AZPOST Takes No Action Against Tempe Cop Who Tased Man Holding Baby

Ivaughn Oakry, seconds before he was repeatedly tased as he held his 1-year-old baby.
Ivaughn Oakry, seconds before he was repeatedly tased as he held his 1-year-old baby. City of Tempe

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board will take no action against the Tempe police officer who repeatedly tased a man who was holding his 1-year-old child while in his own apartment. The incident attracted national attention and the man who had been tased, Ivaughn Oakry, filed a $5.5 million notice of claim against the city of Tempe.

A statement released by Tempe Police at the time stated that the child was not injured by the taser and that no use-of-force violations occurred. The use-of-force committee reviewed the evidence and bodycam footage and decided there were no policy or procedure violations and that the use of force was appropriate.

Still, footage of the incident prompted backlash against the Tempe Police Department and nationwide scrutiny. After the video was made public, Black Lives Matter Metro Phoenix demanded the officers involved be fired.

The AZPOST board, which has the power to revoke an officer's certification to work as a cop, unanimously decided to take no action against Officer Ronald Kerzaya.

"Officer Kerzaya made contact with Mr. Ivaughn Oakry inside the apartment and attempted to detain him," said Lori Wait, a compliance specialist for AZPOST. "Mr. Ivaughn Oakry at that point decided he wanted to refuse verbal commands by backing away from the officers. The suspect also positioned himself in a fighting stance, threatening officers with physical violence ... the suspect continued to resist. Officer Kerzaya deployed his taser to gain compliance."

The Tempe officers had responded to a call on June 15 at Oakry's home. The mother of his children had called a nonemergency line to report that Oakry, the children's father, had "put his hands" on her. The phone recording picked up the woman yelling "get off me" at Oakry, and him yelling back, "Get your fucking ass out!" The woman eventually left the house, but the three children remained inside. The woman later told police Oakry had pushed her multiple times during an argument while intoxicated.

According to Oakry's attorney, Heather Hamel of the People's Law Firm, three Tempe officers entered the home without a warrant while the mother was still outside the home.

One view of the incident can be seen in Kerzaya's bodyworn camera footage of the incident. As the video shows, Kerzaya walked into the apartment and ordered the 31-year-old to put his hands behind his back.

"Bro, you're not allowed in here," Oakry replied.

Kerzaya moved toward Oakry as two children cried behind a couch. He pulled out his taser and pointed it at Oakry. The three officers tried to get Oakry to comply, but the man repeatedly asked them not to tase him in front of his kids. He picked up his 1-year-old baby, who had walked up to him. Kerzaya ordered Oakry to put the child down, and told him he would get tased. Another officer took the two children behind the couch and escorted them outside

Oakry again asked Kerzaya to just talk about the situation. Kerzaya continued to demand that Oakry put his baby down. In the video, the woman who initially called police can be heard saying, "He didn't do anything."

"You hear her? Get the fuck out of my house. Get the fuck out of my house," Oakry told the cops.

"That's not how this works," Kerzaya responded.

As the tense encounter went on, one officer holding a taser approached Oakry, putting a hand on his shoulder. He yelled, "Don't touch me. Stop fucking touching me."

A second later, another officer said, "Do it. Do it. Do it."

The three officers then fired their tasers at Oakry. He screamed and fell into a pile of clothes while still holding onto his baby. An officer grabbed the baby and handed him to the boy's mother.

As Oakry was lying prone, Kerzaya appeared to deploy his taser once again. Another officer then placed Oakry in handcuffs.

Oakry was arrested and booked into Tempe city jail for misdemeanor assault for allegedly pushing the woman, and with child endangerment for picking up his baby before he was tased and refusing to put him down. The woman later declined to aid in the prosecution of Oakry.

Tempe city prosecutors dropped both charges in August.
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.