Year’s Resolutions that Metro should be considering for the benefit of
the community? Will the primary and general elections in 2014 result
in new leadership and some true reform, progressive thinking, and
2011 and 2012 brought us an analysis of police shootings in the Deadly
Force series as well as prompting an outside review by the feds. Some
improvements are underway. There have been special ‘teams’ (CIRT) and
‘offices’ (OIO) created to investigate and review use of force
incidents. A new use of force policy which emphasizes the ‘sanctity of
human life’ and ‘de-escalation’ has been implemented. There is now
more ‘reality based training’ according to information provided by
Metro. The District Attorney issues his findings on fatal shootings
and the LVMPD website publishes some reports related to fatal and
non-fatal shootings. Improvements are underway, but there are still no
reports released on three fatal shootings and 10 non-fatal shootings.
Under the old Coroner’s Inquest system the facts usually came out in
about six weeks. Now, there are lengthy delays in the release of
official facts to the public and in returning some officers to work.
The inquest system has been abolished and officers don’t have to
explain their actions to detectives investigating the shootings to see
if any Nevada laws were violated.
I’m not aware that any of the officers involved in fatal shootings
have given statements to homicide investigators at any point after the
shootings. They do give a Public Safety Statement to the supervisor at
the scene and they are interviewed by the Critical Incident Review
Team (CIRT) for compliance with ‘internal’ policies. Nothing that they
say to CIRT can be used against them in any criminal proceeding. The
vast majority of the shooters do not give statements to those
investigating whether a crime had occurred, and they act on the advice
of the PPA and the PMSA.
We could argue all day long on how well Metro performs in relation to
standards established in policing. I’d like to see improvement in the
investigation of prostitution-related crimes that likely result in a
million dollars in losses on the Strip — each month! The most critical
and permanent action that police can take, however, is to use deadly
force and take the life of a person. So, with this as a starting
point, what can Metro do to improve in 2014?
Fatal and non-fatal incidents involving deadly force must be
investigated promptly and results reported to the community — after
being critiqued and after guidance is given within the LVMPD. The most
recent non-fatal shootings involved an off-duty detective shooting an
unarmed and disabled subject (Saul Villegas) at the Excalibur 0n
8/11/13; the shooting of another unarmed subject (Antoine Hodges) at a
7-Eleven store on 10/21/13; the SWAT shooting on 8/26/13 after Sara
Jones had fired a weapon at officers; and the shooting of Jose Aguilar
who allegedly pointed a shotgun at officers and then put the gun down,
but jumped up and went after the gun as officers approached to arrest
him, on 12/16/13.
Details on the shooting at the 7-Eleven store were given in a press
conference along with a video from the 7-Eleven that Metro thinks
supports the use of deadly force. There were errors made by the
officer (he had the wrong person, approached alone without waiting for
backup, and he shot a subject who was not armed — it appears that he
was startled in the video and was backing away from a threat). Why did
Metro release that video and not the one from the Excalibur? Oh, wait!
We don’t even know if there was a video from the Excalibur. I do know
that there are conflicting statements and evidence on this shooting.
The detective reached into his own vehicle to retrieve his weapon and
then still says that the person in the car was believed to be armed or
was a deadly threat as he sat in the car and was shot in the wrist?
Errors need to be identified and information shared with officers to
prevent these incidents — even if they do not result in any criminal
charges and even if they do not result in any formal internal
discipline by Metro.
The most recent fatal shooting was when multiple officers shot and
killed Patrick Heki on 12/7/13. What can we learn from this shooting
even if it is classified as ‘justified’ under Nevada law by D.A.
Wolfson? How about multiple shooters and the approach, weapon
selection, opportunity to deescalate or temporarily retreat, and a
myriad of other options that need to be discussed so they are ‘fresh’
options in the minds of officers who will handle subsequent calls?
What has Metro learned from blowing away Sharmel Edwards? I’d like to
hear an answer before the end of 2014.
When a command officer goes to the scene (i.e., Excalibur) and creates
a YouTube video, or an Undersheriff holds a press conference and then
(either before or after) the public realizes that there are many
inconsistencies, this damages the credibility of Metro. Some of the
‘stories’ being told about the recent fatal and non-fatal shootings
just don’t add up… they don’t match witness statements and they
should not pass the scrutiny of the public (or the media)… but they
Patrick Heki was shot and killed but did he ever fire his weapon at
officers who knew exactly what they were approaching and saw that he
was armed as they looked in a window? Did police bullets or Heki
bullets penetrate an adjoining apartment and endanger a family and
small child? Lots of learning can take place if information is
reported and actions are taken.
