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Update: Racial Profiling Case by LVMPD Saturation Team Body Cam Videos Show No Original Cause for Stop

In May of 2016, I reported on the case of Solomon Galloway, a Las Vegas man who was illegally detained, assaulted, and falsely arrested by one the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s “Saturation Teams” in February of that year. At the time, Galloway was the passenger in a vehicle driven by a co-worker, which had been stopped under the stated claim that he was speeding (more on that below).

The original pretense for that arrest and accompanying violent, illegal actions was Mr. Galloway’s refusal to identify himself. However, the passenger in a vehicle that has been stopped for a traffic violation is not considered a party to that infraction. As a result, they are not under any obligation to identify themselves. In fact, legally Galloway could have gotten out of the car and walked away from the traffic stop. (Since the actions of the driver do not represent the “reasonable suspicion” required to legally detain a passenger, they are “free to go.”)

Lacking a legitimate reason to detain Galloway, let alone arrest him, Metro’s designated harassment squad settled on the old standby of “I smelled pot.” They then embarked on a fruitless and illegal search of the car to hopefully find something to justify their illegal against against their victim. In the process, they even discussed amongst each other their need to “do what ever you gotta to do, because we gotta find something.” Unfortunately for them, they didn’t find anything at all.

Even more unfortunately for them, Galloway had placed a GoPro camera on his dashboard, which he turned on just after they were stopped. Unbeknownst to them, the entire incident, including the illegal search and that incriminating conversation, had been recorded on the GoPro. That included a statement from the supervisor on the scene, Lieutenant Connell, that they should “just arrest his ass and strip him,” once they finally gave up on finding anything to rationalize their actions. Galloway was then falsely arrested, taken to jail, and subjected to a humiliating and illegal strip search. All of which still failed to justify the obstruction charge that they eventually settled on.

It was already incredibly obvious from the GoPro video (which was later featured in a documentary about corruption among Las Vegas police entitled, “What Happened in Vegas“) that the LVMPD officers involved were completely lying and fabricating a reason to justify what they knew was a false arrest (and illegal demand for ID to begin with). Now however, body cam footage from the officer that initiated the stop, as well as another officer that participated in the assault on Galloway, have been released as part of discovery. One of the interesting aspects of those body camera videos is that in the beginning of the first officer’s footage you can actually see his speedometer as he’s driving. What that shows is that even the original justification for the stop was based on a lie.

Contrary to that officer’s claims about their speed (which fluctuated at various points in the video between them going either 55 or 65 mph when he pulled them over), they were in fact going below the 45 mph speed limit. Therefore they didn’t even have legal cause to pull them over in the first place. Nor did they have the reasonable suspicion of a crime necessary to justify detaining even the driver of that vehicle. That makes it even more obvious that everything that was done to Galloway, who was the passenger, after the illegal traffic stop was initiated was both unjustifiable and illegal, as well.

The badly disguised reality is that this was nothing more than a case of racial profiling and simple harassment. The LVMPD deploys what they call saturation teams into certain neighborhoods they have decided they want to concentrate on. These saturation teams descend upon those neighborhoods looking for any excuse to stop and harass the residents who live there. Even such minuscule “crimes” as jaywalking on a residential street or having a bicycle without a reflector are used to justify demanding ID from and attempting to question a person.

They are essentially just playing the odds in the hope that if they harass enough people within a chosen area they will find a certain percentage of individuals who have warrants or something illegal on them and that are willing to consent to a search to justify an arrest. Statistically, that makes the department look good, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the vast majority of the people in any given neighborhood are not actually criminals and don’t deserve to be indiscriminately harassed because a cop has arbitrarily decided they “do not belong” in that neighborhood.

The other side of that equation is that the areas that the LVMPD targets for their saturation teams are invariably those inhabited predominantly by poor and minority residents. In fact, some years ago a Metro spokesperson went so far as to explicitly state to the Las Vegas Review Journal that they would not use saturation tactics against residents living in the wealthy suburb of Summerlin.

