered swelling and bruising on his face, head and neck pain, and dizziness and vomiting due to the punches, case notes state. Pearson told investigators that while the man he assaulted never physically threatened him, Pearson felt provoked during the argument.

The Phoenix Police Department referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, alleging that Pearson had committed aggravated assault on a peace officer. But county prosecutors declined to file the charge, stating in a June 4, 2020 letter that the case had "no reasonable likelihood of conviction."

Pearson resigned from the Phoenix Police Department on August 3, 2020. He'd been with the department since January 2004 and made just under $75,000 in 2019, according to Govsalaries.com.

His Arizona certification was formally, and permanently, revoked by the AZ POST on February 17, 2021. He can still get certified in another state.
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Josh Kelety was a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety