FBI reviewing only one Las Vegas police shooting

Francis McCabe
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Copyright 2006 DR Partners d/b/a Las Vegas Review-Journal
All Rights Reserved

Contrary to prior news reports, the FBI is not investigating the increase in the number of shootings by Las Vegas police. The agency is conducting a civil rights investigation into one officer-involved shooting by the Metropolitan Police Department this year, but officials won't say which one.

David Staretz, spokesman for the FBI's Las Vegas offices, said Sunday that the investigation includes reviewing the Clark County coroner's inquest and the police department's investigation of the shooting to determine whether any of the victim's civil rights were violated.

The Justice Department then will review the information and determine whether a look at other officer-involved shootings is needed, he said.

"We've done this several times here in the past couple of years," Staretz said. "The Justice Department can decide to look at patterns and practices of a particular agency, but we're not there yet. This could have just been a bad six months."

As of Sunday night, there had been 19 instances in which Las Vegas police have shot at people. In 16 of those incidents, the officers' bullets hit people and nine of those people were killed by Las Vegas police.

"The number (of police shootings) are a concern," Staretz said. "But you can't determine whether an investigation is needed just by looking at the numbers. You have to look at each case individually."

He explained there are several reasons why the FBI would conduct an investigation such as the current one: a request from Sheriff Bill Young, community outcry or "we decide to look at the cases ourselves." Staretz would not specify the impetus for the ongoing investigation.

Two weeks ago, Young said he would welcome an FBI review.

Several of the fatal shootings by Las Vegas police have drawn widespread attention including the July 4 shooting of Tarance Hall in front of the Barbary Coast casino on the Strip. Hall is reported to have dragged an officer in his car before another officer shot and killed him. Police said officers approached Hall after he had stopped his car in the middle of the intersection of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.

On May 13, slaying suspect Swuave Lopez was gunned down by officers as he tried to escape from police custody. The 17-year-old was shot in the back while he was handcuffed and running away from police.

Officers' actions have been found to be justified by coroner's inquests into seven of the nine fatal police shootings.

The inquest for Hall's shooting is scheduled for Sept. 8.

On Tuesday, the Clark County Commission announced it would review the inquest process after an outcry from members of the public and advocate groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Las Vegas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, over the police shootings.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report. 
July 18, 2006

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