A 33-year-old Las Vegas police officer was arrested Wednesday after being accused of pulling over two women last year and coercing them into exposing their breasts.
John Norman is also accused of groping one of the women.
Norman was booked Wednesday afternoon into the Clark County Detention Center on felony charges of coercion and oppression under the color of office and misdemeanor open or gross lewdness.
Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn said during a news conference that Norman’s arrest marked a sad day for a department that prides itself on staying on the right side of the law.
"An incident like this does have a tendency to cloud our good name," Flynn said.
He added that 99.9 percent of the agency’s employees "work diligently, work with integrity and do a very tough job out there."
Flynn said Norman had been released on his own recognizance by late Wednesday afternoon. County jail records showed he was not at the facility Wednesday night.
Norman, hired in July 2008, has been placed on unpaid administrative leave while an internal investigation is conducted. When notified of allegations against him in late December, Norman retained attorneys and refused to speak with investigators. One of his lawyers is former District Attorney David Roger.
Flynn said the investigation could take several months. He said that Norman could lose his job but that he will get a chance to share his side of the story as the department’s internal investigation and the county prosecutor’s case unfold.
The ages of the women were not released by police because of the sexual nature of the allegations.
On Dec. 28, a woman reported to police that she had been pulled over and groped during a traffic stop, according to Norman’s arrest report.
After the allegation was made, police said, parallel investigations into Norman’s actions were conducted by the agency’s Internal Affairs Bureau and the Sexual Assault Detail.
The report said police learned that on Dec. 11, Norman pulled over the woman near Tropicana and Eastern avenues. The woman told police two other women were in the car, including her sister.
Norman told the woman to pull into the back of a church parking lot so he could conduct some tests, the report said. During the traffic stop, the woman told Norman that she had a prior arrest for driving under the influence and that during the arrest marijuana was found.
Norman told the woman he pulled her over because she didn’t have license plate lights.
During the stop, the woman told Norman that she had smoked marijuana three weeks ago.
The report said Norman then asked to "physically search" her. The woman consented, even after Norman asked her whether she would be more comfortable if a female officer conducted the search.
Norman searched the woman’s pockets. He then told her that he needed to search her bra "because women put things in their bra or sew things into their bra," the report said.
The woman told investigators that Norman turned on his vehicle’s spotlight and pointed it at her car.
In hindsight, the woman believed "this was done to prevent the girls in the car from witnessing what happened," the report said.
Norman then asked the woman to lift her shirt. At one point, the woman took off her bra at his orders, and he groped her, the report said. Norman also searched the bra itself.
When the woman put her shirt down, Norman answered a phone call. The woman told investigators she could hear his wife talking about a sick child at home, the report said.
Norman told the woman he was not going to cite her because of her cooperation, the report said. He let her go without performing a field sobriety test.
The woman told police she would not expose herself and let a stranger grope her, but she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t comply with an officer’s order.
The woman told her sister what happened when she returned to the car. Police asked the woman to identify Norman in a photo lineup, but she could not, the report said.
Investigators spoke with the woman’s sister. She said her sister had told her of Norman’s actions. The sister said she wasn’t able to see what Norman was doing because of the patrol car’s spotlight.
The bra the victim wore was taken as evidence and will be tested for Norman’s DNA, the report said.
The victim did tell police the bra had been washed once since the incident.
During the investigation, police learned of a second incident involving similar circumstances that occurred June 23.
On Jan. 1, a woman came forward and told investigators that she, her cousin and her cousin’s children were at a convenience store when they noticed a uniformed officer looking at them.
The officer was later identified as Norman.
The group left the convenience store, and Norman followed. The woman pulled her vehicle into an apartment complex near Flamingo and Paradise roads. Norman blocked them with his patrol vehicle and approached the car.
He told the driver he didn’t have a reason to stop her, but they were in a high-crime area.
One of the women admitted to Norman that she had warrants for traffic offenses, the report said.
Norman then told the woman he was going to arrest her on the warrants.
While he was patting her down, Norman instructed the woman to put her fingers under her bra and shake them to make sure nothing was in the bra. The report said Norman searched her twice before putting her in the back of his car. He then drove around the corner.
Norman stopped the car and told the woman "it was her lucky day" because he had to go out on a "hot call" so she wasn’t going to be arrested.
He took off her handcuffs. The report said he continued to ask her whether she had anything hidden in her bra.
"Norman told her that he would be very upset if he found out that he had let her go with something hidden in her bra," the report said.
He began giving her instructions to shake her bra, the woman complied and shook out her bra three times.
The report said Norman kept telling her she wasn’t doing it correctly and, after the third time, said: "My, aren’t we bashful today."
The victim told investigators she believed Norman wanted to see her breasts because he kept getting more insistent about following his instructions, the report said.
The woman, in fear and frustration, said she then pulled down her shirt and bra and exposed her right breast.
Norman then told her she was free to go, the report said. The victim went home and told her mother and cousin what had happened. She reported the incident immediately to police, but investigators had trouble following up because the woman’s phone was disconnected.
The report said police spoke with the woman’s cousin and mother about the allegations against Norman. The alleged victim was able to pick Norman out of a photo lineup.
One of the last such cases involving an on-duty officer accused of using his badge for misconduct against women happened in May 2010. James Vernon Clayton, a former North Las Vegas police officer, pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted misconduct by a police officer and two counts of oppression under the color of office. He was sentenced to three years of probation.
Clayton tried to gain sexual favors, including oral sex, from women he cited for traffic violations.
Clayton was a three-year veteran of the department when he was charged. He was fired in July 2009.
Flynn said police have not ruled out the possibility that additional victims may come forward in the Norman case.
He encouraged anyone with information of misconduct by Norman to contact the Metropolitan Police Department’s Sexual Assault Detail at 828-3421; or Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review journal.com or 702-383-4638.