Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2014

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These days, police face heightened risk

Tension growing between Metro and extremist groups, chronic offenders

Omar Brisbane

Omar Brisbane

The June 8 shooting deaths of Metro Police Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo captivated the valley. But almost no one outside of Metro knows about what happened to Sgt. Tabitha Baker.

Exactly one week before Beck and Soldo were killed, a man attacked Baker and beat her badly. He punched her in the face, broke her teeth, grabbed for her gun and threatened to kill her.

The assault, followed by the shootings, highlights the dangers police face on routine patrol.

National data show the streets are becoming safer for officers. Assaults fell 13 percent between 2007 and 2012.

But in 2012, the latest year FBI statistics for assaults on police are available, the Inter-mountain West, which includes Nevada, had the highest rate in the country — 12.6 per 100 officers. The national average was 10.2. Statistics for Metro were not available.

Metro officers say they sense a growing tension from extremist groups and chronic offenders. Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, said most people in Las Vegas support law enforcement, but “there is without question more risk to police officers today.”

Baker’s experience illustrates Collins’ point.

Here’s what happened to her June 1, according to interviews with Metro officers and police records:

Two minutes before noon, Baker drove toward the 3800 block of South Nellis Boulevard to investigate a reported burglary in progress. Near Sam’s Town, around Treasure Avenue and Canal Street, she spotted a man wearing nothing but shoes and boxer shorts. She flashed her vehicle’s lights and siren.

The man knew what to do. She asked him to come to her car and, without prompting, he put his hands on it and spread his feet apart, preparing to be frisked.

As the sergeant grabbed his arm to handcuff him, the man swung around and punched her in the face.

Described as 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, the man kept coming with more punches. Baker, described by co-workers as 3 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter, staggered and fell.

The man pounced on her.

Sitting on her chest and pinning her to the sidewalk, he threw roundhouse punches to her face. He blocked her hands from reaching her radio to signal for help.

“I’m going to f----g kill you,” he yelled repeatedly.

He got off Baker and reached for her holster. Baker fought the man for her gun. He pulled so hard he lifted her off the ground. But he couldn’t figure out how to unlatch the gun from the holster.

He gave up and ran.

Bloodied, her sunglasses shattered, Baker ran to her car and radioed for help. She climbed into her vehicle and chased the man into a cul-de-sac. But he jumped over a wall, and she lost sight of him.

Other officers arrived and found him a few blocks away on East Harmon Avenue. Reports say a single officer captured him. It doesn’t say whether the man resisted.

Omar Brisbane, 34, of North Las Vegas, was charged with battery with intent to kill, attempted murder with a deadly weapon and other charges.

Baker, spitting pieces of chipped teeth, was treated and released from University Medical Center. She had a cut on her eye, a swollen face and teeth knocked loose.

Police found her broken sunglasses and blood spattered on the sidewalk at the scene. They couldn’t find any witnesses.

Brisbane remains in jail waiting for a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 3.

He also has been charged with two counts of sexual assault, one count of first-degree kidnapping, robbery and car theft in cases unrelated to Baker’s assault. He was convicted of theft in June 2010 and property destruction in December 2013.

After his most recent arrest, Brisbane told officers he “had been abused by police in his life and … he was going to kill cops.”

If Baker had been a man, Brisbane said, “we would both be dead” and that “he only regrets beating up an officer because she was a female.”

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