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Tentative $2.2M settlement reached with Las Vegas police in chokehold case

Updated July 17, 2020 - 6:27 pm

Relatives of a man who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police in 2017 reached a tentative agreement this week to settle a lawsuit for $2.2 million.

If finalized, it would be the largest settlement in the Metropolitan Police Department’s history. Parties to the federal lawsuit regarding Tashii Brown’s death agreed to the deal after nine hours of talks, attorney Boris Treyzon said.

The tentative agreement comes amid a national conversation about police brutality. House Democrats recently passed a sweeping law enforcement reform bill that would ban tactics such as chokeholds.

Final approval of the settlement is up to the Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs. Metro said it could not comment on the settlement until the committee takes action on it.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017 on behalf of Brown’s children, accuses Metro of excessive force and gross negligence. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court and sought damages for Brown’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of economic support for the children.

It alleged that former Metro officer Kenneth Lopera, who also is a defendant in the case, violated Brown’s civil rights by using excessive force. The settlement releases both Metro and Lopera from the lawsuit.

Brown died in May 2017 after Lopera stunned him with a Taser seven times, repeatedly punched him and placed him in what Lopera described as a rear naked choke for more than a minute.

Just before that, Brown approached Lopera and another officer inside a Strip resort and said he was being chased, then took off running. Lopera chased him and thought Brown was trying to steal a truck, according to police.

The rear naked choke is not allowed by Metro, but the hold is similar to a department-approved neck restraint called the lateral vascular neck restraint.

Both holds restrict blood flow to the brain by compressing the carotid arteries but do not restrict breathing. The department says it does not use any hold that restricts breathing. Last week, Metro updated its use-of-force policy to allow its approved neck restraint only in life-or-death encounters.

Lopera faced criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter. His case was later referred to a grand jury, which opted not to indict him. Criminal charges were ultimately dropped.

The Clark County coroner’s office said Brown died by asphyxia due to police restraint procedures, with methamphetamine intoxication and an enlarged heart as factors.

Lopera’s criminal defense challenged the cause of death, arguing that Brown’s enlarged heart and drug use, combined with the totality of the event, caused his death, Las Vegas Police Protective Association President Steve Grammas has said. Prosecutors sent the case out for review.

Had Brown survived, he would not have faced any charges, police have said.

A separate lawsuit from Brown’s mother, Trinita Farmer, is pending in federal court.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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