Former sheriff joins call for Vegas police probe
LAS VEGAS (AP) – The former sheriff and mentor to the current top cop in Las Vegas says he supports a federal review of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department policies and practices following the police slaying of a troubled and unarmed Gulf War veteran.
Former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young on Friday credited current Sheriff Douglas Gillespie with welcoming calls by the NAACP in Las Vegas and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada for a Justice Department investigation.
Gillespie released a statement Thursday saying he doesn’t see an independent review of his department’s use-of-force training and investigations as an adversarial process.
“If they want to see how we do business and review the various systems we have in place … we welcome that,” Gillespie said.
Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., said they’re reviewing requests after ACLU and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People officials pointed to the slaying last Monday of 43-year-old Stanley Lavon Gibson in his car. He was the 12th person killed by Las Vegas police this year.
Young, 55, now vice president of security for Station Casinos in Las Vegas, said in interviews Thursday with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and National Public Radio station KNPR in Las Vegas and Friday with The Associated Press that he didn’t want to second-guess police and Gillespie following the Gibson slaying.
But Young said community trust and faith in the police department was at stake.
“I don’t want to hurt the officers. I don’t want to hurt the sheriff. My intent isn’t to criticize,” Young said. “My intent is to get improvements.”
As sheriff, Young obtained military-style AR-15 weapons for Las Vegas police after Sgt. Henry Prendes, 37, was slain in February 2006 approaching a house where a barricaded man wielding an assault weapon held other officers at bay while unleashing a barrage of gunfire at police cars and the surrounding neighborhood.
Witness and police say Gibson was slain by a police officer who fired seven shots with an AR-15 the moment another officer fired a beanbag shotgun at a back window of Gibson’s Cadillac. The car had been immobilized – wedged with its tires spinning and smoking between two police cruisers – after a standoff that lasted more than an hour.
Young said he didn’t think a patrol officer should have been wielding a rifle in a situation involving a distraught man if police had credible information that he was unarmed.
ACLU chief Dane Clausson in Las Vegas said association lawyers were preparing a written application to the Justice Department to investigate citing the frequency of police officer-involved shootings in Las Vegas and the lack of fact-finding proceedings following slayings.
Richard Boulware, vice president of the NAACP Las Vegas chapter, said that despite Gillespie’s pleas for patience the public couldn’t fully trust police investigations of police actions.
“To the public, it doesn’t appear that police officers are held accountable,” Boulware said.