Jose Aguilar supposedly put his shotgun down, but was still too close
to it when officers approached so they had to shoot him when he jumped
up and went for the gun. This is the story, but officers should be
giving their all-important commands from cover and ensure that the
suspect is far enough away from any weapons before they approach. If
they have enough officers and think about using their resources
(Taser, Low Lethality Shotgun, etc.) and have practiced not using
deadly force… they may not have had to fire multiple rounds at
Aguilar. Aguilar survived the shooting and was promptly arrested for
being suicidal and walking down the stairs with a shotgun. Just how
does that turn into assault with a deadly weapon on police? Second
Amendment supporters (even cops) might be upset that they can’t be on
their own property and have a gun in their possession without the
police ‘making entry’ and escalating an incident. Are my opinions
correct? I have no idea because we don’t get all of the facts — or
they are delayed too long to fix the immediate problem.
You know what else I would like to learn more about if Metro were to
ask for some ideas for New Year’s Resolutions?
I’d like to know findings from the Guns & Roses helicopter flight.
What was their misconduct and what was done about it? Was there any
discipline, transfer, or other corrective action taken? What is the
current LVMPD policy on ride-alongs for citizens and celebrities?
Wasn’t it reported that Sheriff Bill Young actually gave his badge to
a singer with The Eagles at a concert in Las Vegas? I wonder if the
LVMPD ever retrieved it.
Whatever happened on the email sent about safety issues at Metro Air
Support before the David Vanbuskirk tragedy? Who was the hiker that
they were trying to rescue and why is it such a problem to get a name?
In some cities they publish the names and inform the community that
they are seeking cost recovery for the expenses related to the search
What is going to happen to Sgt. TJ Jenkins and the offices on video
from last New Year’s Eve? Did the reports match the video? Were there
false arrests made? Was this an appropriate or inappropriate use of
force by Jenkins and others? Most importantly, even if TJ is made of
‘Teflon’ (nothing ever sticks), what is going to be done to train
other officers on how they are to conduct themselves beginning at
midnight for this New Year’s Eve? Does Sheriff Duh-G ‘waive’ all
policies and procedures because of the intensity of the event? What in
the heck is all of that discipline and accountability and integrity
talk about if what you learn in the academy is not matching what is
done on the streets?
And what lessons have been learned from the most horrific tragedy in
the history of the LVMPD? Don’t remember that one? It is the
double-murder/suicide involving Lt. Hans Walters. I understand that
‘Double, Double, Red-Dog, Gag Orders’ were issued after that incident
and burying a problem of this magnitude is not going to prevent future
problems. How about responding to the requests for records made by the
media, Sheriff? It has been almost one year already!
Last item: I was thinking about how much respect and reverence that I
had for my chain of command as a rookie and during most of my career.
I was much younger then, but it seemed that our leaders were much more
experienced and mature. I’d have to do a little more study of the
history of Metro to get all of the names right, but what comes to mind
are the comparisons listed below. If 2014 is going to result in a
reform-minded sheriff who can change the culture of an organization
that has lost so much public trust then it will begin at the police
academy and it must be supported from leaders at the top – ethical
leaders and not headhunters!
The LVMPD past Sheriffs were John Moran, Jerry Keller, Bill Young and
Doug Gillespie — I compare Moran, from when I was hired, to Doug
Gillespie, to when I was fired. What is the true ‘measure’ of these
When I was hired Eric Cooper was the Undersheriff. He was followed by
Richard Winget — Doug Gillespie, Rod Jett, and now Jim Dixon. I
compare Cooper, from when I was hired, to more recent Undersheriffs
and consider their qualifications and career progression.
When I was hired, the Assistant Sheriffs were Larry Ketzenberger and
Dan Stopka — I compare them to their successors such as Ray Flynn,
Mike McClary, Ted Moody, Greg McCurdy and now Joseph Lombardo and
Kevin McMahill. I guess I should try to count how many people have
recently quit the Gillespie administration? How long has his ship been
Finally, when I was hired there were Deputy Chiefs named Larry Bolden
and Amos Elliott. Later there were people named John Sullivan, Steve
Waugh, Paul Connor, and Walt Meyers that held these important
positions in our police department. Now I compare those names to
people like Todd Fasulo (and others). If Fasulo can make Deputy Chief,
I think that says it all!
May 2014 be the year that Metro resolves to regain the trust of the
community. And may this year also raise the morale and improve pride
and trust within the LVMPD as well! Problems within the department
must be acknowledged and addressed by our next sheriff.
Norm Jahn is a former LVMPD lieutenant, who has also served as a
police chief in Shawano, Wisconsin, and has nearly 25 years of police
experience. Jahn now contributes his opinions and ideas to help
improve policing in general, and in Las Vegas in particular, through
his weekly column in the Las Vegas Tribune.