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March 28, 2023

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Metro Police pay $1 million to family of choke hold victim

Coroner's Inquest Boone

Metro Police Officer Kevin Koval testifies at a coroner’s inquest Dec. 18, 2009, about the restraint technique he applied on Dustin Boone. Boone died Nov. 4, 2009, after Metro Police officers tried to take him into custody.

Coroner's Inquest Boone

Clark County Chief Medical Examiner Larry Sims of the Clark County Coroner's Office testifies Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, during an inquest into the death of Dustin Boone. Boone died Nov. 4 after Metro Police officers attempted to take him into custody. Launch slideshow »

A committee that oversees Metro Police finances this morning approved the department’s largest monetary settlement in more than two years to resolve an incident in which a man died after an officer used a “sleeper hold” on him.

Metro’s Fiscal Affairs Committee approved a $1 million settlement for James, Dorothy and Michelle Boone, relatives of Dustin Boone, a 29-year-old who died in November 2009 after an officer put him in a lateral-vascular neck restraint. The restraint cuts blood flow to the brain.

Police went to Boone’s house after receiving a call from a social worker who said Boone was behaving erratically and had not taken his medication. Police said they talked to Boone for about an hour, then entered his home after finding a sliding door unlocked.

“If this individual needed help, they were going to provide that for him,” Sheriff Doug Gillespie told the committee today. Gillespie said officers and Boone talked, a struggle ensued, then Boone “retreated” into the backyard. “A decision was made to try to take Mr. Boone into custody.”

During the process, Officer Kevin Koval put Boone into the neck restraint and Boone lost consciousness and “ultimately stopped breathing,” Gillespie said.

Metro requires annual training in the neck restraint. And Koval, as a member of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team, received additional training to deal with people who have mental disorders.

At a coroner’s inquest in December 2009, Koval and others testified that they wanted to get Boone to a hospital so he would not hurt himself.

Boone’s father, James, told reporters his son was a “sweet, sweet kid” who did not want to go to the hospital because the next day was his birthday.

The inquest jury deliberated for 30 minutes before ruling the death “excusable,” meaning it was accidental.

When he was briefed on the case, Gillespie said, questions were raised “in regards to the (police) entry (into Boone’s home),” and “what kind of threat did he actually pose at that time to the public.”

The decision to settle for $1 million was “based on my knowledge and the risks associated with this going to a jury,” Gillespie said. “It’s not an easy decision, but under the circumstances it’s the right decision.”

Fiscal Affairs, whose members include elected officials from Clark County and Las Vegas, the local governments that fund Metro, approves numerous settlements each year, but few are more than $100,000. Outside of this $1 million settlement, Metro has paid out about $1.7 million in settlements since January 2009, according to past Fiscal Affairs Committee decisions. Details for each of those 16 settlements are not provided on monthly agendas.

Some of Metro’s largest settlements have come after the death of someone put into the lateral-vascular neck restraint, a move that Los Angeles police discontinued after several deaths in the 1980s.

The estate of Charles Bush settled with Metro for $1.1 million after Bush died in 1991. The family of French citizen Philippe LeMenn, who died while in the Clark County Detention Center in 2001, settled for $500,000 in 2003.

Debate about whether the “sleeper hold” should be used by law enforcement continues, with most police departments nationwide contending that it’s safe when used correctly.

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