Business as usual for Las Vegas police


Sequioa Pearce was made to kneel before the Las Vegas police officers who held her at gunpoint in her bedroom Friday night, June 11, and watch them shoot her unarmed fiance in the head.

The 20-year-old, who was nine months pregnant, could see Trevon Cole reflected in the mirror from the bathroom, where he, too, was being held at gunpoint as officers told him to get on the floor. He met her gaze in the mirror. She watched him put his hands up.

"All right, all right," he told the cops, according to Pearce.

Then she heard the shot.

Officers rushed her out of the apartment. Trevon Cole, 21, employed as an insurance adjustor while working on a political science degree at UNLV, died minutes later.

Officers were serving a pot warrant on the apartment near Bonanza Road and Eastern Avenue. The warrant was based on Cole having made three marijuana sales to undercover police.

The shooting poses a small problem for police. Pearce, who survives, says police were upset they could find no drugs in the apartment that night, that Cole was unarmed, that he put up no resistance, that he owned no firearms.

Of course, any old bag of pot from the evidence locker can be presented at the coroner's inquest. No attorney for Cole's family will be allowed to ask any questions.

How to explain the gun going off, though? The shooter, officer Bryan Yant -- who has now been involved in three shootings, two of them fatal -- says Cole made a "furtive movement."

Ah, yes. Was it in the third or the fourth day at the police academy that they covered what to do when you've just accidentally shot an unarmed suspect in the head?

As we've seen in the deaths of Henry Rowe, John Perrin and Orlando Barlow, there's a standard prescription. First: Pray to heaven it was a homeless guy or a Negro; those cases are always found to be "justified." Second: Check to see if anyone remembered to bring the "drop bag" of drugs. But third and most of important of all: Memorize this phrase: "He made a furtive movement toward his waistband."

Now, if only they could show Trevon Cole owned a gun. No one on the coroner's jury would care where they found the gun, as long as they could show he or the girlfriend had one. After all, the coroner's jurors are led through their paces by prosecutors who don't have to worry about any pesky cross-examination, like pet rabbits dressed up by little children and walked through a tea party in the doll house.

Ten days after they killed Trevon Cole, police were at another apartment complex in historically black West Las Vegas, near Owens Avenue and H Street.

A patrol officer "heard shots fired" and "saw movement at an open upstairs window" in one of the apartments there, said a Las Vegas police spokesman. Concluding that was where the shots came from, he called for backup.

Officers then approached the home with a bullhorn, demanding that anyone inside come out.

The only person home was Shannon Sutton, the 18-year-old brother of ... Sequioa Pearce! This was the apartment of Sequioa Pearce's mother, where the young mother had gone to stay after Yant killed her fiance. What a coincidence!

Police said they entered the home immediately to check whether anyone inside was in danger. Officers handcuffed Sutton and sat him in the back of a police car on a charge of obstructing a police officer because he would not immediately identify himself.

The rest of the family, including Ms. Pearce and her week-old daughter, returned home in time to see the incident unfold.

A Metro spokesman said officers did not need a warrant to check the home to see whether anyone inside was hurt, but they did need a warrant or written consent from a resident to search for guns or ammunition.

So, Trenia Cole -- Sequioa Pearce's mother but otherwise no relation to Trevon Cole -- said officers demanded she sign a written consent form in exchange for a promise not to transport her son to jail.

Trenia Cole signed the card, asking only "that you don't tear up my house," which, of course, they did.

No firerarm was found.

Awww.

It doesn't matter whether this kind of police behavior is "not uncommon" -- it's illegal, and it's fair to wonder why cops expect us to respect the law when their own attitude is, "Screw the law, do whatever's most expedient."

Either they had a suspect who deserved to go to jail, and they let him loose in order to extort the waiver of Mrs. Cole's Fourth Amendment rights, or else they threatened to haul an innocent young man to jail in order to extort her waiver of her Fourth Amendment rights.

Either way, extortion under color of law.

And why?

Does it really merit a search just because police believe you "have a gun in a residence"? If so, a roster of people who have been issued Clark County gun registration "blue cards" might make a nice starter list.

The only deadly shooter involved with this family recently was Yant. Has anyone handcuffed him and sat him in the patrol car and insisted his wife or mother sign a consent form for a warrantless search of his home, on threat of hauling him to jail?

After officer Bruce Gentner emptied his 14-round Glock at John Perrin, who was armed only with a basketball, the family submitted a written question to the hearing master of the coroner's inquest, asking whether Gentner had been on steroids at the time. The question was never asked.

No warrantless search of the Gentner home to see if the officer was on steroids.

Who else heard this gunshot? We're supposed to believe it's a coincidence they were looking for a gun in the apartment where Sequioa Pearce retreated after cops killed her unarmed boyfriend?

"It seems like it might be related to the Cole incident," says the family's attorney, Andre Lagomarsino. "Either this is just a crazy coincidence, or they're fishing."

The family buried Trevon Cole in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Taxpayers will end up forking over a couple hundred grand to settle this one.

Bryan Yant won't pay a penny.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal, and author of "Send in the Waco Killers" and the novel "The Black Arrow." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com/.