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The Las Vegas Police Beat: Officer-Involved

  • Officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Last weekend, at the Costco in Summerlin, Erik Scott got into an argument with some workers at the store. A Costco employee noticed that he was carrying a handgun in his waistband, so they freaked out and called the cops, then evacuated the store. Three Las Vegas Metro police officers — William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola — rolled up and waited outside the store. When they saw Scott walking out of the store, they came up behind him and grabbed him on the shoulder and screamed at him to get down. He turned around and obeyed less than instantaneously, so the cops opened fire and stone cold gunned him down in the parking lot. The cops claimed that before they lit him up with 7 shots, Scott had reached for his gun in his waistband. Then, later, they claimed that he refused orders [sic] and instead withdrew a handgun and pointed at them.. Most of the witnesses, including a friend who was standing right next to Scott when the police gunned him down, say that he never did. A few witnesses differ — they say they did see him take out his gun but that he never pointed it at the cops. Metro said that Scott was ripping merchandise apart, kind of going berserk, and that they had received numerous 911 calls for his erratic behavior and reporting he was carrying a gun. Turns out that what actually happened is that another customer saw Scott opening up a box of aluminum water bottles putting some in his cart and some on the floor, in order to find out how many would fit in his cooler; when store security tried to confront him about it, Scott’s voice got elevated. A number of later 911 calls, provoked by the store’s panicky evacuation, recorded parts of the cop’s confrontation with Scott; the police have refused to release the 911 tapes. The Costco has surveillance cameras on the parking lot; the police took the tapes, but claim that they haven’t looked at them yet because of technical issues. The investigation of this police shooting by Las Vegas Metro is, of course, being handled by more police from Las Vegas Metro. There will almost certainly never be any kind of public trial; a coroner’s inquest hasn’t been scheduled, but will probably happen sometime in September. (There has been only 1 Clark County coroner’s inquest in 34 years that ever found any Metro police shooting to be neither justified nor excusable.) Meanwhile, the three cops who gunned down Erik Scott have been given a paid vacation from their jobs. The local newsmedia has been all over this story, mainly because Scott shops in Summerlin and used to be a tank commander in the United States government’s Army. Bill Scott, Erik’s father, has said that he hopes this case will draw attention to how many people Metro has gunned down: There are a lot of people who have been killed in Las Vegas, a lot of them by the police. They didn’t have a voice. This time, quote me: they killed the wrong guy.

  • Officer Bryan Yant. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. For example, one of the people who has been killed in Las Vegas was Trevon Cole, an unarmed man who police shot in the face with an AR-15 assault rifle in the bathroom of his own apartment, while his 9-months-pregnant fiancee, Sequioa Pearce, was forced to get on the ground and watch. Metro was in his apartment because they had forced their way in in an extremely violent late-night raid to serve a drug search warrant. (Trevon Cole was violently seized and killed because he allegedly might have sold marijuana to an undercover narc, a crime which posed no threat at all to any identifiable victim’s rights.) So late at night while Pearce and Cole were relaxing in bed, a gang of police wearing camouflage and masks smashed in their windows and broke down their door, blitzed into the room holding assault rifles on their terrified victims. Trevon Cole was surrounded by a gang of heavily armed, masked men, was obeying their commands to get down, and had put his hands up in the air, but Yant decided he’d seen a furtive movement, so he stone cold shot Trevon Cole in the face at close range in front of his terrified fiancee. Officer Bryan Yant had already gunned down two other people in his career before he showed up to shoot an unarmed man in the face; An inquest jury into Yant’s 2002 fatal shooting found the officer justified in his actions despite a serious discrepancy between his story and evidence at the scene. The shooting will be considered by another Clark County Coroner’s Inquest on August 20. In the meantime, Bryan Yant, who is being investigated to determine whether or not he murdered an unarmed man, is being given a paid vacation from his government job. Meanwhile, his buddies on the force decided to show up at Sequoia Pearce’s mother’s house in order to mau-mau the only surviving witness and toss the house looking for guns and ammo that aren’t there.

