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Five officers cleared in 2010 deaths

Clark County prosecutors have ruled that Las Vegas police officers who used a Taser 11 times on a man who died will not face criminal charges.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson said officers Mark Hatten and Timothy English were acting lawfully when they used their Tasers on Anthony Jones, 44, an unarmed man running from a traffic stop on Dec. 11, 2010.

“I don’t think you should look alone at the number of times a Taser was engaged,” Wolfson said. “Many times when a person is Tased, they comply. When a person doesn’t comply, officers feel the Taser sometimes is necessary.”

Jones’ death was comparable with the case of Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez, a 21-year-old man who died in August 2010 after being stunned 19 times by Nevada Highway Patrol troopers. Wolfson decided last month that the troopers would not be charged.

According to Monday’s report, Hatten stunned Jones nine times for about 90 seconds over a two-minute span. English stunned Jones twice for 10 seconds.

Police previously had said that Jones was stunned “several times.”

Wolfson also announced Monday that no charges would be filed against Las Vegas officers Michael Franco, Phillip Zaragoza and Peter Kruse in the shooting death of Benjamin Hunter Bowman, a 22-year-old man killed in November 2010 after holding a female bartender at knifepoint.

In the Jones incident, a civil rights official criticized prosecutors for focusing too much on the cocaine and alcohol in Jones’ toxicology report and not enough on the police Taser.

“The way that this report reads, he was about to die anyway, if he wasn’t scooped up by police. That’s kind of hard to believe,” said Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

“The idea that someone who may or may not have been handcuffed was Tased 11 times, and there’s nothing in the report that talks about the effects of the Taser on his demise? It’s the kind of thing that is very troubling.”

Hatten stopped Jones’ Lexus sedan about 1 a.m. near Martin Luther King and Lake Mead boulevards because its headlights were off, the report said. During the stop, Hatten noticed Jones acting erratically and asked him to step out of the vehicle. After an altercation, Hatten drew his gun, and Jones ran. Jones fell in a nearby dirt lot, and Hatten jumped on his back and fought with him, the report said.

After Hatten’s first Taser attempt failed, he “touch-stunned” Jones nine times during the next two minutes. The final stun was the longest at 19 seconds. English arrived in the middle of the fight and stunned Jones twice, each for five seconds. Jones stopped breathing soon after he was handcuffed, the report said.

The coroner listed Jones’ cause of death as cocaine and ethanol intoxication, with police restraining procedures and an enlarged heart as contributing factors.

Wolfson said Jones did not comply with commands and kept his hands under his body near his waist, which was dangerous for the officers.

“That’s where pockets are, and that’s where weapons might be,” he said.

According to audio recorded from the Taser, Jones “can be heard saying that he cannot move and to stop Tasing him,” the report said.

Wolfson said Jones, who was a registered sex offender on parole and had cocaine hidden in his buttocks, had many reasons to resist.

Lichtenstein said Jones’ past as a sex offender was irrelevant to the incident and was included in the report only to smear Jones.

“Remember, this is someone who had no weapon, didn’t attack police and just ran away from a traffic stop,” he said. “This is unfortunate that the district attorney is making this process more of a public relations thing than a full analysis.”

Since Jones’ death, the Metropolitan Police Department has changed its Taser policy to require officers to stop using the weapon, in most circumstances, if it is ineffective after three shocks. The policy also limits Taser discharges to a five-second maximum.

Officer Marcus Martin, a police spokesman, said the changes were not made because of Jones’ death but because of local and national court rulings on the appropriateness of Tasers.

The second report released Monday detailed the Nov. 15, 2010, police shooting of Bowman at a PT’s Pub at Nellis Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.

Bowman entered the bar, hit a patron with a beer mug and held a knife to the bartender’s throat as he yelled, “This is a robbery!” The three officers fired at the same time.

Lichtenstein said he had no problems with the district attorney’s second report, which quoted several witnesses and appeared more thorough.

But the review of Jones’ death could be telling, he said.

“The test is going to be when they deal with the Stanley Gibson case,” he said, referring to the shooting death of an unarmed veteran last year.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@review
journal.com or 702-383-0283.

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