PHOENIX — An outside investigator recommended criminally charging a Phoenix police officer with making a terrorist threat for allegedly vowing to shoot the city’s mayor.
New details of the case against Officer Steve Poulos were revealed in a Tempe police report.
According to the report, Poulos made the threat with other officers present in a briefing room inside the Black Mountain Police Precinct. A sergeant reported that Poulos said, “If the mayor defunds the police, I’m going to shoot her.” When challenged about his seriousness, Poulos replied, “That’s a promise.”
Poulos, an officer with 21 years of experience in Phoenix, remains on off-patrol duty. The county attorney has not yet made a charging decision, and Phoenix police say their internal investigation is ongoing.
Tempe police were asked to do the criminal investigation to increase impartiality. Other officers who heard Poulos’ comments have varying accounts. However, all could be considered death threats against Mayor Kate Gallego.
“You don’t have to intend to actually commit the act,” said Russ Richelsoph, a Valley criminal lawyer not directly involved in the case. “If you can make the statement threatening violence to influence - among other things - a political decision that it is a terrorist threat.”
Poulos had many commendations over his career, according to personnel records.
He mentioned in his annual performance review this summer that 2020 had not been an easy year. He wrote, “Between COVID-19 and the protests it’s been a real test.”
Other officers told Tempe police Poulos gets frustrated and vents, but they did not think he would carry out violence against Mayor Gallego.
The mayor received extra security protection as a precaution. She declined to comment about the release of the police report.
“What the officer did was just stupid, but in no way was it a real threat,” Councilman Sal DiCiccio said. “When politicians run to the media for stupid comments it diminishes real threats and feeds in[to] the whole anti-police movement”
Poulos refused to talk to Tempe police. He did not respond to a phone message Tuesday.