Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2014

Currently: 106° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Letter to the editor:

Perceiving any danger? I am

Another view?

View more of the Las Vegas Sun's opinion section:

Editorials - the Sun's viewpoint.

Columnists - local and syndicated writers.

Letters to the editor - readers' views.

Have your own opinion? Write a letter to the editor.

I read with much interest that the Nevada Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, declared that the perception of danger is the defining criteria to determine when an individual can use deadly force.

The police officer who shot unarmed Stanley Gibson with a rifle while Gibson was sitting in his car must have perceived danger. In danger from what? Does this apply to all of the citizens of Nevada?

Who determines whether my perception of danger qualifies for a walk from accountability if I kill someone? Is it just my perception that I am in danger that qualifies? That seems to be a pretty low threshold for taking a life.

All of a sudden I’m feeling not so safe and secure in Nevada.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 18 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Perhaps you will feel safer when more cops are killed by waiting too long to act decisively. Maybe we can ask the criminals to sign an affidavit first to attest to the fact they are indeed criminals before the police can act.

    Carmine D

  2. In case you haven't noticed, many of our cities have become "police states". New York started down that road when Rudy Giuliani was mayor. New Orleans and Los Angeles have a long history of corrupt police departments and hired guns. Killings of many non violent citizens is becoming fairly common. Does anyone remember the young man in Oakland who handcuffed face down in a subway and shot in the back? There are far too many of these incidents occuring. I have great respect for police but they need to do a better job at screening. Just a few Wyatt Earp's can make a whole department look bad.

  3. The bar has been set too low for the use of deadly force by law enforcement. Every time a cop shoots an unarmed citizen we hear that the officer feared for his life and the lives of his fellow cops. When the mere perception of danger, as opposed to actual danger, is considered sufficient reason to use deadly force, it allows and even encourages officers to claim they felt fear even when they did not.

    The average police officer has a distorted perception of danger. Police groups exaggerate the threat that cops face and the media perpetuates the myth by dutifully repeating their narrative. The police are constantly told they're fighting a war and reminded that their job is highly dangerous and that they could be killed by anyone at any time. So they start to see the people they serve as the enemy and they begin to treat them that way.

    The truth is that cops are safer today than they've been in a half century with last year being the safest year for cops since the early 1960's.

  4. The police are the favorite whipping boy for the loons on the left who have rarely met a criminal they could not sympathize with. Hollywood and New York continually crank out apcray that depicts the police as thugs and thugs as angels! It's really sickening. Not unexpectedly, the left is already making excuses for the Boston terrorists. They simply must have a screw loose or hate the USA in which they live more than they value human life. That shows up in their fervor to execute the unborn.

  5. When a police officers decides to shoot, the way he perceived the situation turns out to be innaccurate between 20 and 45% of the time. When the average citizen decides to fire a weapon in self defense, his perception of the events are wrong less than 5% of the time.

    Tell me, Jerry, how is demanding these union protected government workers perform at least as well as member of the public, a call from "loons on the left."

    Supporting overpaid, under-trained, under-performing, unaccountable government workers is the playground of the left, and your comments place you right on top of the monkey bars, my friend.

  6. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept.(Metro)is no different then most police departments across the country. Except that it is one on the largest police agencies in the land.

    The shooting of Stanley Gibson by a metro police officer is a very tragic and sad situation to have happened to the Gibson family as well as the police officer involved. Things like this should not happen, and should never happen again in the future.

    The police dept.(Metro)does a tremendous job of protecting all of it's citizen's along with the millions of tourists who visit our city each year.

    We cannot condemn the whole police department for the actions that happen by a few officers who make big mistakes such as the Stanley Gibson shooting.I'm sure the officer involved has many sleepless nights over what happened.

    Metro has my vote for the fine job they have done and are currently doing all these years for keeping the vast majority of us safe from criminals.

  7. "All of a sudden I'm feeling not so safe and secure in Nevada."

    Blough -- and you shouldn't, at least anywhere Metro is involved.

    This article's link takes us to another Sun article which quotes our DA: "The Nevada Supreme Court makes it perfectly clear that the mere perception of danger, as opposed to actual danger, is sufficient to warrant a killing in self-defense..." The only case our Supreme Court actually says "perception of danger" is 1990's Hayes v. State. Read it, people -- Hayes does NOT make it as cut and dried as the DA would have us think. It's online @ http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?c...

    "Killings of many non violent citizens is becoming fairly common. Does anyone remember the young man in Oakland who handcuffed face down in a subway and shot in the back? There are far too many of these incidents occuring."

    VernosB -- I agree completely. There's also the factor when cops make these lethal mistakes they are automatically protected without personal responsibility at all. We the people provide them all the protections while the survivors of Metro's victims like Gibson and Erik Scott are forced to sue on their own. And when they win -- if ever -- guess who ends up paying the judgment.

    "When the mere perception of danger, as opposed to actual danger, is considered sufficient reason to use deadly force, it allows and even encourages officers to claim they felt fear even when they did not."

