Police investigate officer who struck suspect for spitting

A Las Vegas police officer is being investigated by the department for hitting a handcuffed suspect in the face last week, a department official said Wednesday.

Officer Marcus Martin, a spokesman with the Metropolitan Police Department, would not disclose the officer's name but confirmed the officer is being investigated by the department's Internal Affairs Office.

The officer remains on duty, Martin said, and the internal investigation will be completed within 90 days.

According to a police report, an officer named J. Smith struck 21-year-old James Earl Akins while he was being led to a patrol car in handcuffs.

The report said Akins spit at three individuals nearby, and Smith had to move his head to avoid being hit in the face. The wad of spit landed on Smith's arm and struck two individuals in the face.

"As a result of being spit at, Officer Smith responded with a handstrike to Akins' face," the report said.

The incident occurred May 20. Police responded to a call that several individuals were fighting with a security guard at an apartment complex near Lake Mead and Jones boulevards. Once police got to the scene, they talked with security officer Shakra Abou, who said he had fought with Akins.

Police went to an apartment to question Akins, who told them he had struck Abou because the security guard had slapped Akins' 18-year-old sister.

Akins clenched his fists and refused to come outside to talk to police, the report said. That led police to arrest Akins for battery of the guard and for obstructing a police officer by retreating into the apartment, according to the report.

When police were escorting Akins to the car, Akins saw Abou and spat at him and in the direction of Smith and a third man.

Martin said department policy allows officers to use the force necessary to make an arrest. There is no department policy that prohibits officers from striking handcuffed suspects, he said. He explained that some suspects pose a threat because they still have use of their legs.

According to the report, Akins was charged for spitting on the officer, a misdemeanor. The report said Akins also was arrested on an outstanding warrant on a drug charge.

In January 2006, 12-year Las Vegas police veteran Charles Collingwood was disciplined for hitting Kenneth "Jody" Thompson after his capture in November 2005. Thompson had escaped from prison in Carson City.

Collingwood hit the handcuffed Thompson in an incident captured on video by helicopter news. Officials said Collingwood was frustrated by Thompson's flippant answers as officers questioned him about other suspects and weapons.