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Fundraiser for Las Vegas officer involved in chokehold death tops $30K

Updated June 9, 2017 - 12:01 am

An online fundraiser for a Las Vegas police officer facing criminal charges in connection with an in-custody death last month has raised more than $30,000 since going live Tuesday.

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the officers’ union, created a relief fund on the website GoFundMe for Metropolitan Police Department officer Kenneth Lopera, who has been placed on unpaid leave since the department announced Monday it was pursuing charges of involuntary manslaughter and oppression under the color of office against him.

Tashii Brown, 40, died in custody after being stunned with a Taser seven times and placed in an unapproved chokehold for more than a minute during a struggle on the Strip. The Clark County coroner’s office determined the unarmed man died of asphyxiation due to police restraint and labeled the death a homicide.

The death has led to a protest on the Strip and calls from local civil rights group for Metro to change its policies, but the situation also has spurred a lot of support from the community.

“It’s pretty cool,” association President Steve Grammas said of the fundraiser. “It’s the first time our union has ever done something like this.”

The union is covering all of Lopera’s legal expenses, but Lopera still has to provide for his family, Grammas said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the fundraiser had collected $31,750 in donations from 265 people with a goal of $150,000. The fundraiser page has been shared at least 1,700 times.

The comments accompanying donations on the site are full of encouragement. Many of the donations were made by fellow officers, but Grammas said there’s a mix of support from friends, family members and even strangers.

“You don’t know me, but I’ve got your back,” read a comment on a donation for $50.

Another comment said policing is a difficult profession, so officers need to feel supported.

“More importantly, we must earn the trust of the good men and women who will replace us. They must know that we’ll stand with them through the best and worst if we expect them to accept the risks that come with this profession,” the comment read.

The North Las Vegas Police Officers Association donated $500 to the fund.

“We donated simply to show unity,” union President Mike Yarter said.

He said his association does not have all the facts on the case, but he feels Metro leadership forced the district attorney’s hand in filing criminal charges against Lopera.

“That’s why my folks donated,” Yarter said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday obtained a copy of a police report that outlined several policy violations as well as the probable cause for Lopera’s arrest.

“We think there’s some things in there that definitely aren’t factual,” Grammas said of the arrest report.

He denied Metro’s claim that Lopera held Brown in a chokehold uninterrupted for more than a minute and said the officer changed arm positions during the struggle.

“Once you release that secondary arm, you release the hold,” he said.

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0391. Follow @WesJuhl on Twitter.

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