Committee OKs settlement to Trevon Cole family


A Metropolitan Police Department fiscal oversight board approved a record $1.7 million settlement to the family of Trevon Cole on Monday morning, all but concluding the controversial 2010 shooting that reverberated throughout the agency.

Andre Lagomarsino, the attorney representing Cole's fiancee, mother and infant daughter, said that the money would improve the family's condition but that they're still in mourning.

"Nobody's really popping champagne over this settlement," he said. "There have been no celebrations or high-fives."

Under the terms of the settlement, the largest in Las Vegas police history, Cole's daughter will receive about two-thirds of the money, after attorney fees. A federal judge is expected to sign off on the agreement.

The five-member Fiscal Affairs Committee approved the settlement with little discussion. Committee member and Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow did not attend.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak stressed the importance of ensuring that Cole's daughter, born five days after he was shot by an officer June 11, 2010, receive a significant portion of the money.

"Mr. Cole was not a nameless, faceless person. He was a son and a father and a fiance," Sisolak said.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie agreed.

"I think there was genuine concern by both sides that these funds go toward that young girl as she grows up without her father and that financial support," Gillespie told the board.

Lagomarsino said Cole's daughter, Kalynn , will receive the money when she turns 18. Until then, it can be accessed only through a court order. Cole's fiancee, who witnessed the shooting, and his mother will each receive 17.5 percent of the money.

The action brings to a close one of two officer-involved shootings that sparked community outrage that led to reforms of the inquest process and policy changes in the Metropolitan Police Department. A lawsuit has been filed in the other controversial case that year, the shooting death of medical device salesman Erik Scott.

Mistakes by Detective Bryan Yant in the months, minutes and seconds before Cole's death generated controversy and were among the main reasons behind the record settlement amount, Gillespie said Monday.

"We realize, based on the facts in and of themselves, that there was exposure to the organization because of the mistakes made leading up to the service of the search warrant and the fact that we shot an unarmed individual in his bathroom," he said after the meeting.

Yant began targeting Cole, 23, after seeing Cole's ad on Craigslist for the sale of marijuana. Undercover officers bought 1.8 ounces of pot from Cole over the next few months and decided to arrest him.

But the narcotics team, led by Yant, made a series of mistakes leading up to Cole's death. Yant confused Cole with a man with the same name and a long criminal history, but with a different age and physical description.

During the search warrant raid, one member of the team wasn't supposed to be there, the entry into Cole's east valley apartment was botched, and Yant's flashlight failed, leading to the 10-year veteran staring into a dark bathroom and firing one shot into Cole's head, killing him instantly.

Gillespie stopped letting narcotics officers serve such warrants after the Cole shooting. Yant received a 40-hour suspension and was assigned to a desk job in which he wouldn't interact with suspects. He is still with the department.

The sheriff said Monday that he met with Cole's family and discussed the case and the settlement amount.

"I think they appreciated the fact that I as the sheriff of this organization were willing to come and sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with them that you're not always afforded the opportunity to do when litigation is ongoing," he told the board.

Lagomarsino said the family appreciated the meeting. Lawyers were not present.

"He didn't have to meet with them, and he did, and I think that was very honorable of him," he said.

Both parties cited the work of U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen, who arbitrated the case, for bringing it to a close.

The 2010 Cole and Scott cases are among several high-profile officer-involved shooting lawsuits filed against the agency in recent years. Lawsuits also are pending in the 2009 shooting death of 15-year-old Tanner Chamberlain and last year's fatal shooting of 23-year-old Rafael Olivas. A lawsuit is expected to be filed this year in the most recent shooting, that of disabled Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson.

The Cole settlement money comes from the department's budget through tax money. It is by far the largest settlement for a fatal Las Vegas police shooting and surpasses the total amount paid out for fatal shootings over the past two decades.

The previous highest payout was $300,000 for the 2003 shooting of Orlando Barlow, who was unarmed and surrendering to police when he was shot in the back by an officer.

Last year, the department paid out a combined $2.5 million between two lawsuits. One was for a man who was imprisoned for several years after the department's laboratory swapped his DNA with that of another man. The other case was for the family of a mentally ill man who died after an officer placed him in a type of choke hold.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

 

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