Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2015

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DA to seek criminal indictment in controversial police shooting

Police union decries decision to go ‘back in time 30 years to a system that didn’t work’


Steve Marcus

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is seeking an indictment against Metro Police officer Jesus Arevalo in the December 2011 fatal shooting of disabled veteran Stanley Gibson.

Sheriff Holds News Conference After Shooting

Sheriff Doug Gillespie arrives for a news conference at Metro Police Headquarters Monday, December 12, 2011. Gillespie called the news conference after a Metro Police officer shot and killed a man early this morning at a condominium complex in the northwest valley.  . Launch slideshow »

For the first time in recent memory, the Clark County District Attorney's Office is seeking a criminal indictment of a Metro Police officer involved in a police shooting.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson is moving to have a grand jury hearing on the controversial shooting death of Stanley Gibson, a 43-year-old Gulf War veteran who was shot and killed by Metro officer Jesus Arevalo on Dec. 12, 2011.

Wolfson could not be reached for comment late Monday night. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a grand jury will hear more than a dozen witnesses testify against Arevalo, 34, next week.

Arevalo, who has worked at the department since February 2002, will be represented by the police union, Las Vegas Police Protective Association, said its executive director, Chris Collins.

Collins said he was "very surprised" to hear of Wolfson's decision to seek an indictment against Arevalo.

Since 1976, the county has used the coroner's inquest process to gather information in a neutral, noncriminal environment for the community to better understand officer-involved shootings. This controversial process has never found officers at fault in police-involved shootings.

A grand jury indictment could replace the fact-finding procedure of a coroner's inquest with all the judicial trappings of a criminal investigation and trial, Collins said. That would be a step backward for the department, he added.

"(Wolfson) is going back in time 30 years to a system that didn't work," Collins said. "These are men and women who are performing the duties they're sworn to do. It's the suspect who forces them into using deadly force."

Collins added that last week Sheriff Doug Gillespie released an internal department video in which he told employees that he too didn't believe the case should be going to a grand jury as it didn't rise to a "criminal matter."

Click to enlarge photo

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.

Gillespie could not be reached for comment late Monday night.

Gibson — who was unarmed — was shot after police responded to burglary report at a northwest valley condominium near Smoke Ranch Road and Rainbow Boulevard.

According to police reports, Gibson — who was allegedly distraught and disoriented — refused to surrender and rammed his white Cadillac into at least one patrol car. Officers used two patrol cars to box in Gibson's car and held him there for more than half an hour.

Gibson persisted in trying to drive away and did not heed officer's repeated calls to exit his car. Police devised a plan to use a beanbag round fired from a shotgun to break a car window and fill the cabin with pepper spray to force Gibson outside.

However, when the beanbag round was fired, Arevalo fired seven live rounds from a rifle, striking and killing Gibson, police said.

According to Stanley Gibson's wife, Rhonda, Gibson was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and brain cancer.

Rhonda Gibson said her husband was unable to get his medication to control his anxiety, and had called her in a state of confusion the night before the shooting, thinking he was home while he was in the neighboring condominium complex.

The Gibson shooting was the 18th officer-involved shooting in Metro's jurisdiction in 2011. The shooting prompted public outcry for a re-examination of Metro's practices for officers' use of deadly force.

As a result, the Department of Justice launched an investigation of 20 years of use-of-force incidents by Metro Police, the first department in the nation enrolled in the program. The Community Oriented Police Services investigation — announced in February — will culminate in a recommendation of best practices for the agency.

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