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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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R.I.P. Sean Gruber – Yet Another Victim of the LVMPD

The post below is an unfinished essay that Sean Gruber had written at some point shortly before his death from a self-inflicted gun shot wound on August 1st. It’s extremely disheartening that he made that decision and I personally very much wish he hadn’t. However, I think if you read the statement he had written below some of the reasons why he did so are explained pretty clearly there.

Sean was a former resident of Las Vegas and well known and widely respected among “liberty activists” within Southern Nevada. He also was known locally and outside of Nevada for co-hosting liberty-based radio shows, as well as contributing writing to several websites. That included CopBlock.org and his posts that he either submitted or wrote directly for the CopBlock Network are included at the bottom of this post, within the “related posts” section.

A memorial is being held for Sean in Las Vegas on Wednesday, August 10th. Information on that can be found at the Facebook event page for it, which is located here.

I also considered Sean a personal friend after having met him almost exactly three years ago. The first time I met him was somewhat limited to an appearance I did on, the “Round Table Group,”one of the radio shows he was co-hosting. Even though we never really had the opportunity to get together as much as I would have liked to in person, over time I came to consider Sean a true and valuable friend, who was always very friendly and very supportive toward anything I was involved with. In fact, Sean was actually one of the very few people that I can’t recall ever having a real argument with.

In spite of his generally friendly demeanor, Sean was a very passionate and dedicated person and one of the things he was most passionate about was liberty and fighting against the tyranny that has been encroaching upon this country. Sometimes that passion manifested itself in very uncensored statements about those that were responsible for such tyranny. And as evidenced in his writing below, over the past several years Sean got to know well just how tyrannical the LVMPD could be.

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The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has a well deserved and long standing reputation as vindictive bullies toward anyone that dares to criticize them. They don’t just actively work to prevent accountability for cops, they target anybody who questions that favorable treatment. In Sean’s case, they not only targeted him to the point that he decided to leave town, but they even continued targeting him from afar after that.

In June of 2014, shortly after two cops were murdered here in Las Vegas, Sean pointed out in a Facebook post that the violent behavior and lack of accountability of cops had probably played some role in the motivation behind the shootings. As a result, someone reported him to Metro’s “Fusion Center.” In spite of the fact that they readily admitted what he had said was not a threat and was covered by free speech protections, the LVMPD still began actively harassing him and even his family afterwards.

A similar Facebook post, in August of 2014, by a family member resulted in that family member being fired from their job after the police put pressure on the casino where he worked, since they couldn’t do anything legally (because of that First Amendment thing again). Soon after that, Sean and his entire family moved to new Hampshire in an attempt to get away from the harassment by the Las Vegas police and find a more liberty minded location.

It wasn’t too long after that, when Sean applied for a concealed weapons permit in New Hampshire, that he discovered the LVMPD had placed him on a list of “dangerous people.” This was in spite of the fact he had never been arrested or even charged with a crime of any sort. Sean in fact hadn’t even so much as been questioned by the police with the exception of the ones who responded to him making a Facebook post former Sheriff Gillespie didn’t like.

This arbitrary designation by “the criminal gang that calls themselves the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department,” as Sean (correctly) put it, prevented him from exercising his gun rights without basing it on any actual criminal behavior or violent actions. More so than that, what it did was show that even after he moved to the other side of the country they weren’t going to let him be. He also became concerned that the police would target his family in the process of their vendetta against him, even possibly involving violence against them should they find some excuse to raid his house.

While nobody from the Las Vegas Metro Police physically pulled the trigger that day, the reality is that they might as well have. I have no doubt that their vindictiveness and unwillingness to let it go, even after he had left their designated gang territory, to the point that he felt his presence had put people around him in danger played a large part in the very unfortunate decision he made. As far as I’m concerned, the LVMPD has blood on their hands as surely as if they had shot him themselves.

 Below is Sean Gruber’s Final Post:

At some point, or at some time, I’m pretty sure I said, “All Cops Deserve To Die.” I’m not taking that back. Even if I could, I probably wouldn’t.

Policemen are gang members. I’m not sure all of them realize this. But I’m not responsible when it comes to explaining the reality of the world to fools – hooligans, criminals, and modern day Redcoats. It’s simply not my job – and if it were – I’m not getting paid enough.

I moved across the entire country (Las Vegas, NV to Newport, New Hampshire) because I knew I had pissed off the criminal gang that calls themselves the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. I’ve been trying to de-escalate this shit for a while now. (I will admit a few times I got drunk and said what was actually on my mind – that usually consisting of pointing out that criminals – even if they have cool uniforms and pistol belts – are still criminals and deserve to be treated as such.