As is noted in the video’s title, Galloway and his friend were stopped because they were people of color driving an expensive car within a geographical region that the LVMPD had deemed to be suspect. Everything that happened after that was a result of him not “respecting their authoritah.” An authority that they did not legally have and that he had every legal (and moral) right not to respect.

Video Featuring Police Body Camera Footage and GoPro Video

Original GoPro Video

Related Posts Submitted By or About Stephen Stubbs:

Stephen-Stubbs-CopBlockThose of you that have followed CopBlock.org over the past several years are probably already aware that Stephen Stubbs has been a frequent subject of posts on  NVCopBlock.org. He often represents bikers and motorcycle organizations, whom are frequent targets of harassment from the police. In addition, I have personally worked with Stephen in the past on several occasions through Nevada Cop Block on issues or cases involving his clients or on know your rights seminars he has done within the Las Vegas area.

Therefore, there is a pretty lengthy (and growing) list of posts on the Nevada Cop Block site involving Stephen Stubbs, his clients, and/or people or groups he is associated with. Included below are links to those posts.

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Tashii Brown-Farmer Asked For Help; LVMPD Officer Kenneth Lopera Tased And Choked Him To Death Instead

Unarmed and Seeking Help, But Tasered and Then Choked to Death Instead

Shortly after midnight on May 14th, Tashii Brown-Farmer approached two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers inside the Venetian Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Stating that he was being chased by someone, Brown-Farmer requested help from Officer Kenneth Lopera and a partner who has not yet been named. Although Brown-Farmer had a history of mental illness and was described as “acting erratically” at the time, there has been no indication or allegation that he was behaving violently at any time that night. He also was not armed in any way whatsoever, nor was there any indication that there was ever any reason to believe he might be armed.

Instead of being dealt with as someone seeking help, Brown-Farmer was instead treated by the officers (who ironically are part of the tourism safety division of the LVMPD) as someone that needed to be arrested. This caused Brown-Farmer to feel threatened and run away, initiating a chase through an employees area of the casino and eventually into the parking garage of the Venetian. That is where Officer Lopera caught up to Brown-Farmer and proceeded to taser, beat, and eventually choke him to death.

In the end, Tashii Brown-Farmer was tasered seven times, punched repeatedly, and finally placed into a “rear naked choke hold” for over a minute until he was no longer conscious nor breathing. Shortly after, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. The video embedded below shows body camera footage of the entirety of that chase and the deadly conclusion, in which Officer Kenneth Lopera unnecessarily decides to practice his mixed martial art skills on a man who is already being held down by at least two Venetian security guards.

Note: The media and the police have referred to Brown-Farmer both as “Tashii Brown” and “Tashii Farmer” (during their initial press conference, the LVMPD also spelled his first name wrong, excluding the second “i” that belongs at the end) without any official explanation for the discrepancy .

Bad Rationalizations and Media Complicity

The justification given for the deadly violence that Officer Lopera unnecessarily inflicted on Brown-Farmer was the typical “he wouldn’t comply” mantra that is often used. However, you can clearly see in the video that Lopera began using his taser on Brown-Farmer without allowing for much time at all for him to follow his orders. He then continued yelling at and tasing a man who was already having mental health issues.

The other thing that is readily apparent in the Venetian surveillance videos (embedded below within the full press conference video) is that when Ofc. Lopera began punching and hitting Brown-Farmer security guards from the casino had already began holding him down. Even more unnecessary than the punches Lopera threw was the choke hold he soon used to choke the life out of Brown-Farmer.

Not only were the security guards already there, but not long after numerous Metro police officers also arrived. There was no reason for Lopera to start choking him in the first place and there was no reason for him to continue choking him for over a minute, even after he had already lost consciousness. In spite of the initial claims released by the LVMPD, Brown-Farmer never attempted to use violence against anyone, including Officer Lopera at any point during this entire confrontation that Lopera initiated and then escalated.