    BrookeLogan -- excellent post. Go to my link above and see for yourself what our Supreme Court actually said. Assuming this is the case he referred to, Wolfson colored what Hayes pronounced falsely with terms like "perfectly clear" and "mere."

    "The police are the favorite whipping boy for the loons on the left who have rarely met a criminal they could not sympathize with."

    lvfacts -- another fine example of herdspeak from you. Pray you're never in Metro's sights.

    "There are many more Arevalo's with Metro. These overzealous, self-centered fanatics don't hide. Their clique is in full-view and their arrangements in police work are well covered by the Police Protective Association."

    BChap -- good post, but I recommend you read Hayes v. State and rethink your bits about what our Supreme Courts were thinking. I'd like to see what you have to post about that.

    "Supporting overpaid, under-trained, under-performing, unaccountable government workers is the playground of the left..."

    bbhs1986 -- we can only wish such support was restricted to "the left." Unfortunately both sides in government are driving us headlong into a full-fledged police state.

    "...police must have specific and articulable grounds sufficient to support a reasonable belief that a person posing a danger is present." -- Hayes v. State, 106 Nev. 543, 551 (1990)

  8. "All that I know is, Stanley Gibson, (A Gulf war veteran), was unjustifiably shot and killed by Officer Jesus Arevalo and I'm damn mad about it, because everybody, both directly and indirectly related to this incident has walked away scot- free."

    BChap -- and you should be. I provided the link so anyone who can read and think can discover for themselves how DA Wolfson excused his decision to give that killer a pass with a falsehood.

    "Makes you feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game." -- Bob Dylan "Hurricane"

  9. The perception of danger is an important legal concept and it helps us individuals even more when we are in harm's way.

  10. "The perception of danger is an important legal concept and it helps us individuals even more when we are in harm's way."

    FreedomRadio -- it's not complicated when you call it what it really is, the near-absolute right of self-defense. Both the federal and Nevada Constitutions protect it.

    "...the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table." -- District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. (slip opinion at 64) (2008)

  11. If someone enters your home and makes a statment such as "Give me your money or I'll kill you", but has no weapon present, are you jusitfied in using lethal force? The answer isn't simple, it's tour perception of the threat. Maybe the subject's armed, maybe he's not. How you long do you wait to act? EVeryone will have a different view on how they respond. Some will simply freeze and do nothing, hoping the subject takes what he wants and leaves. Others may act, fighting the subject. others may flee, hoping to hide. One may pull a weapon and shoot the subject. Who's right,who's wrong?

    The answer is no one is right nor wrong it's what they perceive the threat level to be. Just because the subject doesn't diplay a weapon doesn't mean he doesn;t have one. He may be on drugs, he may be an expert in hadn to hand combat. There are a multitude of variables in play. The victim may be smaller, not physically fit, elderly, the list goes on. The bottom line is how you personally feel when faced with this threat, not how your heighbor or people down the street, YOU.

    I've spent most of my adult life in the military, deployed many times and have seen evil. My personal response to this situation would be simple. I would neutralize the threat. If you say you are going to kill me, I take you at your word, I'm not waiting to see if you are bluffing. I have a family to protect and if I fall, they are in danger, so I can't take that risk. I know some here won't agree with my answer, but again, it's mine. You will have to answer that scenario on your own if faced it, and I sincerely hope none of you ever are.

    We expect Police Officers to be highly trained and able to maek judgements others can't in a split second. The thing is, people don't know how they will react until it happens. In the miltary young soldiers go through basic, infantry school, jump school and others, but you have no idea how they will perform until they face real combat. No simulationg can ever match the horror and chaos of a firefight. Does this not knowing excuse soldiers or Police Officerss from killing indiscrimibately, of course not.
    They should be held accountable and to a higher standard. But they do face threats and sometimes have no choice but to use deadly force. You would be surprised how fast a knife wileding person can close distance on you, and the damage can be horrific.

    Everyone percieves thing's differently, it's the basic human condition. They have been a number of questionable shootings here and other places, and there are bad police officers on every department, just as there are bad soldiers in the Army. We can all say how we feel whlie sitting and judging the actions of others, just as people do with every other facet of life. We have all said I wouldn't have done things that way, I would've done this, but the truth is you don't know until it happens, and it will be what you percevie ath the time, not what other's see or perceive that matters.

  12. Skip: how good do you lie? How good do you act? May all jurors consider the "believability" of a "victim" who uses deadly force. On the other hand, I believe Mr. Z was in fear for his life. I do NOT believe Mr. Martin was, until his end.

  13. If you are afraid you can always go to a place you feel safe. I personally feel safer here in Nevada than most of the other places I have been lately.

  14. You're correct, Phinfan39 (Jeff Bradley). We DO "...expect Police Officers to be highly trained and able to maek judgements others can't in a split second."