  • Officer Luis Norris. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Another cop working for the local government in Las Vegas opened fire on an unarmed man this past Tuesday, for the crime of taking a shortcut through a residential neighborhood while the cop was Investigatin’. The man appeared on the wall while the cop was talking to a local homeowner about a possible prowler. Of course, all kinds of people live in a residential neighborhood (by definition), and all kinds of people pass through, so a civilized person might take this as a reason to shout What are you doing here? but Officer Luis Norris was packing heat and startled so he whipped out his gun and opened fire on this innocent man, who was not the prowler, was unarmed, had committed no crime, and posed no threat to anything other than the cop’s composure and poise. Thankfully, Officer Luis Norris is a bad shot: he missed the man he was trying to gun down in a moment of irrational panic, so his intended target lived through the night long enough for Authorities to later determine he was not a threat. Since Luis Norris just recklessly endangered the life of an innocent man, but didn’t kill him in the process, there will not even be a coroner’s inquest. Instead, Officer Luis Norris’s has been given a paid vacation from his government job, and eventually, his actions will be reviewed by the department’s use of force board, which may hit him with such serious consequences as a written reprimand or even firing him from his job. In case you were wondering, the process is not open to the public.

Las Vegas Metro is full of heavily-armed, twitchy, terrified cops who are easily startled and ready to open fire on helpless or harmless people at even the most furtive motion. Whether you’re resting in bed with your fiancee on Eastern and Bonanza, or going shopping with your fiancee in Summerlin to celebrate your new life together, or just talking a quiet walk through the neighborhood out at Desert Inn and Sandhill, there is a heavily armed force, patrolling 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, constantly ready to come down on you and gun you down at even a moment’s hesitation to obey their bellowed commands, or the slightest twitch that they don’t understand, or just for startling them. If they shoot at you, or even if they kill you, they will almost certainly never be held accountable for their actions; the worst that’s likely to happen is that they might lose their job, and what’s more likely is that they will be put back onto the streets to continue a long and storied career of killing unarmed people. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force constantly in our lives and at our throats in order to stop our community from being overrun by small-time possible neighborhood prowlers, by erratic men who take aluminum water bottles out of their boxes at Costco, and from black men who might maybe be willing to sell a bit of pot to willing customers. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force in order to keep us safe. But who will keep us safe from them?

Support your local CopWatch.

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Men In Uniform (Cont’d). Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada

Trigger warning. Briefly describes the crimes of a male police officer working for the North Las Vegas city government, who, while in uniform, harassed and attempted to sexually assault several women that he forced to pull over.

Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada.

From Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Officer James Vernon Clayton, a three year veteran ex-cop formerly working for the North Las Vegas Police Department, repeatedly used the power of his badge and gun in order to pull women over, sexually harass the women he was holding captive, pull down his pants and show his dick off to them against their will, used threats of false arrest to grope at least one woman under the excuse of a pat search, and to try to extort sexual favors by threatening them with legal retaliation if they wouldn’t. He did this to at least five women that we know of, while on duty, in uniform, in his police cruiser, and heavily armed. So the boss cops with the North Las Vegas city government gave him a six month paid vacation; then the government prosecutor cut a deal with him so he could plead guilty to five misdemeanors — none of them sex offenses. The government prosecutors wanted this serial sexual predator to spend four months in jail; the government judge accepting this plea decided to give him three years’ probation instead, and told him to pay off the government to the tune of $5,000. The women he harassed, intimidated and coerced[1] will, of course, get nothing.

The government prosecutor had this to say, about the case:

From the onset of this case, what the state found most disturbing is here’s an individual charged with our public safety — we’ve blindly given him our trust to protect community, we’ve given him a badge, and he’s vitiated all of that, including blemishing his department, Chief Deputy District Attorney Stacy Kollins said.

