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Crime & Courts

Two Anchorage police officers charged with records tampering in connection with alleged assault

Two Anchorage police officers were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on new charges related to an alleged assault by one of the officers in 2019.

Cornelius Aaron Pettus and Deorman Levi Stout, both 32, were placed on unpaid administrative leave after the indictment. Pettus had been on paid leave as police conducted an internal investigation.

Pettus, already facing two misdemeanor assault charges, was also indicted this week on two counts of tampering with public records and one count of interference with constitutional rights.

On Sept. 30, Pettus and Stout delivered citations for a bicycling violation to Sam Allen, 49, at his home. The officers had encountered Allen in the Fairview neighborhood and stopped him after noting he was biking without lights or reflectors on that dark and rainy night, according to the charges. He rode away after the officers stopped him.

Anchorage police officer Cornelius Aaron Pettus is arraigned for assault charges in Anchorage on November 15, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Allen recorded the encounter on his phone and uploaded it to his YouTube account, “Northern Corruption Monitor 907.”

Pettus and Stout arrived at Allen’s home around 10 p.m. and handed him several citations related to the biking encounter, the charges said. Allen livestreamed the events on YouTube.

The video is dark, but Allen can be heard cursing at the officers as he approached them after receiving the citations. Pettus then grabbed Allen’s phone.

Portions of the encounter were also captured on the dashboard camera in both officers’ patrol cars. In the videos, Pettus is seen punching Allen in the jaw while he stood in what the charging document describes as a neutral stance, with his hands by his sides. Pettus then kicked Allen in the groin, charges said.

As the assault unfolded, the cruiser footage showed that “instead of rushing to help, Officer Stout stood in one spot, looking on without a change in his expression,” the charges said.

At some point, Pettus deployed pepper spray on Allen and handcuffed him with assistance from Stout and “Allen was arrested for assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest,” charges against Pettus said. In the indictment, Pettus is charged with wrongful arrest.

The Anchorage Police Department initiated a use-of-force investigation, as is department policy. Pettus’ police report differed from the video footage, investigators said.

When he was questioned about the discrepancies, Pettus said, “I don’t know, that’s how I remembered it,” according to the charges.

“He also said he did not remember kicking Mr. Allen in the groin, despite it being clearly visible on the video,” the charges said.

Allen did not provide his ID or address to Pettus during the bicycling encounter earlier in the night. During Allen’s recording, Pettus said the two had talked the previous day at the courthouse.

Earlier on Sept. 30, Allen had recorded an officer dragging a dog by its leash out of the downtown police station during a K-9 graduation ceremony. The video sparked an animal cruelty complaint and investigation by police. Department spokesman MJ Thim said Wednesday that the investigation has since concluded and the officer involved was exonerated.

The bicycling-related citations were dismissed and other charges related to the arrest do not appear on Allen’s record.

Pettus pleaded not guilty to the assault charges in November. He’s been with the Anchorage Police Department since 2015.

Stout has been with the department since 2014 and is assigned to the patrol division, police said. Both men are scheduled to appear in court Thursday, but were not in custody as of Wednesday afternoon.

Indictments for both Pettus and Stout said they are facing a charge of tampering with public record because they “knowingly made a false entry in or falsely altered a public record.”

Chief Justin Doll said in a statement Tuesday that the two officers failed the community and disappointed the department.

“In order to maintain our community’s faith and trust, it is imperative we are held to the highest standards expected of us,” Doll said in the statement. “It is essential we earn that trust and keep that faith through transparency and accountability.”

The Anchorage Police Department Employees Association will continue to support Pettus and Stout and will work to assist in their defense, Sgt. Jeremy Conklin, who serves as president of the organization, said in a statement.

“We trust in the criminal justice system, especially when the system fairly and objectively applies the rule of law,” Conklin wrote. “Once the full picture is revealed, once we learn of the officer’s true intentions, I am convinced that justice will prevail, and the officers will be exonerated of all charges.”

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