County settles deputy assault case; terminates deputy

Victim reportedly given $50,000 settlement from insurance pool

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – A deputy with a reported history of abuse is no longer involved in law enforcement and the man he reportedly assaulted has been compensated by Graham County’s insurance provider. 

Former deputy Steven Mingura was terminated by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 6, 2018, nearly a year after being placed on administrative paid leave after two altercations with Kevin Barnes, that put Barnes into the hospital both times. 

The initial incident in which Mingura was eventually terminated for his actions took place Nov. 3, 2017, after deputies responded to a 911 hang-up call at Barnes’ home. Upon arrival, then deputy Mingura contacted Barnes, who was drinking a beer out of a bottle on his property. Mingura advised Barnes to put the beer down and he complied, according to a second deputy’s account.

Barnes said the 911 hangup was an accidental dial by his then 8-year-old son messing around on his then 13-year-old daughter’s cell phone and nobody else was home at the time. While the second deputy interviewed Barnes’ son, Mingura and Barnes cordially spoke at the fence, as shown in Mingura’s body camera footage. Barnes then agreed to speak with Mingura at the other side of the yard.

While walking to the other side of the yard outside of the fence, Barnes retrieved his beer and began drinking it again. Once outside the fence, Mingura ordered Barnes to put down the beer, and just as Barnes appeared to comply, Mingura forcibly tackled him to the ground.

Barnes was then handcuffed and when being turned over Mingura punched him three times to his face/head area.

GCSO Body Cam Still Image: Former deputy Steven Mingura explains his version of how the incident occurred.

According to Mingura’s report, Barnes “attempted to knee me in my head with a very hard knee strike. I blocked the strike with my right arm and felt Kevin trying to strike me again. I delivered three closed fist strikes to the side and front of Kevin’s face (two short closed strikes with my left hand and one closed strike with my right hand). This caused Kevin to stop trying to strike me and appeared to disorient him.”

The second deputy at the scene, deputy Shawn Haralson, helped handcuff Barnes but had a slightly different take. He reported, “At this moment Kevin was on his left side with his face and knees facing away from deputy Mingura. Deputy Mingura then placed two closed fist strikes to the side of Kevin’s face.”

Barnes was then arrested for aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. He was taken to Mt. Graham Regional Hospital for treatment, and the sergeant on duty decided to release Barnes from custody pending a review of the incident, and he was given a ride home after being cleared from the hospital.

The Sheriff’s Office submitted the charges to the Graham County Attorney’s Office, which declined to charge Barnes after viewing the deputies’ body camera footage.

Video By Jon Johnson/Gila Herald

Deputies were dispatched back to Barnes’ residence Nov. 17, 2017, after his wife called and said Barnes had thrown a cell phone and a beer bottle at her and their then 8-year-old son. Barnes’ wife said the objects missed them and the beer bottle struck the ceiling and the boy had to duck to avoid it from falling down on him.

While multiple deputies were on scene for the second instance, Mingura also responded and was on scene to assist in taking Barnes into custody.

According to multiple Sheriff’s Office reports, Barnes would not get out of his chair to be arrested and had to be forcibly removed.

During the struggle, deputies took him to the ground and Barnes found himself face-to-face with Mingura again.

At that time, Mingura stated Barnes grabbed onto his testicles, which Mingura responded by punching Barnes in the face, breaking his cheekbone, nose, and eye socket while yelling at him, “don’t grab my balls.”

In the melee, Barnes’ then 13-year-old daughter yelled at deputies to stop and she was also forcibly taken into custody. On the body camera footage, the juvenile can be heard attempting to have her dog attack the deputies while also cursing at them. The dog stayed put on the couch, however, and did not respond to the girl’s commands to attack.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Kevin Barnes’ booking photo after the second incident at his home involving former deputy Steven Mingura.

Barnes was arrested and booked into the jail on three counts of aggravated assault/domestic violence, aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, assault/domestic violence, and criminal damage. However, the County Attorney’s Office only filed charges of aggravated assault on a minor, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct/domestic violence, and criminal damage.

Barnes’ 13-year-old daughter was referred to juvenile probation and was arrested for two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

After the second incident and a news article by this reporter followed by one done by a Phoenix news station, Mingura was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 7, 2017, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety was requested to do an investigation regarding the initial incident. 

