Accused Reno cop suspended in 1998 for use of force

RENO - A veteran police officer who's being investigates for choking a handcuffed suspect has been in trouble before, according to Reno police.

An internal affairs investigation in August 1998 upheld the allegation that Officer Frank Johnson used an unnecessary amount of force on a handcuffed man arrested during Hot August Nights.

Deputy Chief Jim Weston said on Monday that Johnson was suspended without pay for two days.

Johnson, a 19-year veteran of the force, now is on paid leave pending a criminal investigation into his treatment of 19-year-old Eric Tijerina in a casino security room two weeks ago.

A surveillance camera recorded the incident, in which Johnson allegedly choked Tijerina and directed racial slurs at him while he was strapped into a chair at the Eldorado Hotel & Casino.

The victim in the 1998 incident received scrapes and bruises.

Detectives never completed a criminal investigation and Weston said he does not know why.

The victim's complaint was one of 11 filed during Hot August Nights 1998 and was the only one investigators sustained. The victim was arrested the afternoon after the crowd erupted into a melee that resulted in 208 arrests.

In this month's incident, Tijerina said he never complained about his treatment until Reno detectives interviewed him Sept. 20 about his arrest. Eldorado security guards reported the Sept. 7 incident to police on Sept. 15.

Security guards took Tijerina and a juvenile friend into custody after they stole coins from the bottom of a casino fountain. He struggled with the guards trying to strap him into a chair in a holding room until Johnson arrived to take him to jail.

Tijerina pleaded guilty to charges of petty larceny, battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor and will remain in jail until Oct. 1.


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