Las Vegas police: Don’t call us for a helicopter tour

Don’t expect any rock stars — or regular Joe’s, for that matter — to be flying on a Las Vegas police helicopter for awhile.

Undersheriff Jim Dixon on Friday announced that the department’s helicopter civilian ride-along policy was strengthened in the wake of an August helicopter ride for Guns N’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba’s wedding proposal.

Any civilians taking part in a ride-along now must be approved by the air unit’s commander, a captain, Dixon said. Sergeants and lieutenants previously could approve a fly-along. Capt. Charles Hank made the change about a week after Ashba’s ride, although the new policy was only announced Friday.

Dixon said it’s unlikely many will be approved.

“Based on what happened (with Ashba), I don’t see that happening in the near future,” he said.

Capt. David O’Leary, who oversaw the department’s Financial Crimes Bureau and arranged the ride for Ashba, retired last month instead of accepting a demotion to lieutenant.

Pilot Roy Horsley was transferred out of the air unit and won’t be able to fly for the department. Former Air Support Lt. Tom Monahan was transferred to a patrol bureau.

“The sheriff took this incident very seriously from the beginning. And he wanted the public and you all to know that those employees involved would be investigated and held accountable,” Dixon said.

The special tour over Las Vegas became public when Ashba posted photos on his Instagram account.

“That was the most incredible day of our life!!” Ashba wrote on Instagram. “Special thx to the Las Vegas Police Dept. for the most amazing helicopter private tour over Vegas!”

Ashba also thanked O’Leary for his help. O’Leary, an avid musician, met Ashba through the local music scene.

Ashba’s girlfriend said yes to the proposal after the helicopter “landed in a field” next to a table bearing roses and champagne, the rocker wrote on Instagram.

“It was beautiful she didn’t expect a thing, it was magical,” he wrote.

Dixon said Horsley told his supervising sergeant about the ride-along, but not about the unexpected landing. The ride started with Horsley responding to routine patrol calls, but then the pilot landed at a field at the department’s academy and substation on Cheyenne Avenue.

“A routine flight, patrol flight operation, was diverted for the benefit of others. And we do not condone that, and we are not happy that this occurred,” Dixon said.

The internal investigation of the incident concluded about two weeks ago. It’s unclear if Ashba, 41, ever spoke to detectives.

Dixon said helicopter flights cost $485 per hour, and estimated the cost of Ashba’s ride at $242.50.

But cost wasn’t the issue. It was the negative publicity that infuriated the department’s top brass, especially in the wake of an officer’s death in a fall from a helicopter a few weeks earlier.

David VanBuskirk, 36, a Search and Rescue officer, died during a late-night helicopter rescue of a hiker stranded on Mount Charleston on July 23. The officer fell while being hoisted to the helicopter; an investigation is ongoing.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie had also been trying to persuade the Clark County Commission to raise the sales tax to hire more officers and bridge a budget shortfall. Commissioners rejected the sheriff’s request, although Gillespie will try again with an alternative plan next year.

Ashba’s wedding was in September.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com. Follow @blasky on Twitter.