Ve­gas of­fi­cer faces charges in death

Kenneth Lopera used a chokehold on an un­armed black man out­side a casino.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By David Mon­tero david.mon­tero@la­times.com

LAS VE­GAS — A Las Ve­gas Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice of­fi­cer will be crim­i­nally charged in the death of an un­armed black man last month out­side the Vene­tian casino, au­thor­i­ties said Mon­day.

Clark County Sher­iff Joe Lom­bardo said Kenneth Lopera was ex­pected to be charged with in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter and op­pres­sion un­der the color of of­fice — each count car­ry­ing a max­i­mum sen­tence of four years in prison.

The charges stem from an in­ci­dent on May 14 when 40-year-old Tashii Brown ap­proached Lopera and an uniden­ti­fied of­fi­cer at a cof­fee shop at the Vene­tian. Brown was de­scribed as act­ing er­rat­i­cally and told of­fi­cers he was be­ing chased. He took off and Lopera ran after him, ac­ti­vat­ing his body cam­era in the process.

What his video cap­tured — as did other sur­veil­lance footage — was Lopera fir­ing his Taser seven times. He then punched Brown and used a chokehold.

When Brown was un­re­spon­sive, CPR was ad­min­is­tered and he was rushed to a hospi­tal, where he was pro­nounced dead.

On Mon­day, the Clark County coroner and med­i­cal ex­am­iner ruled Brown’s death a homi­cide.

The coroner’s of­fice said the au­topsy re­sults found the cause of death to be “as­phyxia due to po­lice re­straint pro­ce­dures.” It said “other sig­nif­i­cant con­di­tions” in­cluded metham­phetamine in­tox­i­ca­tion and an en­larged heart.

“The charges are the re­sult of the coroner’s find­ings, along with ev­i­dence gath­ered from video sur­veil­lance, body-worn cam­eras and wit­ness state­ments,” Lom­bardo said. “It should be noted that Of­fi­cer Lopera did not pro­vide a state­ment to the force in­ves­ti­ga­tion team.”

Andre Lago­marsino, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Brown family, said family mem­bers be­lieved first-de­gree mur­der charges were called for and weren’t sat­is­fied with the lesser charges. He said they also wanted to see charges filed against the se­cu­rity guards who aided Lopera.

“Tashii got a death sen­tence,” Lago­marsino said.

Au­thor­i­ties said Lopera used a mixed mar­tial arts chokehold that dif­fers from the technique ap­proved for use by the depart­ment.

Lopera, 31, joined the force in 2012, en­ter­ing as a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer.

He was booked into Clark County Jail and bailed out by the Las Ve­gas Po­lice Pro­tec­tive Assn. about an hour later on $6,000 bail.

Steve Gram­mas, pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion, said Lopera had been pre­pared for the “worst-case sce­nario.”

“We don’t be­lieve he should’ve been charged at all,” Gram­mas said. “But we will be stand­ing by him.”

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