Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: The LVMPD’s Killer Reputation

Kelly W. Patterson shared the following story, which he originally posted at NVCopBlock.org, via CopBlock.org’s submit page

A Community in Fear

Not too long ago, I attended a meeting of the Clark County Commissioners concerning a vote over the process that would be adopted to address shootings by Las Vegas area police. Prior to the vote that eventually happened (after all the important stuff like giving a certificate to a group from a retirement home whose most lauded act was alerting neighbors if they forgot to close their garage door), members of the community were allowed to address the commissioners regarding the issue.

One speaker after another stepped to the microphone and it wasn’t long at all before a common theme began to develop. Statements such as, “I’m afraid of what will happen if I call the police,” “I would never call the police even if I was in real danger because I’m scared more of them,” and “I don’t trust them not to kill someone if I call them for help” were recited over and over again throughout the session. These fears were often accompanied by personal examples of negative experiences resulting from interactions with Las Vegas area police, including several from the families of people that actually had been killed by the police.

Legitimate Reasons to be Afraid

When the cops in Las Vegas kill people their ONLY "punishment" is paid leave.
When the cops in Las Vegas kill people their ONLY “punishment” is a paid vacation.

Obviously, every time the police respond to a call they don’t kill or otherwise abuse the people they encounter, even in Las Vegas. However, it happens often enough to instill the sort of fear and hatred toward them that was on public display during the commissioners’ meeting that day. The problem is that people within the community know that should something happen to them or one of their loved ones at the hands of a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department they have very little hope of that cop ever being held accountable for their actions. They don’t know that the cop responding wants to kill them, but they do know for a fact that if they do they will get away with it.

The bigger problem is that members of Las Vegas area police departments also know this. Jesus Arevalo told his then-wife that he wanted to shoot someone so that he could get free time off, based on the policy of placing cops on paid leave during investigations. Within a couple of months after that statement, Stanley Gibson, an unarmed, disabled Persian Gulf veteran suffering from a PTSD induced panic attack and in no way representing a threat to anyone was murdered by Jesus Arevalo. Those seven unnecessary shots fired from Ofc. Arevalo’s AR-15 were the ticket to what is fast approaching two full years of the paid vacation that he had indicated he was hoping for. No charges were ever brought against him for his actions, which even other police on the scene characterized as unexplainable in their official statement to the detectives subsequently going through the motions of an investigation. At worst, Arevalo might possibly be punished by being fired.

A Long History of Corruption and Violence

The Biggest Gang in Las Vegas
The Biggest Gang in Las Vegas

Throughout their history, the LVMPD has consistently rated among the highest statistically nationwide (even when compared against cities with much higher populations) in times they have shot at people while on duty and in the level of fatalities resulting from those shootings. Stanley Gibson was just one of the latest names in the laundry list of the victims of Las Vegas police that includes Erik Scott (whose murderers were later given an award for bravery while gunning down someone from behind and then unloading their guns on him as he lay already dying on the ground), Trevon Cole, Orlando Barlow, Tanner Chamberlain, Deshira Selimaj, and Henry Rowe, among the 150+ shootings just since 1990.

Yet not one singular time in the close to forty year history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has a Las Vegas area police officer ever been charged for shooting someone, regardless of whether the person shot was unarmed or even completely innocent of having committed any actual crime. One rather telling fact is that the reason the old Las Vegas city police was originally merged with the Clark County Sheriff department to create “Metro” was in response to an uproar after a very questionable shooting that was ruled justifiable. Yet, no matter how questionable the many shootings by Metro have been, the justifications have continued unabated.

An Absolute Refusal to Hold ANYONE Accountable

Finally someone within the Las Vegas police system has made some sort of stand for justice.
Finally someone within the Las Vegas police system has made some sort of stand for justice, but will it actually matter?

A recent incident has shined a very public spotlight on the reasons why it is so impossible to hold anyone within the LVMPD accountable for their actions. In one of the most questionable shootings ever Officer Jacquar Roston claimed to have confused a hat Lawrence Gordon was wearing for a gun and shot him in the leg as he sat in a car. As would be expected of anybody with even half a brain, Metro’s internal Use of Force Review Board didn’t really accept that excuse and recommended that Roston be fired as a result.

