Two Anchorage police officers indicted, suspended in alleged assault of man who frequently recorded police

Anchorage Police Officer Cornelius Pettus contacts Samuel Allen on Sept. 30, 2019. (Screen grab from Northern Corruption Monitor 907 YouTube)

An Anchorage police officer has been indicted for assaulting a man while serving him with a bicycle citation in 2019 and, along with another officer, on charges of tampering with public records.

Officers Cornelius Pettus and Deorman Stout, both 32, are on administrative leave without pay, according to the Anchorage Police Department.

Pettus had already been charged with misdemeanor assault in October, but a grand jury indicted him Tuesday on the additional charges of felony records tampering and misdemeanor interference of constitutional rights.

Stout was indicted on one felony count of records tampering.

The basis for the records tampering charges remains unclear, but according to the initial charging document all of the charges are related to a Sept. 30 incident that started when Pettus saw a man named Samuel Allen riding a bicycle without reflectors in the rain at night in Fairview.

According to the charges, Allen, 49, recorded the encounter, swore at Pettus and biked away when the officer asked for his identification. The charges say the officer left, but Pettus and Stout returned later to Allen’s home to serve him a citation.

Allen recorded that, too, and the charges say he followed the officers, taunting them.

The camera on Pettus’s own patrol car recorded him grabbing Allen’s phone and saying it was considered evidence, according to the charges. Allen repeatedly asked for his phone back, and, shortly thereafter, Pettus is seen in the video punching Allen in the jaw and then kicking him in the groin, the charges say.

In the video, recorded on Allen’s phone and subsequently posted to YouTube, Pettus can be heard saying, “What’s up? What’s up? You want more?”

Pettus pepper-sprayed Allen at one point, and then handcuffed and arrested him.

The charges say the Anchorage Police Department then conducted a “use-of-force” investigation, in which Pettus claimed Allen had appeared to be about to strike him. According to the charges, the video showed Allen’s hands at his sides — not balled up into fists, as Pettus claimed — and that Allen was standing in a neutral stance at the time.

Pettus’s defense attorney, Clint Campion, said they plan to fight the charges.

“I anticipate Officer Pettus will plead not guilty at the arraignment, and we’ll demand a trial,” Campion said. “You know, all citizens have the presumption of innocence, and it’s the state’s obligation to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

It’s unclear if the officers knew Allen, or knew of him, but Allen had a different encounter with police that same night.

Allen runs a YouTube account called Northern Corruption Monitor 907 and describes himself online as a “First Amendment auditor.” Often, those are people who record videos of themselves being confrontational with police, among other public officials or entities, to demonstrate their right to free speech.

Allen had live-streamed and posted a video Sept. 30 of a different Anchorage police officer dragging a police canine by its leash, out of police headquarters and onto a sidewalk, while the dog appeared to be struggling to stand. The video led to some local controversy and an animal cruelty investigation.

In the video, an officer told Allen the dog needed to go outside to defecate. The incident occurred just after a K9 graduation ceremony for two new dogs joining the department.

Campion, Pettus’s attorney, said his client’s encounter with Allen had nothing to do with his videos.

“No, no, I think the evidence will show that this was, Officer Pettus’s actions that night were based upon his interactions that night and not based upon anything else,” Campion said.

Police Chief Justin Doll said in a written statement about the Tuesday indictment that Pettus and Stout had failed the community.

“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. “It is essential we earn that trust and keep that faith through transparency and accountability.”

Anchorage police declined a request for an interview.