13 Investigates


Peaceful protesters question Las Vegas police role in adding to tension during civil unrest

Police leaders respond, vow to investigate
Posted at 1:10 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 18:57:34-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — With pepper balls, tear gas and people being tackled during largely peaceful protests, some are questioning whether Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department police have added to the tension on the streets of Las Vegas.

13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears took firsthand accounts and protester videos to LVMPD leadership to question their role in the civil unrest.

MORE ON THIS: Managing police accountability in Las Vegas

At first, Alejandro Rosales’ video from May 29 is pretty boring.

"Friday I kind of just went to observe," Rosales explained.

It's the second night of protests in Las Vegas and for about four minutes, Alejandro stands on the sidewalk narrating the scene.

"There was the bicyclist that crossed the street. There was the couple that walked down the street, so I was like, okay, it's okay to cross the street."

Turns out, it wasn't.

Alejandro's video cuts out moments after he's tackled by a LVMPD officer in riot gear.

No orders, no warning.

"I'm not instigating anything. I was literally there, to my knowledge, as a legal observer. And then that happened so I was just in shock."

He was arrested, charged with failure to disperse and taken to jail.

"To this day I don't really understand why."

A judge didn't understand either. At least not the part about bail Alejandro had to post.

The chief judge of Las Vegas Justice Court issued an administrative order about the misdemeanor arrests that had to post bail.

Chief Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum called it a clerical error and said that 25 different people were due refunds of their bail amount "in the interest of justice."

We took Alejandro’s video and others to LVMPD Capt. Nichole Splinter.

"When Mr. Rosales goes -- and waits his turn to cross in the crosswalk -- he is tackled by an officer and subsequently arrested. From your perspective, what are we seeing in that video?" Darcy Spears asked.

"The videos that you sent me were actually my first time seeing those and I don't have an answer for that," said Capt. Splinter. "I know that right now I believe there are 17 cases that are actually in Internal Affairs that people have submitted videos for."

Splinter says the department is committed to investigating questionable police conduct in videos, like those that show an officer throwing a woman to the ground as others arrest her boyfriend.

We also showed Capt. Splinter video of another man who, like Alejandro, was tackled by an officer and dragged away after crossing the street.

"It was the first time I saw that one as well and again, I don't have an answer for why that occurred," Splinter said.

Yet another man was threatened while filming an arrest of a protester who says on the video, "All I did was say 'no justice, no peace.' That's all I did. And I got tackled and told I was resisting and I didn't resist anything!"

In that video, an officer tells the man filming, "You're next."

The following exchange has people questioning the vow to "protect and serve."

Officer: "You can go now or you're going (to jail)!"

Protester filming: "Sir, we're going. I promise."

Officer: "This is your one chance."

Protester: "We're going. All you gotta do is ask me. That's the first time you asked me. I'm just a person like you, man. I'm leaving."

After he turns and continues walking away, law enforcement fires pepper balls.

Protester: "What the [expletive]? What the [expletive] dude?! Nobody's doing [expletive]! You already got everybody in handcuffs!"

"We see the little snippets of video but we need to get a bigger, clearer picture as to what's going on and then those officers are going to have to come in and articulate the actions that they took that day," said Capt Splinter.

"So we have to let that process play through with Internal Affairs and see if those officers are sustained for using any kind of excessive force that night or during the protests," she added.

LVMPD's Use of Force policy was updated just two weeks before the protests began.

It says, "An officer's use of force must balance against the level of resistance exhibited by the subject," and take into account "the nature and severity of the crime underlying the police and citizen interaction."

"It's hard to balance that," Spears said to Splinter. "Can you understand how people who are seeing these videos and reading the policy might have difficulty meshing the two?"

"Absolutely," Splinter responded.

She emphasizes that there is room for change but says it's already in progress -- highlighting the department's track record of reform, reduction in officer-involved shootings and increased use of less lethal force.

"We're not perfect at all. We will make mistakes," she said. "But this department is extremely sincere in wanting to be the best. The sheriff is adamant on wanting to be transparent and holding our officers accountable. The public demands it and we do the best we can."

Alejandro Rosales is adding his voice to those demands, helping to propose new state law.

Among other things, the bill's authors want every police officer in the state to have a body-worn camera, which must be activated any time they interact with the public.

"The stuff we're trying to achieve is just accountability for authority," said Rosales, so violent interactions don't happen again when people are just trying to be heard.

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