Fired officer suing Wright City and police chief

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 12/2/22

A recently fired Wright City police detective is suing the city government, along with Police Chief Tom Canavan and Lt. Timothy Matthews, for alleged harassment and wrongful termination.

The …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Fired officer suing Wright City and police chief


A recently fired Wright City police detective is suing the city government, along with Police Chief Tom Canavan and Lt. Timothy Matthews, for alleged harassment and wrongful termination.

The lawsuit was filed last week in Warren County Circuit Court by an attorney for former detective Chris Beard, who was terminated in October. It alleges that Beard was the subject of unprofessional and disparaging remarks by Chief Canavan, that a review of Beard’s professional performance was full of “misleading or outright false” statements, and that his firing violated state laws protecting public employees.

Beard’s complaint begins with an incident in 2019 when Canavan was a lieutenant for the police department. After learning of a threat to the police, Beard reportedly advocated for use of sturdier protective vests. According to the lawsuit, Canavan allegedly responded by writing Beard’s name on a 30-caliber bullet and presented it to him, stating “that will go through that vest.”

In 2022, Canavan was promoted to chief and needed to hire a lieutenant. Beard and another internal officer applied, but Timothy Matthews, a former Wright City officer who had left for a different department, was hired instead. Upon the selection, the lawsuit alleges that Canavan brought both internal candidates into his office and made a disparaging statement that included a curse word.

In addition to those incidents, Beard’s lawsuit includes a number of text messages that he claims were sent by Chief Canavan. The texts appear to have been sent from Canavan to one or more unidentified officer(s), who then provided copies of the messages to Beard.

The content of the messages quoted in the lawsuit includes a number of inappropriate remarks, including multiple references to “Fat Beard,” a text stating “Beard’s gonna get fired. Lol,” and another that called him a derogatory name.

The March incident

Much of the rest of Beard’s lawsuit involves references to an arrest in March conducted by Beard and other officers. A Wright City resident, who had made rude remarks to an officer after being cited for an ordinance violation, later had his vehicle pulled over by Beard and another officer, who arrested the resident for disorderly conduct.

The resident complained to Chief Canavan and Lt. Matthews, who dropped the charge. At the time, Matthews told the resident that officers had correctly cited Wright City’s disorderly conduct ordinance to make the arrest, but that the ordinance itself was unconstitutional and needed to be revised.

However, Beard alleges that in April, Lt. Matthews drafted a secret internal memo about Beard listing numerous performance problems that Beard claims are misleading or false.

On Sept. 10, a YouTube channel named “LackLuster” published a video with body camera footage, phone video, and documents from the March arrest. The video alleged that Beard and the other officers involved had abused their authority. The video was viewed hundreds of thousands of times and quickly made its way back to Wright City leaders.

On Sept. 21, Beard obtained a copy of his performance memo for the first time, after it was printed out on an office printer, according to the lawsuit. Beard wrote a letter in response, and then took both documents to discuss the internal conflict with Wright City’s aldermen, mayor, and administrators. According to the lawsuit, “none of the officials took any action to protect (Beard) from Chief Canavan and Lt. Matthews.”

On Sept. 30, the mayor and aldermen ordered the police department to conduct an internal investigation of the March incident, after which Lt. Matthews allegedly issued a report stating that Beard was the only officer who violated department policy during the incident, according to the lawsuit.

On. Oct. 28, Chief Canavan and Lt. Matthews delivered a letter of termination to Beard’s home and took possession of his department-issued vehicle, according to the suit.

Among the text messages that purportedly came from Chief Canavan are two undated messages related to Beard’s employment. In one, Canavan allegedly states that Beard’s performance memo was written with the intention of getting him demoted. In another, Canavan purportedly states that if Beard did not leave his job, “I’m gonna make his life miserable.”

Legal claims

Beard is claiming three causes of action in his lawsuit. The first is directed at Chief Canavan and Lt. Matthews for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Calling the supervisors’ conduct “extreme and outrageous,” the lawsuit claims that distress from the situation has caused Beard “medically diagnosable” harm including “anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other ailments.”

Beard’s second claim is that he was fired after airing his concerns about his treatment to city leaders. The lawsuit alleges that his termination was retaliation for disclosing misconduct, which would be a violation of state law protecting public employees from such retaliation.

Beard also claims that the city violated Missouri’s law governing police misconduct investigations by investigating the March incident twice — once when Lt. Matthews initially reviewed the incident, and again when the YouTube video came out six months later.

 Beard’s lawsuit seeks reinstatement of his job, back pay, and unspecified financial penalties against Wright City.


The Record sent an email to the Wright City administrator, mayor, and board of aldermen seeking additional information or comment regarding the lawsuit. Thus far the only response has been from board of aldermen President Ramiz Hakim, who issued a public statement.

In his statement, Hakim acknowledged that aldermen in September had asked for an investigation of how officers had handled themselves during the March incident.

Hakim said that Missouri law prevents him from disclosing details of the investigation, but he confirmed that Beard was terminated “at or around that time” of the investigation.

Hakim also stated that this is the first time that he has been informed of some of the complaints in the lawsuit.

“There are a plethora of accusations that I have read, heard, or seen for the very first time,” Hakim said.

Canavan was contacted by phone and declined to comment.

You can read the entire text of the lawsuit at this link.

Wright City Police Department, Lawsuit