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Officials show video of encounter with man who died in police custody

Updated November 22, 2022 - 7:26 am

Three of four officers who restrained a man inside a Las Vegas pharmacy, leading to his death last year, refused to give statements to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Force Investigation Team, a representative told county officials on Monday.

Reiner Sommer, 50, died on October 18, 2021, from toxic effects of methamphetamine in the setting of police restraint, and the Clark County coroner’s office ruled his death a homicide.

Sommer was inside a Walgreens bathroom at 6485 S. Fort Apache Road around 1 p.m. that day, suffering from a medical episode when the Clark County Fire Department called Metro because Sommer was combative, Force Investigation Team Detective Jason Leavitt said Monday.

Leavitt presented the body camera footage and details from the call during a fact-finding review held by Clark County officials on Monday.

After a deadly use of force or in-custody death, a police detective with the Critical Incident Review Team will investigate the use of force on the officers’ part and complete a report that is submitted to the district attorney’s office for review.

If the district attorney’s office makes a preliminary decision not to criminally charge the officers, the Force Investigation Team presents the results of that review, usually one or two years after the death.

The review gives the public a chance to ask questions about the killing, and within about two weeks, the district attorney will make a final decision about whether charges will be filed against an officer or officers in connection with a death. A report outlining the final decision is then posted on Clark County’s website.

Metro sergeants Geordinno Bagaporo and Jeffrey Blum and an officer whose was only identified as Garcia refused to speak to Leavitt’s team after Sommer’s death. Another officer, identified only as Ortega, spoke to the investigative team, but his body camera footage was not shown Monday.

The footage showed Sommer was lying on the bathroom floor inside a stall, yelling and squirming, several feet from the officers, while they discussed their plan to restrain him. Paramedics planned to give Sommer ketamine to sedate him once he was detained, Leavitt said.

“He’s definitely in a medical crisis,” Blum said while standing in the bathroom.

Officers asked, “Can we help you?” They encouraged Sommer “come out here and talk to us,” but Sommer responded “no” each time. After less than five minutes of deliberating, the four officers rushed in to the stall and held Sommer down, attempting to get his hands behind his back and handcuff him.

Sommer stopped moaning and became unresponsive while he was being handcuffed, according to the footage.

Leavitt said paramedics stepped in once Sommer was handcuffed and took him to Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center, which was across the street.

Sommer’s daughter, Taylor Sommer, sat silently in the audience of the Clark County Government Center chambers while the footage was presented.

She was among a small number of family members and friends in the otherwise empty chambers.

“I loved my father endlessly,” she wrote in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the hearing. “It was heartbreaking to watch; he didn’t deserve to die like this or to be handled like this in a clear state of mental distress.”

The officers were not required to give statements to the Force Investigation Team, but Leavitt spoke about their actions from their body camera footage, as he did not have statements to reference.

“Without having our subject officers give statements, I can’t say what their mindset was,” Leavitt said. “But (Sommer) did appear to be in his own corner of the bathroom. … Without them going hands on, he was not posing a threat to them at that time.”

The sergeants and officers have been on active duty after the Force Investigation Team’s review was complete, but the department declined to say when they were removed from paid leave.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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