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Photojournalist says rights violated, sues Las Vegas police

Updated April 15, 2019 - 9:37 pm

A Las Vegas photojournalist arrested in 2017 at a protest outside Trump International is suing the Metropolitan Police Department for violating his First Amendment rights.

KLAS-TV Channel 8 photojournalist Nebyou Solomon was arrested while filming a Tax Day protest from a sidewalk near the hotel. At the time, police said the sidewalk was private property of the Fashion Show Mall.

Before Solomon was arrested, three Fashion Show security guards demanded that he leave the sidewalk, according to the lawsuit filed Monday. Solomon told them the First Amendment protected his right to film in a public place.

Solomon then asked a Metro officer to help resolve the dispute, because he assumed that the officer “would vindicate his right to be on the public sidewalk and to do his job,” the suit states.

Instead, Solomon was handcuffed and taken into custody. He was then held in a police van until the end of the protest and taken to the Clark County Detention Center.

Las Vegas police did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment Monday.

At the time of Solomon’s arrest, police said in a statement that he did not cooperate with officers, refused to provide identifying information and declined to sign a misdemeanor trespassing citation. He was released several hours after the arrest.

The lawsuit asserts that police violated Solomon’s First Amendment rights by arresting him on a public sidewalk while he pursued a story that he was assigned to cover. It also claims police violated his Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by arresting and detaining him without probable cause.

According to the suit, the arrest caused Solomon “humiliation and embarrassment” and made it difficult for Solomon to find work.

“The actions of the defendants in this case are especially egregious in light of the fact that it has long been established that public sidewalks — including those on or near the Las Vegas Resort District — are open to the public,” the suit states.

It adds that Metro has been sued several times for siding with private property owners over citizens “and should know better by now.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has repeatedly determined that sidewalks in the resorts district are a public forum, the suit continues.

Metro Sgt. Ryan Fryman, Lt. Richard Maupin, then-Capt. John Pelletier and officers Juan Contreras, Brandon Meads and Allen Pavese are named as defendants in the lawsuit, as well as the police department, Sheriff Joe Lombardo and the Fashion Show Mall.

Solomon, who is no longer employed at Channel 8, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees.

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