— Quoted by Cara McCoy, Las Vegas Sun (2010-05-18): Ex-officer who sought sexual favors during traffic stops sentenced

Well, sure, except that you ought to speak only for yourself — I never gave Officer James Vernon Clayton a badge or my trust, and neither did much of anyone else outside of the North Las Vegas city government. But that said, perhaps what you ought to learn is that it’s foolish to blindly give your trust to men with guns and uniforms, and dangerous to create an environment in which they wield incredible power over ordinary citizens, with a reliable expectation that even if they get caught, they will never face any serious personal consequences for their violent and abusive actions. Until you figure that out, expect your blind trust to keep getting vitiated, over and over again, by men who use those weapons and that unaccountable power to stalk, harass, and assault the women who they force under their power.

What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-called criminal justice system gives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. If it weren’t for the regime of State violence that late-night patrol officers exercise, as part and parcel of their legal duties, against women in prostitution, it would have been that much harder for Gonzales and Munoz to imagine that they could use their patrol as an opportunity to stalk young women, or to then try to make their victim complicit in the rape by forcing her to pretend that the rape was in fact consensual sex for money. And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.

A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability — although it certainly does require that. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people into custody, and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.

— GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol

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  1. [1]Who chose not to speak out at the sentencing hearing, because they were afraid of retaliation from the would-be rapist who the judge then proceeded to turn loose.

Priorities

The government-installed administration at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas says that, what with the current round of massive state budget cuts, and the threat of future cuts one or two years down the line, they don’t have enough money to teach classes in unpopular majors. (Based on recent decisions from administrative committees, UNLV’s — excellent, but small — Women’s Studies program, among others, might just barely manage to escape the axe. For this round of budget cuts.)

But apparently they do have enough money to build a big memorial to dead government soldiers.

Of course they do; it’s a matter of priorities. When the allocation of money for the University is political, it’s always going to favor what’s politically popular over what’s educationally important. And there’s nothing more politically popular than Patriotically Correct monuments to dead government soldiers.

This is, of course, exactly why UNLV should be liberated entirely from government appointments of administration and from the government strings attached to government funding.

Supporters of the Women’s Studies department, and of academics at UNLV broadly, often view the prospect of privatization of the University with horror. I don’t–because if privatization just means turning UNLV over from governmental ownership to non-gvernmental ownership, that could mean a lot of different things. I understand the reaction, if they are thinking of the kind of legislative privateering where the University simply being sold off to the best-connected corporate bidder. What I think is that the University doesn’t belong to the state government in the first place, and so the state government has no right to sell it to anyone; it belongs to the students and the faculty who use it. And privatizing, or if you prefer socializing it, directly into the hands of the campus community is the only just way to dispose of the University.[1] It’s also the best thing that could possibly happen to education at UNLV. As long as a government-imposed administration is in charge of UNLV, UNLV will be about serving the priorities of administrators, and serving the priorities of the government. UNLV will be about learning and teaching when it’s controlled by learners and teachers; the sooner we end the government occupation of campus, the better.

NV out of UNLV!

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  1. [1]Of course, a plan like that — just handing the University for free over to those who work and study in it, with no political strings attached, instead of coming up with some scheme to create a subsidized sale to an bureaucratic efficiency-minded corporate management, with lots of lingering state control over what they can do — is almost certainly something that will never come out of a committee of the state legislature. Or rather, it’s something that will never come out of a legislative committee unless they are forced to it by events on the ground. If it’s going to come about, it’s something much more likely to come about by a strategy of campus organizing, concerted strikes by faculty, staff, and students, and student occupations of buildings and facilities, aimed not at legislative influence in Carson city, but at asserting effective physical and cultural control over the campus. But I see the need for people-power tactics, instead of bureaucratic gamesmanship and legislative lobbying, as an advantage of my proposal. Not a weakness.