However, not surprisingly, the local media has asked few questions about the official narrative and instead even allowed Metro’s PR department to downplay controversy by initially describing the prohibited rear naked choke hold as a “department authorized neck restraint.” They’ve also yet to challenge the LVMPD’s claim that Brown-Farmer was attempting to car jack the truck that was entering the parking garage as he ran by. Contrary to that claim, which the driver of the truck himself states he didn’t believe to be the case, the video only shows Brown-Farmer briefly touching the tailgate as he stops running. Not attempting to open it and not trying to enter the front (or any other part) of the truck as has been stated.

Instead, the LA Times published a fluff piece that was probably printed word for word as it was received from Metro’s PR department fawning over how “transparent” the LVMPD has become when they murder someone.

The Inevitable Smear Campaign

Of course, the one consistency with Metro is that they never fail to dig up dirt on their victims to try and deflect the attention away from the violent, unnecessary, and unrelated crimes of their officers. Brown-Farmer’s previous criminal record was displayed and highlighted during the press conference, including a murder charge that he was not convicted of. When Officer Kenneth Lopera confronted, chased, and then choked to death Tashii Brown Farmer, he was not at all aware of any of that information. Nor was that in any way relevant to the actions that Lopera took and that were clearly documented on video that night, regardless.

During that press conference, Undersheriff Kevin McMahill also continuously (and purposefully) referred to Brown-Farmer as “the suspect,” in spite of the fact that he was not actually wanted for or even suspected of any crime whatsoever. McMahill even admitted that had he not died Brown-Farmer would not have been charged with any crime. In reality, he was someone that was experiencing a medical issue. In fact, Officer Lopera’s treatment of Brown-Farmer as a suspect for a non-existent crime is what prompted him to run away in the first place.

As you can see in the video below, these type of smear campaigns are business as usual for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police (and other departments). It’s also especially hypocritical given the skeletons within Undersheriff McMahill’s own closet.

A Continued Lack of Accountability At The LVMPD

In spite of the PR campaigns they orchestrate and the willingness of the media to unquestioningly support those phony claims of “transparency” and progress, the simple truth remains that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department still has never held a single police officer within the history of their department accountable for killing someone. Regardless, of how questionable or downright unbelievable the circumstances are behind them, they get a free pass and nothing more than a paid vacation every single time.

Nothing about this case or Metro’s handling of it, indicates that it (or any other case in the near future) will be different.

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“What Happened in Vegas” Didn’t Stay in Las Vegas; Police Brutality Documentary Premiers at Cinequest

Last week on March 4th, “What Happened in Vegas” had its world premier to rave reviews at the Cinequest Film Festival, which is held annually in San Jose, CA. (This year there were also additional screenings held in Redwood City.) The documentary by Ramsey Denison is primarily focused on three very questionable shootings of Las Vegas residents by members of the LVMPD (AKA “Metro”) and the lack of any resulting consequences for the officers involved in those killings.

Within Las Vegas all three cases were very prominent incidents that received widespread local coverage and generated significant criticisms against the LVMPD and their handling of them. The inadequacies of the investigations into the questions surrounding those cases and outright cover-ups, as well as the reasons behind them also play a major role in the film.

Trevon Cole and Bryan Yant

The first case featured in the movie is that of Trevon Cole, who was caught on camera selling a very small amount of marijuana to an LVMPD detective. Cole very easily could have been arrested right then or at virtually any other time he stepped out of his house and there was no indication that Cole was or would become violent.

Instead, in order to create a dramatic confrontation intended to be used in a proposed reality show the LVMPD was hoping to create, they decided to conduct a full SWAT raid on his apartment. During that raid, Sgt. Bryan Yant, who had intentionally used falsified information from another person (that actually lived in Texas) with the same name as Cole to attain the search warrant, shot Cole in the head with an AR-15 in front of his pregnant girlfriend, while Trevon was on his knees in the bathroom.

