Via the Las Vegas Review Journal
A Las Vegas officer accused of beating a man for videotaping police was fired Monday after a lengthy inquiry into his actions.
Officer Derek Colling was terminated after an eight-month investigation into the March 20 confrontation between him and videographer Mitchell Crooks.
Internal investigators concluded in July that Colling, a six-year veteran, violated several Metropolitan Police Department policies. Police did not immediately release the specific policy violations Monday morning.
The officer had been on paid suspension since April 1.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie made the final decision on Colling, police said.
The harshest punishment short of firing is a 40-hour unpaid suspension.
Crooks, 37, was videotaping police from his driveway the night of March 20 as officers investigated a burglary across the street from his home near East Desert Inn Road and South Maryland Parkway.
He said that when he refused to stop filming, Colling beat him, with much of the altercation recorded by the camera.
Crooks was arrested for battery against an officer, trespassing, and resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped.
Crooks’ lawyer filed a federal civil right lawsuit against Colling in U.S. District Court in early November.
The 40-page document, which also names the Police Department, Gillespie and several of Colling’s fellow officers, seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
“Colling had only one malicious, illegitimate, illegal reason for questioning Mr. Crooks that night,” said the lawsuit, filed by attorney David Otto.
“Officer Colling decided to use the fear and terror of his physical ability to beat Mr. Crooks into submission.”
The video went viral on the Internet, and local activists and national “cop watch” blogs scrutinized Colling’s actions.
Local American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Allen Lichtenstein reviewed the video and found clear policy violations.
“It raises serious questions about whether the officer used good judgment and whether he was properly trained,” Lichtenstein said. “Those questions require answers.”
Rank-and-file officers who spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the incident were as demoralized as the public was incensed.
“The majority of us think Colling made a mistake,” one patrol officer said. “All the officers I talked to understand that citizens will see this video, and yeah, we know it looks bad.”
Neither Crooks nor Colling was a stranger to controversy.
Crooks made headlines in 2002 when he videotaped two Inglewood, Calif., police officers beating a 16-year-old boy.
Crooks first tried to sell that tape and refused to give it to prosecutors. He then was jailed on old warrants for drunken driving and petty theft. Civil rights advocates decried the jailing as retribution.
He has lived in Las Vegas since 2003 and worked as a freelance videographer.
Colling has been involved in two fatal shootings in his 5½ years as a Las Vegas police officer.
In 2006, he and four other officers shot Shawn Jacob Collins after the 43-year-old man pulled a gun at an east valley gas station.
In 2009, Colling shot and killed Tanner Chamberlain, a mentally ill 15-year-old who was holding a knife at his mother’s neck and waving it at officers.
Both shootings were ruled justified by Clark County Coroner’s Inquest juries.
Chamberlain’s mother, Evie Oquendo, sued Colling and the Police department in May.
When the lawsuit was filed, Oquendo’s lawyer asked why Colling was still working as an officer.
“He’s killed two people in 5½ years and beaten one guy up that we know of,” attorney Brent Bryson said.
A Review-Journal examination of all police shootings in Clark County since 1990 found that officers who use their guns sometimes show a pattern of questionable behavior beforehand or land in serious trouble after.
Colling was mentioned as an example in the five-part series, which concluded earlier this month.
Why did it take eight months to fire a guy who clearly violated someone’s rights? Would the state take eight months to lock you in a cage? Probably not.