This Thursday at Vegas Anarchist Cafe: a presentation by Jim Haber and a screening of “Death and Taxes” — on war, taxes, and direct action for peace. Thursday, April 8, 6:00pm

Please forward this notice far and wide! Pass the word along to anyone who you think might be interested in the film, the talk, or in learning more about direct action for peace.

The Vegas A-Cafe and Southern Nevada ALL are pleased to announce that this week’s A-Cafe will feature a special presentation and screening of the short film “Death and Taxes,” hosted by Jim Haber of the Nevada Desert Experience. The film and presentation discuss war tax resistance as a form of practical direct action for peace — depriving the warfare state of financial support, and redirecting our labor and our resources towards a positive countereconomy — a community that supports life rather than death.

WHAT: Screening of “Death and Taxes” and presentation on war tax resistance by Jim Haber

WHEN: Thursday, April 8, 2010, 6:00pm-8:00pm. (30 minute short film, with a talk and discussion to follow.)

WHERE: Back meeting room of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, across the street from UNLV, 4550 S. Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV

WHO: Anyone interested in peace and freedom

Jim Haber is a long-time war tax resister who is transitioning from being an “income-reduction” resister to one who is refusing to pay part of his tax liability. He has been serving on the National Committee of the War Resisters League since 2002. Jim is currently coordinator of the Nevada Desert Experience which organizes interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war.

Jim is looking forward to presenting Death & Taxes a new 30 minute documentary produced by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, and featuring several new and long-term resisters of different generations (and great music). The film directly addresses many fears and questions that people have about tax resistance in general and war tax resistance in particular.

For anyone interested in conversation. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Las Vegas Anarchist Cafe is a weekly meetup featuring informal discussion and the exchange of ideas about grassroots organizing, consensual society, and peaceful alternatives to war, taxes and government. Anyone interested in conversation is welcome to attend. See http://vegas.anarchistcafe.org/ for more information.

Rad Geek Speaks: “Ask An Anarchist!” THURSDAY, at the Vegas Anarchist Cafe. Las Vegas, Nevada, 1 April 2010, 6:00pm

This week, at the Vegas Anarchist Cafe — specifically, THURSDAY, 1 April 2010Vegas ALL will be sponsoring a special Ask An Anarchist! event with ALLy Charles Johnson. Ask An Anarchist! is a freewheeling Q&A session, where A-Cafers, guests, the anarcho-curious and anyone interested in a conversation about the idea of a stateless society, all get the chance to fire away with any question they care to ask about Anarchy, Anarchism, or Anarchists. As our handbill puts it:

re you curious to learn more about Anarchy, Anarchism, or Anarchists? Have you got questions about Anarchist ideas, the history of Anarchism, how Anarchism has affected mainstream culture, Anarchist solutions to contemporary social problems, or how Anarchists believe that a free society would work without government? Want to know whether the picture of Anarchism that you’ve gotten from the mainstream culture is accurate or based on misconceptions? Want to try and stump an Anarchist? Bring all your burning questions this Thursday, and our speaker will do his best to answer any question you care to ask. Come on in and fire away!

This event is for anyone curious about the ideas of philosophical Anarchism, or interested in conversation. All are welcome to attend.

The Q&A session will run from 6–7pm. An informal meet-up and discussion will follow from 7–8pm. f you’re in the Vegas area (or even if you’re not), it’d be great to see you there. If you know anyone around abouts who might be interested in a talk about Anarchism, or a chance to find out more, then please do forward the announcement on to them.

  • WHAT: Ask An Anarchist! Q&A with Vegas ALLy Charles Johnson.

  • WHERE: Weekly Anarchist Cafe at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Running Rebel Plaza (4550 S. Maryland Pkwy, right across the street from UNLV), Las Vegas, Nevada

  • WHEN: This Thursday, 1 April 2010, 6:00pm – 7:00pm. The regular A-Cafe informal meet-up and discussion will continue after the talk, from about 7:00pm to 8:00pm.

  • WHO: Anyone curious about the ideas of Anarchism, or interested in conversation.

Hope to see y’ALL there!

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