Later, in an attempt to justify their actions, Metro police officers showed up at the house belonging to Cole’s in-laws, where his girlfriend, who was literally within days of having their baby, was staying. They then conducted an illegal search of Cole’s belongings hoping to find something that would incriminate him and provide justifications for the murder.

Not only was nobody held accountable in any way whatsoever for the falsified search warrant, the illegal search afterwards, or the murder itself, Bryan Yant, for whom this was his third deadly shooting, was recently hired by the Las Vegas Police Protective Association as the union representative that advises police officers when they are involved in shootings.

Erik Scott and Costco’s (Conveniently) Malfunctioning Camera

The second and most well known case featured in the movie is that of Erik Scott, who was shot by LVMPD Officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola as he walked out of a Costco located in a suburb of Las Vegas known as Summerlin. The original reason that the police were called was because an employee at the Costco had noticed that Scott was wearing a holster under his shirt. Erik Scott was legally registered to carry the concealed weapon that he was armed with that day. However, Costco has a policy against firearms within their stores. After having a discussion about that with Scott, a Costco security guard, Shai Lierley, called Metro and reportedly exaggerated his behavior. (Erik had asserted his legal right to be armed, but had not acted in a threatening manner.)

After an evacuation order was given at the store, Lierley pointed Scott out to Mosher, Stark, and Mendiola. Those officers then proceeded to give contradictory, confusing, and aggressive orders to Scott. Shortly after, Mosher shot Scott and after he had already fallen to the ground Stark and Mendiola followed suit firing numerous rounds into his body as he lay already mortally wounded.

Like most large retail stores, that Costco location had security cameras throughout the inside and outside of the store. One of those was situated where it should have recorded the entire confrontation. By some amazing “coincidence” that one surveillance camera just happened to be malfunctioning that day and all the footage from that specific time was unrecoverable.

In the movie, Erik Scott’s father, Bill, also describes how the police soon realized that a report by the EMT in the ambulance that transported Erik to the hospital where he was pronounced dead had noted that there was a gun on his body still within the holster. the problem with that was that the police had at some point retrieved that gun and placed it at the scene of the shooting to corroborate their story that Scott had pulled his gun as a justification for it. The next day, even after they were denied permission to do so by Erik’s brother, who lived with him at the time, Metro officers conducted an illegal search on his apartment under the pretense of securing his property. Not long after, the narrative became that Scott had actually been carrying two guns at the time of the shooting.

As was the case with those involved in the Trevon Cole murder, Erik Scott’s killing was ruled justified. In fact, Mosher and Stark were given awards for bravery during the murder of Scott shortly afterwards. (Mendiola had been fired by that point for giving a gun to a felon.) Both of them are still employed with the LVMPD.

Stanley Gibson and Jesus Arevalo

The third case featured in the movie is that of Stanley Gibson, a Gulf War veteran who had cancer and PTSD, both of which were caused by his military service. Partially as a result of his medication being cut off by the Veteran’s Administration and partly because of the effects of the cancer on his memory, Gibson entered the wrong apartment complex after having just moved. Police were called after someone saw him attempting to open the door to the apartment he thought was his and soon after they had blocked his car in inside the parking lot.

In spite of the fact that Gibson’s car was completely blocked in by two unoccupied police cars (see embedded video below) and would not have been able to move, the police at the scene decided they could not simply wait him out. Instead, they concocted a plan to break out Gibson’s back window with a bean bag round and then shoot pepper spray into the car (which is against Metro’s policy) to force Gibson, who at the time was unresponsive, to come out of it. However, once the bean bag round was fired, Officer Jesus Arevalo fired seven times with his personal AR-15, later claiming that he thought the firing of the bean bag round was Gibson shooting at them.

