So here is the rest of this story. Saul Villegas was unarmed. He was mentally and physically disabled from a prior gunshot wound to the head. He got shot again, while sitting in the driver’s seat of a car that didn’t belong to him at the Excalibur Hotel. The owner of the car was an off-duty Metro gang detective named BJ Plaskett. Fortunately, Villegas was not killed. Unfortunately, instead of just calling a ‘bad shoot’ a bad shoot, we ended up with a 22-page Force Investigation Team (FIT) report and a 2-page OIO report that are RIDDLED with problems — all because of that one bullet!
Villegas got ‘dumped,’ the story goes. He took a bullet through his wallet and into his left arm. His family members ‘rescued’ him from the car and took him closer to the hotel to get medical assistance; he did not run from the scene and was not apprehended by security. In fact, Plaskett was the one who was disarmed and handcuffed by security— not Villegas!
The first bit of false information put out by Metro was that Villegas attempted a ‘car-jacking’ and got shot. In the final analysis, it is hardly a car-jacking to sit in a car and never put it in gear or attempt to drive off. The next false information was that Villegas ran from the scene and was apprehended by security. This was repeated in multiple media reports and it was just not true.
Metro should just stop doing on-scene media briefings that later are put out on YouTube or Facebook.
Why? Because they just don’t have factual accuracy, can’t get a straight story from the shooting officer (only a public safety
statement) and, I don’t know if anyone believes Metro on these matters anymore anyway.
A car-jacking is the taking of a vehicle by force or threat of force as in robbing someone of their car. It is considered a crime against a person. Normally, a routine ‘auto theft’ is a property crime. Police are not allowed to use deadly force in response to a property crime. I don’t know how a disoriented person sitting in the wrong car had formulated the intent to steal that car; and with disabilities and partial paralysis, it may not have even been possible for him to drive in the first place! I didn’t read about any questions by the detectives to even try to determine if Villegas could have driven in the first place. Once the scene is stable the situation can be sorted out. There is no excuse for important information being missed — or omitted — or ignored, in order to put a better ‘spin’ on a bad shooting!
Back in August of 2013, the Las Vegas Sun focused on inconsistencies related to the shooting: “Police descriptions of what the man was doing when the detective shot him contain some inconsistencies. Las Vegas police Capt. Brett Primas said he reached underneath the seat of the car before the detective fired. In a video police posted on YouTube, Primas said the man put his hands “down below his waistline, out of view.”
In a news release issued Monday afternoon, police said he “lowered his hands to his waistband.”
Primas, in the YouTube video, also makes a contradictory statement that suggests the man may have exited the detective’s car the first time the officer told him to get out: “The off-duty detective, seeing this, called to the subject and had him come out of the vehicle. The subject was non-compliant.”
A department spokesman wouldn’t address questions about whether Primas misspoke, saying police would take questions at an as-yet-unscheduled news conference. He said he didn’t know whether the detective fired his duty-issued gun or whether police were looking at hotel SURVEILLANCE VIDEO.”
I capitalized those two words because there is no reference to video in either the OIO or the FIT reports. This is inexcusable! Could the officer’s story have been contradicted by the video? It demonstrates a
massive bias for the police and against people like Villegas. There are so many problems, and possible untruthful statements in this case that I believe it is time for the FBI or some outside organization to review the work done by Metro.
Plaskett says he saw the man in his car after his wife brought this to his attention. He says he reached in, as if faking to go for the keys in the ignition, and then was able to retrieve his gun. He says that he then verbally identified himself as a police officer (none of Villegas’ family reported hearing this so maybe Plaskett ‘whispered’ this into his ear while they were face to face in the car). And guess what? Plaskett didn’t tell this story to the arriving officers or initial detectives on the scene. In fact, from my reading of the report he didn’t mention this until two days after the incident!
So the reports are quite poor (chronology and details) but it appears as if the wife saw a man in her car, she ‘thought’ the man might have a gun, and she knew that her husband kept a gun in between the seats — this was also not mentioned at the scene.
So Plaskett later says he ‘knew’ he had left a gun in the car and we are expected to believe that he was BRAVE enough to jump in the front seat (from the open passenger door) and go face to face with a suspect that was thought to be armed? So Plaskett eventually tells detectives that he used his own gun after retrieving it from the car, ‘politely’ asking Villegas to get out of the car, and identifying himself as a police officer? And, of course, firing because he felt in fear for his life!