However, I’ve never done a thing. The one time I was contacted by LVMPD, a detective, I believe by the name of Gnu stated (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We have looked at your Facebook posts and all we see is First Amendment stuff, but we were just directed by Sheriff Doug Gillespie, to contact everyone that might have anything to do with Jerad and Amanda Miller.”

He was fairly nice to me – I suspect that is because I had legal counsel there, but I’m no Nostradamus. I do know this much – Metro are a bunch of lying, criminal, murderous, shit heads that didn’t get even one-one-hundredth of the percent of shit that should have been brought down upon them on that day.

Does that make you lying group of criminals uncomfortable? Do you even know the history of your own department? I don’t give a hot fuck and I don’t suspect that you do either. Now it has come to my attention that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has decided to unilaterally declare me as a “Dangerous Person”.

Now, I’ve been in this game for over half of my 35 years on this planet and I’ve never heard of this before. Since when did my calling Metro a bunch of sister fucking assholes constitute a crime? Hell, if the truth is a crime – I’m out of business.

The truth about me isn’t very nice for the “powers that be.” I’m very boring. I’m a thirty five year old man. I live on odd jobs and my family’s charity. I have no criminal record. I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never been convicted of a crime. I’ve never even been charged with a crime. I do own some guns – and I do have some self-respect and if I’m pushed too far I’ll shoot at those – that pushed – even if they have a badge. But I’m essentially not a “dangerous person.”

Fuck, If I’m dangerous and you aren’t…you might want to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself a question about where your allegiances lie and if you are a man or simply, a Brit. Are you “dangerous” if someone shits on you? Lies about your friends? Tries to kill some of them and tries to take some of the others’ kids? How indoctrinated are you?

Did LVMPD not realize I was going to get pissed off and write something? The answer is that that they don’t care. Because all of the ruckus in the world I could cause won’t mean shit in comparison to how easily they made my life harder…and this is the reason cops deserve bullets. From the rooftops. Pipe Bombs in their tailpipes.

You asshole’s push me and I’ll say what I mean. I hate you. You made me hate you. I didn’t like cops when I moved to Las Vegas – I left with a paranoid hatred of which I can barely describe. Go shoot Erik Scott eleven more times. Go cap another thirteen year old boy – who was already handcuffed – and talk to me about your heroic tendencies. I’m fresh the fuck out of giving a fuck.

I’m still not threatening you. You fucker’s aren’t worth the blood I’d have to spill. But I wish cancer upon you all.

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LVMPD Officer Charged with Driving Drunk And Hit and Run After Causing Several Accidents on Freeway

Last week (July 16), yet another Las Vegas cop was arrested for DUI. In this particular instance Officer Antonio Munoz was also charged with hit and run after leaving the scene of multiple accidents he caused in the process.

According to the arrest report (see below), Officer Munoz essentially played vehicular pinball as he went down the freeway. As he smashed other cars out of his way on I-15, which passes through central Las Vegas, he left a trail of damage and injured people in his wake.

In spite of all that, his bail was only set to $100,000 when he made his initial appearance before a judge having been charged with three felony charges and facing a possibility of as many as 12 additional charges.

It’s, of course, incredibly more likely that he will receive the typical Policeman’s Discount and rather than being charged with those additional crimes, he’ll be given a plea bargain involving a medium to hard slap on the wrist and nothing close to what an average citizen would receive.

(I’ll definitely update this when – not if – that happens. Stay tuned.)

On Tuesday, FOX5 (Las Vegas) obtained a copy of the Nevada Highway Patrol report that details Munoz’s arrest:

The report states Munoz was driving his white GMC Yukon just after midnight Saturday and caused injury crashes along Interstate 15, near Charleston Boulevard.

One of the people Munoz is accused of crashing into is KC Wells. He said he was driving home from work with his wife when his vehicle was struck.

“I heard a lot of commotion coming on behind me and looked in my rearview mirror and saw a truck coming through, and it was just hitting cars and knocking them out of the way,” Wells said.

Wells was able to avoid a direct hit but the back of his vehicle sustained damage. His wife called 911, and he pursued the Yukon.

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An NHP trooper observed Munoz driving erratically, speeding and running a red light. According to the report, during the traffic stop Munoz told the trooper he had cancer and denied drinking alcohol.