While the investigation was still ongoing Arevalo’s soon to be ex-wife was recorded stating that, among other things, he had said before Gibson’s killing that he wanted to shoot someone so he could get paid time off, had referred to Gibson using a racial slur and expressing disdain for him, and had bragged about how fast he was able to fire off those seven rounds. Not surprisingly though, Stanley Gibson’s shooting, like every other police shooting in the entire history of the city of Las Vegas was ruled justified. Not only that but Arevalo was placed on disability as a result of stress from the shooting and given a monthly payment of $23,000 to $28,000 (plus cost of living increases) for the rest of his life.

Beaten and Arrested for Reporting Police Brutality

Several other non-fatal incidents are also featured in the movie, including an unarmed and innocent man who was shot at a local 7-11 after he was mistook for a murder suspect and a man who used a hidden GoPro camera to film himself being assaulted and falsely arrested by a “saturation team” after he refused to provide ID as a passenger at a traffic stop (which he legally was not required to do). The video in the latter case also captured audio and video of those officers stating as they searched his car that they “had to find something” to justify his arrest, after the fact.

The other incident featured within the movie is director Ramsey Denison’s own arrest by Las Vegas Police Officers Mark Belanger, Kyle Frett, and Jared Casper. While on vacation in Vegas, Ramsey saw those three officers both verbally and physically abusing a man they had already taken into custody and successfully handcuffed.

Not having seen that type of behavior from cops before and having a positive opinion of the police from working on “true-crime” shows as a film editor in Los Angeles, Denison made the rookie mistake of calling 911 and reporting the officers. The 911 operator responded by calling Belanger, Frett, and Casper to let them know someone had called to report misconduct by them. They then promptly came over and beat, then arrested, Denison.

Later, both the supervisor who had responded to Denison’s 911 complaint and the Internal Affairs “investigators” rubber stamped their approval of his treatment by the trio of Metro officers. Also not terribly surprisingly, he was later told that none of the cameras at the club where his assault took place were turned on that night, effectively precluding him from being able to file a lawsuit to attain some sort of justice. That, along with his experience in the jail and during court, prompted Denison to begin looking into the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and eventually to make “What Happened in Vegas.

Shining a Light on the Darkness within the LVMPD

Ramsey contacted me a couple months after his arrest, which was also not long after I and several other members of Nevada Cop Block were arrested for the ridiculous charge of graffiti (and even more ridiculous “conspiracy” charges) for writing with chalk on public sidewalks during protests over the murder of Stanley Gibson, whom I was friends with in high school, and Metro’s many other victims, including Erik Scott and Trevon Cole.

After meeting with him and getting the feeling that he was genuine in his intentions, I agreed on doing an interview, much of which was included in the movie. Also, while I was limited on what I could discuss about our arrests for chalking, due to lawsuits we had filed (which are still active to this day) as a result, that is discussed in general terms within the film. In addition, several scenes shot of me chalking were included in the movie.

Due to the connections I had built working with Nevada Cop Block and during those demonstrations, I was able to point Denison toward several people within Las Vegas that I felt would potentially be helpful, including some who knew or were related to Erik Scott, Trevon Cole, and Stanley Gibson. I’m happy to say that Ramsey did a great job of seeking those people out, building trust with them, and presenting them in a convincing, professional, and impactful way within the movie.

He also did a great job of researching the background of those featured in the movie and portraying them as real people, as well as separating their true characters from the smear campaigns that the LVMPD uses to deflect blame from the department after they kill someone. What Happened in Vegas does a very equitable job of showing who Scott, Cole, and Gibson were and the impact their murders had on those they left behind.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the movie’s premier screenings at the Cinequest Film Festival last week and it turned out as good as I could have ever expected, if not better. Audiences, as well as critics, attending those screenings were very responsive and positive about the movie. I very much appreciate the work that Ramsey and his crew did both in making a great movie and shining a light on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that I expect will not go unnoticed and that was much overdue.

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