Scottsdale's Most Wanted

Two weeks ago in this space, I reported a display of brutality by two Scottsdale police officers who entered a home and assaulted two residents.

It would be reassuring to think this was an isolated incident, but the opposite seems to be true. Since the story appeared, several people have come forward with similar stories to tell.

Steve Faulkner is one of them. Whittni Grubaugh, his girlfriend, is another. They're both 23, and have been together for about 18 months. It's hard to imagine either of them presenting a threat. Faulkner is five-foot-seven and weighs around 145 pounds. Grubaugh is even smaller, so slightly built that a shove would knock her down. They exude an air of punkish preppiness.

But, for the past year, Faulkner lived with the threat of incarceration. And a Scottsdale cop has threatened to sue him for injuries he says Faulkner caused him.

On September 14, 1996, Grubaugh's 16-year-old brother had a party at her house, which she owns. She is his legal guardian.

"She gave him permission to have--not a huge party, but a get-together," says Faulkner. But word of the party got around, and a horde of uninvited guests showed up.

"I was at a football game. Afterwards, a friend and I went to Whittni's house," Faulkner says. "There's this huge party going on outside the house, in the backyard. I would guess there was more than a hundred people there. As soon as we got there, my friend decided that he wanted to go back home. He was my roommate at the time. Whittni and I drove him back home and picked up another of my roommates. Then we went back to the party."

By that time, the party was breaking up. The word was out that the police were coming. "There'd been a fight between two kids," says Grubaugh. "Everyone freaked out on the fight, and they all ran. So there was maybe 25 kids at the most there. We said, 'The cops're called. You'd better leave.'"

The police reports say there were about 100 people there at the time.
Grubaugh was in the backyard picking up beer bottles when the cops arrived. Officer Jeffrey Belford came into the yard. He shone his flashlight on Grubaugh's face and said, "Get over here now."

"I started walking towards him," says Grubaugh. "And I asked him to please stop shining the flashlight directly in my eyes. I said it in a nice tone. He raised it so it hit my eyes even more. I covered my eyes. He started screaming, 'Why aren't you answering the front door?' I said, 'I'm back here, I didn't know you were at my front door.' He screamed, 'You'd better open your fucking front door, we're gonna kick it in.'"

She says she asked him to be civil. He responded with a mocking nya-nya-nya sound.

Grubaugh laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. She'd probably have been less inclined to laugh if she'd known that, while she was there in the backyard, other cops actually were kicking her front door. She went into the house and opened the front door. Belford had walked around to the front of the house and was standing there when the door opened. In classic Keystone Kops style, the other cops had run around to the back, kicking in a gate to gain entry.

How many cops were there? "They say there were three," Grubaugh says, shaking her head. "But I swear there were at least six."

The cops who'd circled the house came back to the front, and Grubaugh went out to talk with them all. She says Belford got in her face again, swearing at her and threatening to take her to jail. "I don't know why they didn't just talk to me, just be civil," she says.

From inside the house, Faulkner saw what was going on. He decided to go out and try to calm things down.

"I couldn't just sit there and listen to them talk to her like this, so I took about five steps out of the front door. Then I realized I'd left the front door open, so I turned around and went back in the house, because Whittni has a cat and two dogs and I wanted to make sure they didn't get out."

The cops yelled to him to stop. Grubaugh heard them. He didn't. "Next thing I knew, I heard kicking, and the door flew open. Belford came into the house. He was totally hostile. He grabbed me by the arm and threw me out the front door. There were two officers running towards the front door, running towards me, and one of them had a flashlight raised like a club. They were screaming something. I started kind of jogging away from them, saying, 'Just calm down, chill out, I'm not trying to get away.' They got even more belligerent, saying, 'You'd better stop! You're gonna get your little ass kicked!' So I kept going, still trying to communicate with them. I ran out into the roadway. At this point, there were numerous officers in pursuit of me."

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Barry Graham