Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Family of Trevon Cole files civil rights suit against Metro

Complaint alleges deadly raid was a stunt for filming purposes


Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Trevon Cole’s fiancee Sequioa Pearce and Craig Smith react with surprise after hearing the verdict of justifiable homicide during a coroner’s inquest Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010, at the Regional Justice Center.

Inquest Day 2 - Trevon Cole

Craig Smith sinks into his chair and closes his eyes after hearing the shooting of Trevon Cole was justified during a coroner's inquest Saturday, August 21, at the Regional Justice Center. 
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Inquest Day 1 - Trevon Cole

Trevon Cole's fiancee Sequioa Pearce testifies about how Cole was holding his hands when he was shot during a coroner's inquest at the Regional Justice Center Friday, August 20, 2010. Cole was shot and killed by Metro Police in June. Launch slideshow »

The family of Trevon Cole, who was fatally shot by an officer last June, has filed a lawsuit against Metro Police seeking $10 million in damages.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, names the department as a defendant as well as Sheriff Douglas Gillespie; Brian Yant, who shot Cole while he was a detective in the narcotics division; and John Harney, a sergeant who was Yant’s supervisor when the shooting occurred.

Yant fired one shot that killed 21-year-old Cole, who was unarmed, during a raid at the Las Vegas apartment he shared with his nine-months-pregnant fiancee, Sequioa Pearce. Police said Cole made a “furtive movement” toward Yant when the detective kicked open a bathroom door and found Cole allegedly flushing marijuana down the toilet.

The raid on the apartment June 11, 2010, was conducted after Cole allegedly sold 1/8 ounce of marijuana to an undercover officer, which was captured on videotape by Langley Productions as part of a reality series.

After two days of testimony, a highly publicized coroner’s inquest in August cleared Yant in the shooting death of Cole. The seven-member jury ruled he was justified in shooting Cole, despite testimony revealing mistakes by detectives handling the case.

An affidavit for the search warrant included an inaccurate criminal history for Cole, confusing him with a man of the same name with previous arrests in Los Angeles and Houston.

Yant — who was involved in previous police shootings, including a fatal one — is no longer a narcotics detective. He has since been reassigned to Metro’s crime analyst group as an officer.

The federal lawsuit alleges violations of civil rights, civil conspiracy, battery, negligence and wrongful death on behalf of Metro and the defendants.

The complaint alleges the raid at Cole’s apartment was a stunt set up for filming purposes by Langley Productions as part of the reality series. Langley Productions is responsible for reality shows such as “Cops” and “Las Vegas Jailhouse.”

“It makes for better television to show an armed raid rather than a routine arrest,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of this policy, practice and custom, Trevon Cole lost his life.”

The raid, however, was not filmed because the production team was busy with footage from another police squad.

The lawsuit also claims “it was a policy, practice and custom for certain members, including higher ranking officers, of Metro to drink alcohol while they were working and investigating alleged cases, including the case of Trevon Cole.”

The Cole family also noted in the lawsuit that the narcotics detectives who are not SWAT officers trained to execute such search warrants mishandled the raid.

Metro changed that policy in the wake of the Cole shooting, now requiring any search warrant requiring the use of force to be done by SWAT officers.

In addition, the lawsuit accuses the defendants of causing harm to Cole and Pearce, who was home at the time of the shooting, based on their race.

An officer interviewing Pearce after the shooting allegedly “used the racially linked phrase ‘baby daddy’ when referring to Trevon,” according to the lawsuit.

Metro Police declined to comment about the lawsuit, citing their policy not to discuss pending litigation.

Attorneys representing the Cole family — Andre Lagomarsino, Cal Potter and John Funk — also declined to comment.

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