Las Vegas Sun

September 3, 2015

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Mounting fears over armed Nevada lawmaker’s mental state preceded arrest

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblyman Steven Brooks talks to Majority Leader Marcus Conklin on the third day of the 2011 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, in Carson City.

About 3 p.m. Saturday, State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson received a chilling telephone call. Assemblyman Steven Brooks, a fellow North Las Vegas Democrat, was driving around in his car with a gun, “and he is looking to harm” the top member of the Assembly, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Atkinson was told, according to documents obtained by the Sun.

Brooks wanted “to do in” Kirkpatrick, Atkinson told police.

The phone call set off a furious chain of events Saturday, culminating with Brooks in jail, two lawmakers with stepped-up police protection and a tense, even fearful, pall cast over the legislative process less than two weeks before the session is set to begin.

Police documents obtained by the Sun on Tuesday, and interviews with legislators who have interacted with Brooks over the past month, detailed escalating concerns over Brooks’ mental state.

On Saturday, it came to a head.

Brooks’ family members told officers he was armed, unafraid to die and prepared for a shootout with police, according to an arrest report.

His wife told officers she was worried about her husband’s mental health.

Kirkpatrick told police Brooks had recently been released from a psychiatric treatment center.

His former boss, Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow, “believed there was a real danger to Speaker Kirkpatrick” and confirmed that Brooks “had made comments in the past about not being afraid to shoot it out with the police or shooting himself,” according to accounts by police officers involved in the case.

Kirkpatrick, trembling and crying as she spoke to officers, told police that Brooks had accused her on more than one occasion of “ruining his life by becoming speaker.”

When officers finally caught up with Brooks, they pulled him out of his vehicle at gunpoint, had him lay on the pavement and handcuffed him before finding a revolver and rounds of ammunition in his car.

“The evidence indicates that the threats weren’t (of) just a spurious nature because of the fact that they were made through people that we believe trusted that what he said was serious,” North Las Vegas Sgt. Tim Bedwell said. “They took it serious enough to contact the police. When we found him, we found him where they said he would be and we found him armed, as they told us he would be.”

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Kelvin Atkinson

On Tuesday morning, after being released on $100,000 bail on Sunday night, Brooks called a press conference to proclaim his innocence on charges he threatened a public official.

But he never showed. Instead, he was hospitalized in Southern Nevada with “digestive bleeding,” his attorney, Mitchell Posin, said.

In brief interviews with other media outlets on Monday, Brooks said he was innocent.

“His mood is very positive,” Posin told the Sun early Tuesday. “He certainly feels like he hasn't done anything illegal.”

Brooks, 40, is a father of a four who is in his second term representing Assembly District 17.

He works as a management analyst for the city of Las Vegas and was placed on unpaid leave Tuesday, according to a city spokesman.

Even with Brooks briefly hospitalized, legislative leaders took no chances with security. Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, was accompanied by an armed police officer at the Legislative Building throughout the day as police and the Legislative Council Bureau tried to determine how much of a risk Brooks presented.

“I trust the LCB and legislative police to do their job and assure not just my and Speaker Kirkpatrick’s safety, but the safety of everyone in this building,” Horne said.

Horne said he had followed the bureau’s advice and had a request for a temporary restraining order drawn up.

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State Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick doesn't sleep, so she's got plenty of time to whip things into shape.

“I want to review it before it’s filed,” he said.

Sources speaking on condition of anonymity said Brooks’ behavior had become a matter of increasingly concern in the weeks following Kirkpatrick’s election as speaker.

Kirkpatrick took the leadership helm after a divided Democratic caucus finally decided to back her over Horne.

During the brief leadership struggle, Brooks supported Horne. Brooks told some lawmakers and lobbyists that he expected to be named chairman of the powerful Ways and Means committee, which oversees the budget review process.

Brooks, not a ranking member of that committee, was not in line for the chairmanship, which was given to Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas. Brooks, sources said, took it as a personal slight and reacted angrily.

He directed that anger at both Horne and Kirkpatrick.

But the extent of that anger wasn’t clear until Saturday afternoon, when Atkinson answered his phone and received a warning from “a person close to Brooks” that the assemblyman was looking to hurt Kirkpatrick.

The call so alarmed Atkinson that he called Kirkpatrick, who immediately dialed the police.

According to the police report, Kirkpatrick said Atkinson sent her a text message indicating that "no one else should feel safe around Brooks" and that if Brooks were to show up to the first legislative session, he "would find a way to keep him out of the building."

Atkinson never named the person who called him, but police believe it was Barlow.

“Councilman Barlow was clearly reluctant to share information, but he told Chief (Victor) Dunn that he believed there may have been another gun in the car and possibly drugs,” the report said.

Barlow later would deny his role in the affair, tweeting Sunday, “I had no involvement whatsoever.“ Barlow later tweeted that he had followed up with Atkinson “regarding a call he had placed to me days prior.” Barlow, through a city spokesman, declined to comment.

About the time North Las Vegas Police began searching for Brooks, the assemblyman called legislative police and asked for personal protection, believing his life was in danger from a fugitive gang member.

“He basically called in and asked if one of our officers could meet him at his home,” Legislative Council Bureau Director Rick Combs said.

North Las Vegas Police ultimately caught up with Brooks on Toiyabe Street. He was driving a 2012 Chrysler 200 convertible that the state had rented for him to help him move from Las Vegas to Carson City for the legislative session.

Brooks was called from his car at gunpoint, told to lay on the ground and was put into handcuffs without incident. Brooks told officers there was a gun “in a case in a shoebox in the trunk.” It was a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver, with 41 live .357 rounds and one spent .357 casing. Brooks said he had the gun because he was at an NRA shooting event on Saturday. A legislative police officer at the event said Brooks was not there.

The gun, which was not registered to Brooks, had not been reported stolen.

Brooks’ wife, Ada Brooks, told police the handgun belonged to “one of Steven’s friends who owned a security company.”

Ada Brooks also said that during the past few months, her husband's mental health “has been getting worse and she is worried about him.” Kirkpatrick told police Brooks had been released from Seven Hills Behavioral Center the night before.

Posin said he could not respond to allegations that Brooks had sought psychiatric treatment prior to his arrest.

“I can tell you he’s not in the hospital today for anything mental (health-related),” Posin said. “And he’s been released anyway. Right now he needs to rest.”

Asked if Kirkpatrick had any reason to be afraid of Brooks, Posin answered simply: “No.”

“These are pieces of a much bigger picture that may look quite different when other information comes out,” Posin said.

Because Brooks is a state elected official, the case has been transferred to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, which has jurisdiction over such investigations.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, members of the Legislature’s budget committees met in Carson City to go over the budget process before the review of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget, which begins today.

Both Brooks and Kirkpatrick sit on the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

Brooks was not in Carson City, but Kirkpatrick was.

She said it was too early to start wondering about whether Brooks would be seated or expelled, which would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

“I’m here, and I’m focused on getting things done,” Kirkpatrick said. “This is a minor distraction. We have to keep moving forward for the other 3 million people of the state.”

Tovin Lapan contributed to this report.

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