In the DPS report from that investigation recently obtained by the Gila Herald, deputy Haralson advised that Barnes was lying on his left side with his face and knees facing away from Mingura when he saw Mingura “do two fist strikes to the side of Barnes’ head.” Haralson said he didn’t see what led to the altercation and that he did not see Barnes strike Mingura or attempt to strike him. He also advised that he didn’t think the actions taken by Mingura were reasonable. 

“Um, my whole deal with the thing is I don’t agree with the fist strikes to the head when you got somebody already in cuffs and in custody or detained at that time,” Haralson said. 

When asked if Barnes could have hit Mingura with his knee prior to Mingura striking him in the head Haralson said he didn’t think it was physically possible due to Barnes being in a fetal position on his front. 

“In the position that I seen him in it wouldn’t have been very possible,” Haralson said. “I didn’t see how he could have in the position he was in but I didn’t see him before.”(sic)

Body Cam Video Still: Former deputy Steven Mingura felt his use of force was justified but the Sheriff’s Office and citizen review board thought otherwise.

Sgt. Jacob Carpenter, who reviewed Mingura’s body camera footage that night, told the DPS investigator that while Mingura advised Barnes had taken an aggressive stance and had refused to put down his beer that was not what he saw on the body camera footage. Additionally, Carpenter said after Barnes had been handcuffed he felt Mingura could have “just got away from him instead of punching Barnes.”

“The statement that Mingura gave me with him making an aggressive stance and him not putting his beer down is not what I saw in the video,” Carpenter said. 

In the video, Mingura is seen using profanity and yelling commands at Barnes. 

“Deputy Mingura told me that the reason why he was speaking to him (like) that was because that’s – that’s the only type of wordage some people understand,” Carpenter said. “And I don’t agree with that at all . . . And also, I don’t feel that there was any reason for that because of the children being there with, uh, in front of, uh, Barnes.”

On April 9, 2018, the DPS investigator contacted the Graham County Attorney’s Office with his findings and County Attorney Kenny Angle said the next action would be for the Sheriff’s Office to begin an administrative case against Mingura. He was then terminated Nov. 6, 2018, for physical conduct or behavior which is abusive, intimidating, threatening, and profane, and discourteous treatment of the public. 

Body Cam Video Still: Former deputy Steven Mingura again encountered Kevin Barnes roughly two weeks after the initial incident.

Mingura fought his termination but the Merit Commission of Graham County Human Resources voted unanimously to uphold the termination during its meeting on the subject Feb. 26. 

On Aug. 3, 2018, Barnes and his attorney, Jared O. Smith, filed a complaint against Mingura, the Graham County Sheriff’s Office, and Sheriff P.J. Allred. On March 25, the case was dismissed after Graham County’s insurance pool agreed to a settlement that was reportedly $50,000. According to Graham  County Manager Dustin Welker, the county could not confirm the amount because once it hands it over to the insurance pool it no longer had anything to do with it.

“I think it should be known for that they had done to me,” Barnes said in November 2017. “Through my life, I’ve been no angel, but I am not a violent person at all. What they did to me -especially in front of my children in my own house in my own living room – was wrong.” 

Both Barnes and Mingura declined to be interviewed by the DPS for the investigation. County Attorney Kenny Angle cited the lack of cooperation by both Barnes and Mingura in his decision to decline to file criminal charges, as per a letter he wrote to the DPS investigator on July 10, 2018. He also advised that if additional information should come forward in the future, his office may reconsider that decision.  

Mingura had numerous past accusations regarding the use of excessive force while on duty for the Greenlee Sheriff’s Office and Clifton Police Department.

He was indicted by a state grand jury on Jan. 17, 2013, on three counts of aggravated assault after an investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety found three separate incidents (two as a deputy with Greenlee County and one as an officer with Clifton) where investigators said he crossed the line. One incident involved Mingura allegedly using his TASER on an individual with muscular dystrophy eight times during an arrest.

Mingura was placed on administrative leave by then Clifton Police Chief Andy Britton, who requested an investigation by the DPS. The case against Mingura was later dismissed without prejudice in Apache County Superior Court by then Attorney General Tom Horne after witnesses failed to show up at court to testify.

Mingura is now no longer in law enforcement and works in the private sector for a local business.