Plaskett is black. Villegas is Hispanic. What if the officer had been white and the suspect had been an unarmed black teen and had been fatally shot? Does anyone not believe there would be a demand for video and a more thorough investigation and major media attention?
The report reads, “Detective Plaskett moved to the side of the vehicle and advised Villegas to exit the vehicle.” However, just about every non-Plaskett witness said the detective used profanity over and over and said, “Get the ‘F’ out of my vehicle.” Nobody said they heard him say, “Metro Police. Get Out of the Vehicle.” I didn’t read where any independent witnesses confirmed that he ever identified himself. These are critical aspects to the investigation and they don’t appear in the report.
Virtually all Villegas family members said, regarding Plaskett, “[he] started saying get the ‘F’ out of my car! What are you doing in my car? and ‘Get out of my f***ing car – get out of my f***ing car.’” Yet another reported hearing a male yelling, “Get the f**k out of my car!”
The story from the other side was that Plaskett simply told Villegas to get out of the car. Nobody from the Villegas family ever said that Plaskett identified himself as a police officer… but Plaskett’s crew ‘conveniently’ said just the opposite. One Plaskett witness went on to say that he never heard Villegas say a word, that Villegas seemed unable to understand what was being said to him and also had a hard time with balance. There were no determinations of credibility that could be identified in the report.
A security officer supposedly arrived and reported Plaskett said he was a police officer and he had just shot someone. Quotations attributed to Plaskett include, “it looked like they were gonna take off in it” and that they “were getting ready to pull out a weapon.”
Plaskett said to the two initial detectives, “I just wanted him out of my car; I just wanted him out of my car.” Surprisingly, Plaskett did NOT tell these detectives or arriving officers how he obtained his weapon from the inside of the car. It appears that this information was relayed two days later! I could be wrong here… the report is very difficult to understand. When this information did come out, the detectives immediately (and repeatedly) told Plaskett he should talk to his union attorney. I found this to be a little unusual, to warn an officer in this manner.
Another concern is that it does not appear that Plaskett and his wife were kept separated prior to their official interviews. They apparently had plenty of time to get their story ‘straight.’ The wife had plenty to say and offered plenty of ‘details’ that provided possible ‘justification’ for use of deadly force. This was also very convenient.
Most troubling was the questioning of Villegas at the hospital without Miranda rights and without an attorney. They questioned a man they know to be mentally deficient without a guardian or a warning. The reports list ‘incriminating’ statements made by a mentally deficient shooting victim to make the case of an attempted auto theft… but ignores the fact that the car was never driven away and didn’t even move at all.
Further aggravating the situation were the arrest and charges placed on Villegas. After the shooting, trip to the hospital, absentia booking, and time for Metro to investigate, there were still serious charges placed on Villegas (Attempted Grand Larceny and Auto Burglary). At least they didn’t call it a car-jacking or charge him gbwith acting like he was a gangster who might have a gun.
There may be more to this story than any of us will ever know — unless the Las Vegas media forces the issue. I read the two-page OIO report entitled, ‘Key Conclusions, Recommendations and Outcomes of a Categorical Use of Force Incident” pertaining to an officer involved shooting at 2850 Las Vegas Blvd. on August 11, 2013. Not sure what a ‘categorical use of force incident” is but I guess if they make it sound important they can bamboozle everyone.
The two-page summary really didn’t have much value where ‘key conclusions’ or ‘recommendations’ or ‘outcomes’ could be listed. It read; “The matter involving Detective Plaskett was heard by the Use of Force Board on July 17, 2014. The Board’s finding was “Tactics/Decision Making.” (WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?) The Use of Force Review Board found, even though the use of deadly force was lawful and within policy, the tactics and/or decision making were flawed and worked to limit alternatives that may have otherwise been available to the officer. A different approach may have reduced or eliminated the need for the officer to employ deadly force. The Sheriff approved of the Board’s finding.”
So what corrective action was taken? What discipline or training took place to prevent another shooting of an unarmed subject sitting in a car? The reason that I no longer have a job with the LVMPD can be captured in questions like this. Too many ‘sheep’ at Metro just keep following the trail that is mowed for them and they fail to recognize the severity of the ‘group-think’ that has continued to destroy what once was an excellent organization. If you dissent, you are destroyed
so the ‘cowboys’ can keep riding and shooting instead of learning restraint.
Lots of unanswered questions and the potential for major problems if the truth was not told.