Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2015

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Source: Metro blames police radio for officer firing on unarmed veteran

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Leila Navidi

Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie speaks during an editorial board meeting with Las Vegas Sun staff inside his office in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2012.

Emerging information about the shooting death of Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson implicates Metro’s radio system as a key reason an officer shot Gibson last December as he sat unarmed in his car.

In late October, Sheriff Doug Gillespie announced the department would be getting rid of a $42 million radio system installed in 2010 partly because of impaired communication between officers.

The Gibson shooting occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 12, 2011. Police responded to a call of a person trying to get into a northwest valley condominium. The caller gave police a description of the suspected intruder and his vehicle. While police were still on scene, the man — Gibson — returned in the white Cadillac. When officers approached him, an altercation ensued.

Surrounded by Metro vehicles and officers, Gibson would not exit his car as police were commanding. By some news accounts, Gibson was a 100 percent disabled Army veteran prone to delusions, had sought medical assistance days earlier and was mentally confused and trying to find his way home at the time of the shooting.

Metro supervisors came up with a plan to shoot out a car window with a non-lethal beanbag round, then fill the interior with pepper spray. But sources tell the Las Vegas Sun that as officers made plans to break Gibson’s car window with a beanbag round, Officer Jesus Arevalo, who was providing cover with an AR-15 rifle, did not hear the plans with his police radio.

So when police fired the beanbag round into Gibson’s car, a source said, Arevalo fired almost immediately into the car thinking Gibson was firing on officers. Gibson was shot several times and died. He was unarmed.

A spokesman for the police department said Friday Metro would not comment on the case due to an ongoing grand jury investigation that began in mid-October. Prosecutors are making a case for a possible indictment to the grand jury, which is closed to the public.

Attorney Cal Potter, who is representing Gibson’s family, said he has heard a similar story about Metro’s radio system and its possible culpability in the shooting, said Friday it sounded “plausible.”

Potter hasn’t filed a suit on behalf of the family yet, he added, because he is awaiting more information from Metro and the outcome of the grand jury investigation.

“We’ve been trying to get reports for months but we get nothing (from Metro),” he added.

Gibson’s mother filed a lawsuit shortly after the shooting.

In late October, Gillespie announced Metro would dump its 2-year-old Desert Sky radio system due to dropped calls and dead zones. The news comes at a tough fiscal time, with Clark County and Las Vegas – Metro’s two major funding sources – still dealing with dwindling tax revenues from a down economy.

Police officers speaking to the Sun on the condition of anonymity say they frequently talk to each other with cell phones because it is more reliable than the police radio. The sheriff has said officers used the radio an estimated 50,000 times each day.

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