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May 22, 2018

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NAACP joins call to ban police neck holds after death


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.

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 »

The president of the Southern Nevada chapter of the nation's oldest civil rights organization joined a call today for Las Vegas police to stop using a neck restraint that can render suspects unconscious.

Police body-camera video made public this week appears to show Officer Kenneth Lopera using excessive force to subdue an unarmed man who died after the struggle last weekend in a parking-area driveway behind The Venetian casino, NAACP leader Roxann McCoy said.

Lopera, who is white, is seen using a stun gun, punches and what police say was an unapproved chokehold on Tashii Brown, who is black.

Brown also used the name Tashii Farmer. The county coroner has said it could take several weeks to receive test results to determine what caused his death.

"It looks like he's trying to comply, but excessive force is used," McCoy said of Brown, who is seen on video stiffening when he's shocked with the stun gun and falling backward to the pavement with his arms raised.

Lopera fires six more jolts from the stun gun, wrestles with Brown as he tries to handcuff him, punches Brown's head and neck from behind, and then puts his arm around Brown's neck.

Lopera maintained what the officer called a "rear naked choke" for more than a minute Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said.

The hold is used in mixed martial arts, but it differs from an approved technique taught to Las Vegas police called a "lateral vascular neck restraint" or carotid artery hold.

Police in many other cities are told to never go for a person's neck, but Las Vegas police report officers used the hold an average of more than once a week over the last five years.

"It's a chokehold by any name. Neck restraint," McCoy said. "I would like to have it banned altogether."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada is also calling for Las Vegas police to quit the practice. A lawyer for Brown's family said the officer should be fired and brought up on criminal charges.

Lopera is on paid leave while police investigate.