The fact that this recommendation was hailed as an “unprecedented” act by the board tells you a lot about the past history of the Las Vegas police in relation to officer involved shootings. The fact that Sheriff Gillespie promptly disregarded that recommendation in favor of a one week unpaid suspension (after Roston had already spent 8 months on paid vacation during the investigation) tells you a lot about the prospects for any sort of accountability for them in the near future.

However, in one glimmer of hope for some sort of prospect for justice, seven members of the board did actually have the integrity to stand up and resign in disgust after Gillespie’s disgraceful action. One former member of the board, Glenn Rinehimer, stated that previously the board had been “stacked” with retired police officers from other parts of the country designated as civilians. According to Rinehimer, they didn’t seem in any hurry to actually investigate whether shootings were justified. “The retired police just didn’t seem interested,” Rinehimer said. “They didn’t ask a lot of questions. They voted quickly for it to be justified.”

Robert Martinez, a co-chair of the board who also resigned, had previously expressed hope that this sort of rubber stamping had ended once former police employees and their family members were banned from being appointed as civilians on the board last year. He believed that Metro truly desired a fair and transparent process. That is until Gillespie essentially exonerated Roston despite the board’s unanimous recommendation. “I was thoroughly fooled,” Martinez said. “I thought it was going to change and it isn’t.” Within his resignation letter Martinez characterized the process as a flawed one that undermined the Use of Force Review Board.

Sheriff Gillespie announcing that the final week of Roston's 8 month vacation will be unpaid.
Sheriff Gillespie announcing that the final week of Roston’s 8 month vacation will be unpaid.

Former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, who submitted for retirement in response to this case, agreed that Gillespie was undermining the credibility of the board even as Metro faces increasing scrutiny over questionable shootings and other scandals that are becoming hard to even keep up with lately. Las Vegas police officers will not have the public’s trust until the department has a credible process for reviewing its own shootings, Moody stated. And that process must be stable, impartial, unbiased and free from political interference. “Anything short of that is going to fuel further suspicion and mistrust and is just begging for the imposition of externally imposed oversight,” he said. “Nobody wants that. We can be better than that.”

Rinehimer went even further in his assessment of the problems with a system that is in practice designed to ensure no cop is ever held accountable. Rinehimer said the sheriff’s decision to overturn the Use of Force Review Board’s recommendation doesn’t set a good precedent, especially for officers who find themselves in similar situations in the future. “At the end of the day, the officer might be sitting there smiling, knowing the sheriff might not fire him anyway,” Rinehimer said. “It’s a farce.”

A Lack of Accountability that is Not Good for Anyone, Even the Police Themselves

The inevitable backlash
The inevitable backlash

There’s an obvious incentive for members of the community to demand accountability for the heavily armed band patrolling through the streets that they live and work. If those individuals are permitted to act as an occupying force with the impunity to do as they please to those within that community, those among their ranks that have an unscrupulous tendency will take advantage of that to commit criminal and violent acts.

However, there are reasons why even those within the local police departments should want to see accountability for those “Bad Apples” that we are always being told are just exceptions to the rules. Fear eventually gives rise to hostility and working within the bounds of a hostile environment makes someone’s job just that much harder to do. People within communities don’t feel real obligated to help with the investigation of crimes when the person doing the investigation is perceived as being as bad or worse than the people being investigated.

Having to deal with indifference or even active retaliation in the process only serves to make the job of the police more difficult and frustrating, which in turn makes them more bitter and cynical and leads to even more abuses. At some point, that downward spiral needs to be put to an end and the only way to do that is to create real accountability, rather than a hollow, toothless sham that does nothing but draw attention to the lack of it. And as Sheriff Gillespie recently found out, people are a lot less accepting of having their taxes increased in order to supplement the LVMPD’s budget during an almost daily barrage of news about yet another police scandal.

-Kelly W. Patterson



Kelly W. Patterson

a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who’s been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He’s also the founder/main contributor of Nevada CopBlock, Editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official CopBlock Press Passes.
If you appreciate Kelly’s contributions to CopBlock, consider donating to the CopBlock Network and/or visiting the CopBlock Store.
Connect with Kelly at these social networks; Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

  • t

    Well….if your moving comments and those of the few others that feel the same way as you don’t move the council to act…..band together and run for council. Be a real activist. Take an action to make a difference rather than just bitching.

