In June, Phoenix New Times reported that Stephen Wamsley, a retired Phoenix cop turned Moon Valley High School teacher, had shared posts on Facebook celebrating violence and suggesting that people accused of committing crimes deserve to die. Now, a spokesperson for the Glendale Union High School District says Wamsley has retired.
“Stephen Wamsley did not return to the district due to his retirement,” Kim Mesquita said in an email to New Times. Mesquita said Wamsley submitted a letter notifying the school of his retirement on July 26. Wamsley’s police-science course is being taught by a new instructor, and Wamsley’s co-instructor, Phoenix police sergeant Stefani McMichael-Gombar, is not involved in the course this year, Mesquita said.
Eighteen of Wamsley’s posts made it into the Plain View Project’s database of offensive Facebook posts by police officers across the country. The database includes 282 posts from 97 current and former Phoenix police officers, many of which referred to black people as “thugs,” called for violence against protesters, denounced Muslims as rapists, and joked about refusing to help citizens who criticized the police.
“I say let’s go back to the firing squad,” Wamsley wrote on a Facebook post about a prisoner’s execution. “Why don’t we sell tickets and give the proceeds to the family??”
News of the reserve officer and police-science instructor’s glib remark suggesting that executions be turned into a bloody, profit-making spectacle and other posts prompted the Glendale Union High School District to review whether any of the posts violated school policies.
“We are currently looking into the matter to determine if any policies were violated,” Mesquita told the Arizona Republic back in June, adding that the school district was unaware of the posts until they were published by New Times.
New Times followed up with Mesquita on Monday about the outcome of that review, but she did not answer questions about it.
Wamsley’s name has been removed from two of Moon Valley High School’s faculty pages. However, a direct link to Wamsley’s teacher bio, preserved in the prior New Times story about him, still works, as does Wamsley’s Glendale schools’ email account. An email sent to Wamsley at his Glendale district email address did not bounce back; Wamsley didn’t reply.
Wamsley also shared posts calling Kwanzaa a “fake holiday,” suggested police officers should have shot a man holding a knife, called bikers shooting each other “thinning the herd,” and criticized Islam and Muslims.
On his faculty page for Moon Valley High School, a high school in north Phoenix with about 1,500 students, Wamsley described himself as “the lead instructor for the Police Science class.” The course aims to educate high school students “about the different types of careers in law enforcement” and help to “graduate good citizens.”
“Co-instructors for the course,” wrote Wamsley, “are Sgt Stefanie [sic] McMichael-Gombar and Officer Tom Ashmore.”
Sergeant Stefani McMichael-Gombar and her husband, Sergeant Gary Gombar, both of whom work for Phoenix PD, have also shared questionable posts on Facebook. In August 2015, Wamsley shared a video of a car ramming into a man. Gary Gombar commented on the post with a photo of a bloodied truck with a mangled corpse stuck to the front captioned, “Just drove through Ferguson. Didn’t see any problems.”
Gary Gombar’s Facebook post
McMichael-Gombar’s posts were not included in the database due to her privacy settings, but someone who is friends with Gombar on Facebook (and therefore has greater access to her account) shared screenshots of one of her posts with New Times.
“Something to think about for those of you who put ALL officers in a pile,” wrote McMichael-Gombar alongside a post of a 911 dispatcher refusing to help someone in an emergency because that person had once criticized the police. “Interesting read…guess I should protest!” she wrote in another post linking to a story (which isn’t true or accurate) about “The Forgotten White Slaves.”
Stefani McMichael-Gombar’s Facebook posts.
In another private post shared with New Times, Sergeant Gary Gombar liked a status posted by a man named Tim Salts that stated: “Is it just me? Doesn’t it seem TV advertising is pushing interracial relationships. I’ve noticed abundance of Black & White couples lately. Casio [sic] Gambling ads, Mattress ads showing couples in bed and now Erectile dysfunction ad showing a Black man standing at the alter [sic] with a White woman, really? Animals may be smarter after all. At least they mate with their own.”
A status liked by Phoenix police Sergeant Gary Gombar.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams previously has said the department’s Professional Standards Bureau is reviewing Facebook posts from the database for potential misconduct. In June, Williams said she had taken officers who made particularly egregious posts off of their “enforcement assignments” and placed them on desk duty, though she declined to specify which officers or how many.
Since New Times’ previous story on Wamsley and McMichael-Gombar was published, a Phoenix police officer with the Professional Standards Bureau called New Times to ask for some of the Facebook posts and mentioned that McMichael-Gombar is also being investigated, along with all the officers included in the database.
Stephen Wamsley has recently reactivated his Facebook (he deactivated it for some time following news of the Facebook posts). It’s full of memes belittling rape victims and praise for right-wing activist Candace Owens shortly before her Hitler gaffe earlier this year.