Local rapper Orlando Clemons was walking to his car after a downtown Las Vegas show in March when a Metro officer pulled up next to him.
What happened next has left the entertainer and some legal experts baffled. The officer pushed Clemons onto the hood of the patrol car: a forearm pressed against the back of his neck, his hands held behind his back. Clemons, 29, was arrested and cited for jaywalking and resisting arrest.
And the incident was caught on video.
Clemons, a hip-hop artist who goes by the name Splash God, had finished a show about 1 a.m. at the Beauty Bar on East Fremont Street, an area where many up-and-coming bands and musicians perform. He and his friends were filming a behind-the-scenes album promotional video while they walked to El Cortez’s parking garage.
What they didn’t expect was for Metro officer Paul Shreiber to make an appearance.
Schreiber drove past in his patrol car, made a U-turn and stopped.
“What’s up, man? Step in front of my car, please,” Shreiber said as he got out of the vehicle.
Confused, Clemons walked over, hands in the air with his palms exposed to the officer.
“I turned around to kind of surrender myself already, to let him know I didn’t have any weapons,” Clemons told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this month.
But the officer almost immediately restrained Clemons’ hands behind him. When Clemons turned his head, the officer pushed his face onto the hood.
“I was just trying to talk to him,” Clemons said. “It’s hard to talk to an officer of the law when I’m in handcuffs and being jerked around like a beef jerky stick.”
Clemons asked the officer if he was being arrested.
“No,” the officer said.
Shreiber pulled Clemons off the car, attempted to trip him, then slammed Clemons back onto the hood of the patrol car as three more officers in two cars arrived.
Clemons was scared and worried that he might be stunned with a Taser or shot, he said.
“I really thought something bad was going to happen,” he said.
His friends tried to tell the officers that Clemons hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I don’t give a s—-, step away,” one of the officers shouted.
A few seconds later, one of Clemons’ friends, Frank Williams, was pushed toward the car by another officer, who then slammed Williams onto the hood.
The two were handcuffed, put in the back of a police car and taken to Las Vegas City Jail.
Clemons was arrested and cited for jaywalking and resisting arrest. He spent two days in jail. Williams was cited for obstructing an investigation and spent three days in jail.
The officer’s version of events doesn’t quite match the video, which doesn’t capture the entire exchange.
According to a police arrest report, Clemons refused Shreiber’s order to go to the front of the car and argued until the officer was forced to put Clemons’ hands behind his back. Shreiber said he pushed Clemons against the car to “maintain my control” when Clemons continued to resist and twist away, according to the report.
The video left some legal experts questioning the officer’s use of force in what eventually became a minor citation.
Allen Lichtenstein, American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada general counsel, said Metro could use its time better by “protecting people from real criminals, not jaywalkers.”
“Anyone who uses physical force for a jaywalking charge is being excessive,” Lichtenstein said.
Las Vegas criminal defense attorney E. Brent Bryson echoed Lichtenstein’s comments. Even if Clemons, who stands about 6 feet tall and has hair cut close to his head, did jaywalk, the officers’ actions were unwarranted. He questioned whether race — not jaywalking — prompted the initial stop.
“From what I can see from where the video starts, there is no basis, other than you have a couple of African-Americans walking down the sidewalk, for this particular officer to stop these individuals,” Bryson said. “I did not see anything that one would find typically with resisting arrest.”
But Bryson said he can understand how some behavior may have made officers tense. Police can maintain a scene to keep themselves safe, Bryson said. Some of Clemons’ friends disobeyed police orders to back away.
Metro launched an internal investigation into the arrest and found Shreiber did not violate any laws or policies. Shreiber declined to comment for this story through his supervisor, Downtown Area Command Capt. Shawn Andersen.
Anderson called Shreiber actions “reasonable.”
“Officer Shreiber was out there attempting to control somebody who was clearly resisting him, alone. It was important for him to do what he had to do to control that person as quick as possible,” Andersen said. “Those situations can escalate and be very dangerous.”
Police stepped up jaywalking enforcement recently in an attempt to lower the number of pedestrian deaths, Andersen said. Metro saw a spike in pedestrian deaths in 2012 and 2013, with 40 and 47, respectively, compared with just 23 in 2011.
The majority of the 900 pedestrian stops Andersen’s command makes each month rarely escalate to the physical level of Clemons’ case, he added.
“Having to put our hands on somebody is the absolute last thing we want to do,” Andersen said. “This was extraordinary.”
Clemons admitted that he had an outstanding traffic warrant because he was having trouble paying the fine.
“I’m not a bad guy, but you know, s—- happens and you can’t catch up with the money that you owe,” Clemons said.
Three months after the arrest, Clemons is still unsure why the officer stopped the group.
“Maybe he pulled me over because I was sagging,” Clemons said. The night of his arrest, the video shows him asking Shreiber for permission to pull up his camouflage cargo pants that had fallen off his hips.
Clemons is fighting the case in court. He said he does not plan to file a lawsuit against Metro.
“I just feel violated,” Clemons said. “I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
“No one expects, you know, walking down the street and just being put in handcuffs.”
Annalise Little contributed to this article. Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638. Find him on Twitter: @ColtonLochhead.