Las Vegas police released internal investigation findings in three police shootings Thursday, clearing its officers in the fatal incidents.
But after reviewing two of the deadly encounters, the Metropolitan Police Department’s Office of Internal Oversight recommended new training techniques, including having all officers wear protective vests while pursuing a homicide suspect and having its gang detectives work in two-person teams when approaching a suspicious person.
The reports were made public as part of a new practice begun in June and are posted on the department’s website, lvmpd.com.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has already cleared the officers of any criminal wrongdoing in the deaths of Bernard Pate, 37, Jason Baires, 23, and Marc Hull, 25.
The men were all involved in incidents in which they either pointed a gun at an officer or struck an officer with gunfire. Hull was killed in September 2011, Pate in November 2011 and Baires in February.
Police and the district attorney’s office are releasing the reports because the traditional forum for reviewing such fatal encounters – the county coroner’s inquest – has been stalled for almost two years by legal challenges.
Before Pate was shot Nov. 21, Las Vegas police gang detectives approached him in the Karen Pines apartment complex after seeing him act “suspiciously” in a courtyard near Sahara Avenue and Lamb Boulevard.
Pate was shot in the back by Detective Casey Clarkson, who said he fired his weapon nine times after Pate pointed a gun at him. A gun was found near Pate’s body, but Pate did not fire.
According to police reports, gang detectives were at the complex about 10:30 p.m. when they noticed Pate, who was wearing red clothing, in a children’s play area that had a “No Trespass” sign. Clarkson approached Pate, who fled and then showed a gun when cornered.
Investigators concluded that gang detectives did not notify patrol supervisors in the area they were working in the neighborhood. The first time officers in the area learned that gang detectives were present was when Clarkson broadcast the foot chase over the Southeast Area Command radio channel.
Gang detectives now must notify area command supervisors of their presence.
Investigators also recommended that officers work in pairs when making initial contact with those thought to be violent offenders. That will increase officer safety, investigators said. Clarkson also received training on foot pursuits on his return to work, the reports said.
Hull was killed Sept. 9 after trying to use a fraudulent bank card to buy electronics from a Walmart on Rainbow Boulevard, near Spring Mountain Road. When approached by officers called by store employees, he pulled a handgun and shot officer Michael Ramirez several times. One shot hit the bullet-resistant vest Ramirez was wearing, but he was wounded in the arm by three shots. Ramirez and three other officers returned fire, killing Hull during a running gunbattle through the store. Ramirez has recovered from his wounds and returned to duty.
Internal documents lauded officers involved in Hull’s shooting. Several received commendations for their actions.
Baires, a suspect in the slaying of his mother’s boyfriend, was killed Feb. 1 in a shootout with the Criminal Apprehension Team task force that includes Las Vegas, Henderson police and the FBI.
Police said Baires ran from his vehicle and through an alley near Michael Way and Washington Avenue. As he ran south on Michael Way, a detective hit him with his vehicle and knocked him to the ground. Police said Baires then fired several shots from a handgun, wounding officer Greg Theobald in the hip.
Baires died at the scene after being hit by officers’ return fire.
The internal investigation concluded that half the detectives assigned to track down Baires were not wearing “ballistic protection.” Investigators recommended that all officers pursuing a dangerous suspect wear the bullet-resistant vests.
“Detectives having ballistic protection on could have minimized some risk, considering the pre-existing knowledge they were chasing a murder suspect.”
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638.