  • Shawn


    A rather simplistic way of putting it. Around the country,we deal with govenment that has gotten very used to ignoring the public. Too often, like the sheriff mentioned, the only alternative to ‘bitching’ would be to start shooting.
    What needs to happen is truly independant boards with the power to tell FOP, police, sheriffs, and the city to F off. That the offending officer is going to answer to a jury for the life he took.
    Too often, cops now seem to know nothing will happen.That makes recklessness very easy. Far too many of these shootings are of people who were never a threat, and often not armed. And that doesn’t seem to bother you one bit.

  • Jason Free 123

    More fucking bullshit and lies. The only ones making the stupid comments of “I would never call the police” are the fucking activists. These fucking losers always think they know so much more then the city council and the PD. They never run for council or if a couple of them do, theri arrest records and their unpredictable manner causes them too lose. Activists never have any solutions. They just say “fire everyone” they only say that because they have no say in anything. They are fucking cowards looking for attention and nothing else.

    Ron Pual says, “All activists lie all the time everytime”.

  • trollsmustdie

    Part of the problem is that cops and the public speak different languages. As Malcolm X said:

    Brothers and sisters, if you and I would just realize, that once we learn to talk the language that they understand, they will then get the point. You can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language. If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why goodnight! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can’t speak to him in German. If he speaks Swahili, you can’t communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out, what does this man speak? Once you know his language, learn how to speak his language. He’ll get the point, there will be some dialogue, some communication, and some understanding will be developed. You’ve been in this country long enough to know the language the Klan speaks, they only know one language. What you and I have to start doing in 1965, I mean that’s what you have to do because most of us have already been doing it, is start learning a new language. Learn the language that they understand, and then when they come up on our door step to talk, we can talk.

  • trollsmustdie

    So once the people learn to speak the language of brutality and violence that the police speak, we will be able to have communication and some understanding with them. We will be able to interact as equals

    Otherwise just remember, we’ll run out of cops before we run out of people who value liberty before death.

  • t

    diehard: So why do you bitch when the police use the language of the street? Why when the police are met violence, they answer with violence. According to you and Malcolm, that is how it should be.

    The police don’t dictate what society is. We just shine a light on it so people can see how ugly it really is.

  • RadicalDude

    Nice going Kelly thanks for all you do to make LV a safer place.

  • Common Sense

    “I hate the public. The public is stupid.” —Ron Swanson

  • t

    Shawn: I missed your comment of 9/10.

    Therein lies the issue.

    Just for example / explanation:
    Say the town where you live…needs to build a bypass around part of downtown. The council backs the idea as it will relieve traffic congestion and allow for further business development around the area where the bypass is built. Now, this bypass will be paid for from local funds / taxes – bonds. Now some of the downtown business owners are bitching as they feel that the bypass will take business away from them. Some home owners in the area of the bypass complain as it will bring increased noise to their neighborhood.

    * Now I use this as an example because it is a very common local issue. One that takes places across this nation on a monthly or weekly basis.

    Now, let’s say that the downtown businesses owners and the ticked off homeowners unite. 30 or so odd folks who come to the council meetings and complain loudly about it. Now they are allowed to speak as long as they keep decorum and stay within the time constraints that are applied to all. As a decision like this isn’t generally made overnight or even at just one meeting…the group keeps coming back. They take their plight to the press and media. Made even post some signs “Stop the Downtown Bypass”. After say 6-7 months, the council approves the bypass and work begins.

    Now I say all that, to get to this. Did the council listen or not listen to them? The fact that the bypass was still approved doesn’t mean they didn’t listen. It means that theirs aren’t the only voices nor are their opinions the only ones worth listening to. Ours is a nation that appears to be filled with whiners. But its mainly generational although the idea that is regularly put forward….the bitch all the time, the squeaky wheel gets the grease types…clearly exist across generational lines.
    The moral would be, I can ,listen to you and still not agree with you. Just because you don’t like / want something doesn’t mean that I have to care or act on what you want. Again…its funny that even in a place like Keen, the Keener activists can’t get enough agreement to get any of their candidates elected. No one is stopping them from bitching. Its just that most folks don’t care about what they are saying because they don’t agree with them.

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