Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2018

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Prosecutors drop case against former Metro officer in man’s death

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 | 6:13 p.m.

Prosecutors today dropped the case against a former Metro Police officer in the death of Tashii Brown last year, according to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.

The announcement came less than a week after a grand jury declined to indict Kenneth Lopera, who faced counts of involuntary manslaughter and oppression under color of office after a May 7, 2017, confrontation with Brown.

Brown’s mother, Trinita Farmer, expected the development after the grand jury’s decision was made public, but is “confused and saddened” by it, wrote Andre Lagomarsino, her attorney. “She doesn’t understand why the District Attorney won’t go the distance for the family. She believed in the rule of law before this decision.”

District Attorney Steve Wolfson’s office released a statement saying that “prosecutors are guided by rules of ethics. One such rule provides that a prosecutor shall not proceed with a prosecution if, in good faith, there is a belief that a charge could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Over several months, grand jurors listened to hours of testimony and “did not believe there was slight or marginal evidence to support a criminal charges against the former officer,” officials said.

The District Attorney’s Office has called for a public review hearing so evidence the jurors considered can be openly shared.

Last year, Brown, who also used the last name Farmer, walked up to Lopera and his partner, who were having coffee at the Venetian, police said. Brown told them he was being chased and asked the officers to escort him outside before he took off running, police said.

Lopera caught up to him outside and shocked him seven times with a stun gun, punched him in the face and placed him in a chokehold for more than a minute, police said. Brown subsequently died.

Lopera was arrested in June 2017 after the Clark County Coroner’s Office determined Brown died of asphyxiation and ruled the death a homicide. The medical examiner also said an enlarged heart and methamphetamine were contributing factors in Brown’s death.

Metro initially placed Lopera on unpaid administrative leave, and he later retired. Brown’s family has civil litigation pending against Lopera and Metro.

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the union that represents Metro officers, last week said experts determined Brown did not die from being choked, and they presented their findings to the grand jury.

In an arrest report, Metro wrote that “although Officer Lopera did not provide a statement to criminal investigators, it is reasonable to believe that he did not intend to cause death to (Brown).”

The report noted, however, that Lopera used his stun gun, empty hand strikes and a chokehold in a manner that was “outside department policy and his training.”