    That's why one officer recently torched his duty SUV by running on a flat tire so fast and for so long that the tire caught fire, which spread to the SUV. That's why another officer shot a driver for pulling a hat from under his seat. That's why a third officer shot a driver with a medical problem because he was slow in opening his door. Just imagine what could set off a poorly trained or untrained, heavily armed, judgementaly-challenged civilian - and the havoc such a civilian could create.

  15. @Samsspeaks, ".I'm sure the officer involved has many sleepless nights over what happened."

    Why would he. He had told family members that he was going to kill someone at work just to get the paid time off. This incident was wish fulfillment.

    And while I agree we cannot condemn an entire department for the actions of individual officers. However, we can condemn the department for the way it deals (or does not deal) with theses officers whose actions proved them to be (at best) inept or (at worst) criminal. Metro's inability to hold these officers accountable is why it is being condemned.

    @ Phinfan39...You make some interesting points, but your opening statement,

    "If someone enters your home and makes a statement such as "Give me your money or I'll kill you", but has no weapon present, are you justified in using lethal force?"

    is a flawed application of the discussion here. In the case in question the victim was neither in someone else's home nor had he threatened to kill anyone. In your example, deadly force would obviously be excusable, but let's tweak that into the context at hand.

    If you approached a person sitting in his own vehicle while you were quite visibly armed, and the person refused to exit he vehicle, "are you justified in using lethal force?" Is your perception that his refusing to comply with you as, "threatening" justify you shooting him four times in the back?

    You see the difference? While I agree in theory that if one truly feels their life is in danger the use of lethal force should be justifiable, but that really isn't the standard applied in the Gibson case. The standard isn't whether the officer feared for his life, but rather the standard us whether or the not the officer SAID he feared for his life. That's a distinction as wide as the Grand Canyon. A jury with all the facts, not a sympathetic DA, should be charged with making that distinction. We saw live how that didn't happen when Yant killed Cole. We have no idea if that happened in the Gibson homicide.

    "We have all said I wouldn't have done things that way...but the truth is you don't know until it happens, and it will be what you perceive at the time, not what other's see or perceive that matters."

    But all of have been in the Gibson situation. Everyday we find ourselves behind an unarmed driver, and none of us has shot the driver. Since everything else surrounding Gibson's death were the creation of the officers they cannot be used to excuse their actions.

  16. Bybghs1986,

    @Samspeaks,"I'm Sure the officer involved has many sleepless nights over what happened."

    "Why would he.He told family members that he was going to kill someone at work just to get the paid time off.The incident was wish fulfillment."

    This is the first time that I have heard of such a accusation against this officer.Is this a proven fact or just the words of a scorned wife? Hard to believe that the police dept. would not have investigated this claim to the fullest.

  17. BGHS - To clarify, I am in no way comparing what happened to Gibson, I was creating a hypothetical scenario regarding differences in perception.

    While it's called "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" by some, its an after action review by me. There were so many mistakes made the night Gibson died it almost boggles the mind. I served for many years in the muilitary and was able to avoid issues Gibson faced.

    The mental health system and VA both failed miserably in this instance as well. As I said it's hard to be right when you aren't there, but my first question would be why the rush to take Gibson into custody. He was boxed in and it seems that it was simply easier to contain and wait him out. Why didn't CIS (Critical Intervention Specialist) not respond?

    Then, when the decision to assault the car was made, the command officers failed miserably. Yes, the desert sky radios are bad. The ranikng officer has a resposibility to ensure that ALL officers are aware of the plan and that doesn't just mean a radio call, it means contact with all involved with an affimative response required to proceed. Escpecially Officer Arevalo, who was a primary cover officer, hence the AR 15. This didn't happen and Arevalo fired. I know some say that Arevalo should've known the diffrence between a beanbag round and a gunshot, but I can understand with the chaos of noise in the area he fired when he heard the shot and glass break.

    I would also feel different if Arevalo fired one or two rounds, not seven. While I don't know Metro's exact training, a standard for many is to fire two rounds and re-evaluate your target.

    Again it's easy to sit back and criticize or dissect what others do. Had there not been such a drastic command failure in this instance Arevalo may have indeed been criminally charged. If there was confirmation he knew non lethal measures were being introduced and fired, then the storu would be different. Unfortunately all the circumstances leading up to this eneded in tragedy. From what I undestand Arevalo will eventually be fires anyway, not that Gibson's family will feel comfort. I respect LVMPD, there are many hard working officers who hate the bad cops as much as you do.

    Even when officers report bad actions by others, it's up to the command staff to act. if they don't, the reporting officers suffer. I saw the same in the military, soldiers who defiled the uniform but were allowed to stay. Again, this is an opinion, I'm not in any way saying I'm right, it's just what I percieved.

  18. Jeff,

    Thanks for your clarifications. It shows character not to just post and run.

    While I agree, again, with much of what you say, I still feel that with so many officers are using deadly force in situations that don't seem reasonable to the general public, I can only conclude they are lying about what they felt or that law enforcement has become infected with a slew of cowards.