Vegas officer faces charges in death
Kenneth Lopera used a chokehold on an unarmed black man outside a casino.
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.”