Updated Feb 19, 2013 - 6:40 pm
Prescott Valley chief spoke to bar fight victim
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Prescott Valley police chief was at the center of a heated discussion that prompted a biker brawl, but he denied throwing any punches or knowing the name of the person who did, according to police reports released Tuesday.
Bill Fessler told authorities that someone else got ahold of Justin Stafford in December at a bar on Prescott's Whiskey Row, leaving him with a bloodied and bruised nose.
The state Department of Public Safety is about two weeks from wrapping up its investigation of the fight that involved members of the Arizona chapter of the Iron Brotherhood Motorcycle Club, which is made up of law enforcement officers, agency spokesman Bart Graves said.
The department previously released the police reports, but the documents were heavily redacted and didn't name the victim, witnesses or anyone involved in the fight. The unredacted reports were made public after the Prescott Daily Courier went to court to fight for their release.
Fessler told authorities that Stafford approached him at Moctezuma's bar, grabbed his vest and started talking trash and asking about his patches, according to the documents. Fessler responded by saying, ``Why are you asking?''
Fessler told authorities that someone else then took away Stafford, and Fessler left.
Yavapai County sheriff's employee Bill Suttle recounted a similar story. Both he and Fessler said a fellow officer nicknamed ``Top Gun'' hit Stafford, but they didn't know his name. According to the reports, Suttle said he broke up the fight and immediately sent the law enforcement officer to the hotel where they were staying.
Officers from the Prescott Police Department had responded to the bar and the local hospital where Stafford's friend took him after he was hit. Stafford's family declined to comment Tuesday, but he previously told The Associated Press that he was talking to a biker and admiring his badge when he was grabbed by the throat, pushed toward the bar and punched in the face. Stafford, who admittedly was drunk, said he was caught off-guard.
Witnesses described a raucous fight where ``everyone was swinging at everybody.'' A video shows Stafford walking up to a man in a black vest and talking to him when another similarly dressed man grabs Stafford at the neck and pushes him, according to the reports.
Moctezuma owner Bruce Reid said he doesn't allow bikers into his bar with their ``cuts,'' but made an exception for the Iron Brotherhood after members showed police badges to the security staff. Reid told authorities the bikers were swinging their fists at him and his staff as they tried to break up the fight, and that the group reluctantly left when asked.
Prescott police officers caught up with Fessler and Suttle after the fight at a nearby bar where the Iron Brotherhood had held its Christmas party earlier that night. One officer wrote in a report that Fessler and Suttle ``did not appear as if they were providing me with all of the information regarding the matter.''
Suttle also told a Prescott officer that ``Andy was there,'' and ``I want him left out of this.'' Suttle was referring to Andy Reinhart, who was Prescott's acting police chief at the time but who has been cleared by DPS in the investigation.
``We knew you guys were going to show up. They told me you were coming, so I told Andy to go home,'' said Suttle, who commands the sheriff's narcotics unit.
Prescott police spokesman Lt. Ken Morley said neither Fessler nor Suttle came forward with the name of the law enforcement official they implicated in the fight before the investigation was turned over to the Department of Public Safety. Morley said there's no indication that any Prescott police officers were involved.
Sgt. Brandon Bonney, a spokesman for the nearby Prescott Valley Police Department, declined to comment Tuesday, citing the ongoing investigation. Fessler released a statement shortly after the fight defending his department. He didn't specify whether he was involved in the brawl but said ``the truth will be told.''
Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher has asked the Coconino County Sheriff's Office to review the involvement of any of his employees.