Attorney defends police officer accused of aggravated assaultPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- The attorney of a Phoenix police officer accused of aggravated assault defended the officer at his initial court appearance Wednesday.
Jeremy Sweet, 51, is being held on $15,000 bond after allegedly threatening a driver with a gun during a traffic altercation.
"Mr. Sweet is a Phoenix police officer. He was on duty. He was transporting six prisoners to the jail when this incident occurred. He was by himself. He was in full police uniform, yet the van that he was given was not marked," attorney Robert Kavanagh said.
Kavanagh told the judge Sweet has worked for the police department for seven years with a stellar record.
"Mr. Sweet's perception was that this person then whipped around him and drove to the right at a high rate of speed. Now, Mr. Sweet didn't know that it was Mr. Ruiz going to church. He thought it was a threat," Kavanagh said.
Sweet is accused of threatening former state lawmaker Armando Ruiz at gunpoint near Central Avenue and Lincoln Street Monday afternoon.
"We honk at him because there's a white van that almost hit us, and that reaction, it's over the top," Ruiz said, explaining that he honked when Sweet's van cut him off.
Ruiz said he then tried to move over to the right of Sweet's van and that's when Sweet tried to ram him, chased him, cut him off and then pointed a gun at him, telling him to be careful whom he honks at next time.
"Never identified himself as a police officer. Didn't say nothing. So we're just like this in silence about two minutes long," Ruiz said, putting his hands in the air. "You've got a gun in your face. I'm saying, 'He's going to kill us,' you know. 'He's going to kill us.' "
Kavanagh says Sweet thought he was taking police action after he deemed Ruiz's driving a threat.
"When he's transporting prisoners, he's mindful of people who may want to cause some type of traffic collision to free someone who may be in the vehicle," Kavanagh said.
Sweet is facing one charge of aggravated assault.