The trooper smelled alcohol in the Yukon and noted that it had extensive damage. One of the hit-and-run victims arrived and identified Munoz as the driver involved.

The arrest report shows Munoz failed several field sobriety tests. His blood-alcohol level was .12.

BTW, in case you missed it, his excuse for driving into a bunch of people on the highway and then having to be chased down by one of those people he hit was that he has cancer.

No mention was made of whether the Internal Affairs Bureau, which is headed by a lieutenant that is facing perjury charges, is currently “investigating” Officer Munoz.

FOX5 Vegas – KVVU

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Nevada Medical Marijuana Patient Freed by Jury Nullification

After nearly three years of legal limbo, Steven Ficano, a 65 year old medical marijuana patient, was finally set free by an act of jury nullification last month. On May 29, Ficano was found not guilty of two felony counts for possessing too much marijuana. He faced over ten years in prison if he had been convicted.

The case against Ficano, a long time local business man with no criminal history and a registered medical marijuana patient, revolved around the amount of marijuana in his possession at one time and prosecutors’ contention that this indicated he was selling it.

National Jury Rights Day is September 5th. Don't forget to fully inform the potential jurors in your community.

National Jury Rights Day is September 5th.

At the time of his arrest, Ficano was in possession of 68 plants and 24 pounds of finished marijuana. Nevada medical marijuana laws limit patients to 12 plants and 2.6 ounces of finished marijuana, but Ficano had a waiver from a doctor stating that he could possess more than that limit. Those limits are also based on a three month growth period and Ficano stated that he only harvested the plants in his possession once a year.

Defense attorneys maintained that the aspect of the rules regarding how much could be possessed were ambiguous, hadn’t been explained properly to Ficano, and that the lack of proper dispensaries are what led him to feel the need to store large quantities of cannabis. They also presented three of his neighbors, including a former policeman, as witnesses that testified they did not believe Ficano would ever sell marijuana.

Prosecutors attempted to use the large amount of marijuana in his possession, and the discovery of a digital scale, more than $51,000 in cash, and 26 guns, as well as the lack of “a single pot baked-good located in his home,” during the raid, as proof he was intending to sell it. However, the guns were antique lever-action rifles, collectible pistol sets, and historic muskets.

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In addition, the money was Ficano’s life savings that he had removed from the bank during the recession, some of the marijuana had developed mold from having been stored so long, and most of the plants were either male plants or ones that had not matured enough to produce buds. Pretty much none of that was indicative of a drug sales operation.

Within an hour, jurors, some of whom cried along with Ficano after the verdict was read, voted to acquit him of all charges. Later, several jurors stated that their decision was based on sympathy for Ficano’s medical conditions, which included arthritis, scoliosis, and pain from a recent car accident, and not the “letter of the law.”

Via the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) website (by way of Southern Nevada Watchdogs):

Outside the courtroom, jurors said they focused on the doctor’s waiver, and said they didn’t think the document clearly defined how much pot Ficano could have at his home.

The waiver allowed him to possess 29 plants and 2 to 4 pounds of finished marijuana per three-month growing cycle. But Ficano said he only harvested marijuana once a year and assumed that he would be allowed to have up to 84 plants and 16 pounds of finished medicine.

Another juror, Donna Florence, said that after reaching the verdict she thought of her mother, who died of cancer about two years ago.

“If I could have gotten something for her that would have spared her that pain, I would have done anything,” she said. “And I think this guy was just in similar pain and trying to help himself.”

Click Here For Information On Your Rights as a Juror

Click Here For Information On Your Rights as a Juror

So it’s pretty clear, even if they didn’t actually realize that they were doing it, that the jurors used jury nullification (AKA their conscience) to protect a good person from a very bad law. Although this is still a rarity and the courts actively work to hide this right from jurors, it’s great that people are becoming aware of this important option for those that sit on juries. This is especially important in cases like this where senseless and counterproductive prohibitions are used as a weapon against people who are clearly not a threat to society or the communities in which they live.

The War on (Some) Drugs is a source of more theft, violence, and other abuses (on both sides of the law) than any drug it purports to fight with very little success at actually preventing drug use along the way. People serving on a jury can and should separate true criminals from someone simply seeking relief from a chronic illness or medical condition. Especially, when that relief comes from something that has consistently been proven to be not just harmless, but actually beneficial in many ways. Fortunately, this jury had enough compassion and moral strength to do the right thing this time.

“Jury Rights Day” 2014 in Las Vegas, courtesy of Southern Nevada Watchdogs:

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