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Metro: Officer to face involuntary manslaughter count in choking death

Metro Conference On Death of Unarmed Tashii Brown

John Locher / AP

Las Vegas police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill speaks during a news conference Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Las Vegas. Police held the news conference to report on the investigation of the weekend death of an unarmed man at a Las Vegas Strip casino at the hands of an officer using a neck hold that is banned in many cities.

Updated Monday, June 5, 2017 | 5:33 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Kenneth Lopera

Death of Unarmed Tashii Brown

This photo taken at The Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 14, 2017, shows the scene where an unarmed man died after police squeezed his neck during a struggle to subdue him. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which led a push for use-of-force reforms after Las Vegas police were involved in 25 shootings in 2010, said Monday, May 15, 2017, that it will seek a review of the training that allows officers to use what the department calls Launch slideshow »

Metro Police say an officer will face an involuntary manslaughter count in the death of a man who died after the officer used an unapproved neck restraint on him.

The announcement came today after the Clark County Coroner's Office said the death was the result of “asphyxia due to police restraint procedures.” Other significant conditions in the death of Tashii Brown, 40, were methamphetamine intoxication and an enlarged heart, the Coroner’s Office said.

The death was ruled a homicide.

The officer who applied the neck restraint, Kenneth Lopera, will also face a count of oppression under the color of office, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at a news conference today.

Lombardo said the decision was made as the result of the coroner's findings and in consultation with the Clark County District Attorney's Office. Lopera, who has been with Metro for five years, was taken into custody and placed on unpaid administrative leave, he said.

Lopera, 31, could face up to eight years in prison if convicted of both charges. It is the first time a police officer in Clark County has faced charges in a use of deadly force case.

The officer posted $6,000 bail and was released from the Clark County Detention Center, Las Vegas Police Protective Association official Steve Grammas said. Lopera's first court appearance will be Wednesday at 7:30 a.m., according to court records.

Grammas said that Lopera will plead not guilty to both charges and that the officer did nothing criminal subduing a combative man who ran through a restricted hotel area.

Lopera and another officer were having coffee at the Venetian about 1 a.m. May 14 when Brown approached them and said he was being chased, police said.

Brown, who wasn’t armed but appeared paranoid and agitated, then darted through an employees-only door as the officers chased him outside the casino, police said.

A video released by Metro showed Lopera trying to restrain Brown by punching him and using an unapproved neck hold on him for more than a minute. Brown also was shocked seven times with a stun gun, police said.

Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said Lopera continued using the stun gun despite a policy that calls for stopping after three bursts if it doesn't have an apparent effect.

Brown, who also used the name Tashi Sebastian Farmer and Tashii Farmer-Brown, lost consciousness after the neck hold was applied, police said. He died shortly after arriving at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

A lawyer for the victim's mother, Trinita Farmer, said she had hoped the officer would face a murder charge.

Attorney Andre Lagomarsino, said Brown's funeral last Saturday provided the family members from Hawaii, and Las Vegas a chance to mourn.

"There will be a time for justice. That time is coming soon," Lagomarsino said. "At this time the family wants to absorb the information that is coming out" from the coroner and Las Vegas police.

Lagomarsino said Trinita Farmer also wants the Venetian held responsible for the actions of casino security officers who helped Lopera subdue Brown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.