Body camera footage released in Christensen DUI and aggravated assault arrest

SPD Body Cam Still Image: Chad Christensen is shown here yelling at an officer during a traffic stop. He was later arrested and booked into the jail for suspicion of DUI, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and providing false information.

By Jon Johnson

THATCHER – At the behest of relatives of a man accused of charges including DUI and aggravated assault on a police officer, the Gila Herald has obtained body camera footage of the incident and the suspect’s DUI field sobriety test. 

Chad Christensen, 49, was arrested Thursday, April 16, and booked into the Graham County Jail on charges of DUI, aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and false reporting after a traffic stop went awry. 

According to Safford Police reports, Christensen was extremely agitated after being pulled over for minor traffic violations and appeared to be under the influence of some type of drug. Officers had encountered Christensen earlier in the day and noted he could not stand still and was making very fast, animated, jerky movements. 

During the traffic stop, Christensen exhibited the same type of behavior, which led the officer to begin a DUI-drug investigation. Christensen later advised he had taken various prescription medications that morning without food as recommended. The medications were later found in a safe in Christensen’s truck, along with a .45-caliber handgun. A large Bowie knife and a wooden club were also located inside the truck.

SPD Photo: Chad Christensen

The medications – all prescribed to Chad Christensen by a Gilbert-area psychiatrist – include Lamotrigine – used to treat seizures and bipolar disorder, Quetiapine Fumarate – used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, and Fluoxetine, used to treat depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bulimia nervosa.

The jail would not allow the use of the medications inside its facility, so they were returned to the Safford Police Department to hold until Christensen could recover them.  

Body camera footage from the investigating officer shows Christensen acting erratically and repeatedly cursing at the officer while calling family members to respond to the scene to video the interaction. When the officer requests Christensen’s driver’s license and registration – an everyday occurrence during a traffic stop – he is met with an accusation of harassment. 

After receiving the required documents, the officer informed Christensen to exit the vehicle, and Christensen initially refused. Christensen then abruptly opened his truck door, slightly striking the officer in the process. 

Christensen then closed the door and again refused to exit his truck and had to be forcibly removed from the vehicle. He then seemingly resisted as the officers attempted to place him into custody. At this time, his wife drove up to the scene and stopped in the middle of the street. 

After Christensen was placed into custody, he can be heard apologizing for striking the officer with the door by saying, “I didn’t mean to do that.” The second officer then replies, “Yes, you did.”

The following video contains profanities from Christensen and is not safe for work (NSFW) audio with viewer discretion advised. 

Body camera footage of Chad Christensen DUI and aggravated assault arrest

While en route to the jail – after going through a lengthy interview process at the police department – Christensen claimed that he thought he had contracted the novel coronavirus COVID-19 from a person he had worked with the previous day. He said the person had told him he had tested positive and a doctor prescribed medication for him to take for the virus. Christensen said he was experiencing symptoms of the virus the previous night, however, earlier in the DUI investigation he said he had slept soundly from about 10:30 p.m. to about 9 a.m. He also continuously coughed during his transport to the jail but had not been coughing the same way during the previous couple hours of police interaction and his temperature was actually lower than normal. Christensen only reported his claim of exposure to the virus and ill feelings after he learned he was going to be booked into the jail, which appeared to come as a surprise to him as shown in body camera footage outside of the police department after paramedics cleaned some scrapes he sustained on his arms and head during the arrest.  

Out of an abundance of caution, Christensen was placed into quarantine at the jail after he was booked on his charges.

In a followup interview with the contractor who Christensen claimed to have gotten the virus from, the contractor denied being sick, said he had barely met Christensen and has had little contact with him and that he hadn’t seen a doctor in years.

The charges against Christensen are now under review by the Graham County Attorney’s Office, which will likely have to wait at least a couple of months before lab test results from blood taken from Christensen are available from the Arizona Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.      

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