Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2019

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Metro’s past settlements cover gamut of officers’ indiscretions

High-profile lawsuits alleging excessive force by Metro Police have resulted in millions of dollars in settlements paid out in recent years.

But those cases make up only a fraction of the total number of lawsuits filed against the department in a given year.

Cases of mistaken identity, improper arrest and police getting physical during traffic stops all have resulted in settlements in the past three years. Here’s a look at some cases that led to payouts:

    • Mitchell Eugene Crooks

      Metro Police paid $100,000 to Mitchell Eugene Crooks in 2012 after, according to a civil rights complaint, an officer beat Crooks for filming police activity.

      Crooks was recording officers in March 2011 as they investigated a burglary at the house across the street from him when Officer Derek Colling told Crooks to turn off his camera.

      Crooks refused to stop filming and said Colling arrested and beat him.

      The camera fell to the ground but kept rolling, and the video went viral online.

      Colling was put on paid administrative leave for several months after the incident. An internal investigation concluded Colling broke department rules in the confrontation, and he was fired.

    • Ira Carter

      Metro Police paid $40,000 in 2012 to Ira Carter, a 28-year veteran of the force, after he was told by superiors he had to come to work clean shaven to meet the dress code, even though a medical condition prevented him from doing so, according to a federal complaint.

      Carter’s medical condition caused shaving to be painful, leaving cysts and scarring on his neck, cheeks and lips. Metro had given him a pass for 14 years, but in November 2007 the department changed its policy and revoked Carter's waiver.

      The department told him he would need to "actively seek treatment" for his condition and that he was expected to come to work with a clean shave.

      He didn’t comply, was placed on light duty, and was kept away from victims, suspects and witnesses. Carter wasn’t allowed to work overtime or wear a police uniform.

    • Jessica Elisa Gonzalez

      Metro Police paid $10,000 to Jessica Elisa Gonzalez in 2012 after officers mistakenly arrested her on a warrant for a different woman with the same name, according to her civil rights complaint.

      Gonzalez was taking her cousin’s children to a baby sitter in April 2008 when she was pulled over and told there was a warrant for her arrest.

      Gonzalez was booked at Clark County Detention Center. During the process, other officers noticed Gonzalez’s fingerprints and booking photo didn’t match the woman named in the warrant, according to the complaint.

      Gonzalez was strip-searched and spent the night in jail before a court dismissed her case the next day.

    • Helene Lester

      Metro Police paid $3,000 to Helene Lester in 2012 in a case in which officers responded to her home after a prank call reporting that she was suicidal.

      Lester was fine, but police insisted on taking her to a hospital against her will.

      While she was gone, a woman believed to be conspiring with the prank caller destroyed property in Lester’s home, according to Lester’s civil rights complaint.

      The woman allegedly behind the destruction had arrived with police, who let her into Lester’s home, although the motivation behind this decision was unclear in Lester's complaint.

    • Kristina Wildeveld-Coneh

      Metro Police paid $125,000 to Kristina Wildeveld-Coneh in 2011 after a traffic stop left her with a torn rotator cuff and three injured ribs, according to her civil rights complaint.

      Wildeveld-Coneh, an attorney, was on her way to court and searching for a free parking space in the midst of the media zoo surrounding the 2008 O.J. Simpson trial.

      Wildeveld-Coneh saw a free spot, but getting to it would have meant making an illegal U-turn. Seeing a motorcycle cop nearby, she found somewhere else to park.

      Still, she was pulled over, she told the Sun after the incident.

      “He told me, ‘You were going to make a U-turn back there,’” Wildeveld-Coneh recalled. “I said, ‘I was going to speed, too, but you can’t give me a ticket for it.’”

      The officer asked for Wildeveld-Coneh's license and registration. When she stepped out of her car with the documentation, she was thrown against the car with her arm torqued behind her back.

      She eventually was released and issued a citation. A judge later dismissed the citation.

      Wildeveld-Coneh said the money she was awarded didn’t begin to make up for injuries that prevented her from breastfeeding her newborn child and altered how she exercises.

      "I didn't want money,” Wildeveld-Coneh said. “I wanted him off the force."

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