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Las Vegas police investigate whether employees were in Capitol mob

Updated January 13, 2021 - 4:38 pm

Las Vegas police are investigating reports that some employees may have participated in the violent and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last week.

“As the FBI continues its investigation into the attack on the Capitol in Washington D.C. the LVMPD received information that some of its employees may have participated,” the Metropolitan Police Department said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “We intend to conduct a thorough inquiry into these allegations and will cooperate with federal officials in any way we can to aid in this investigation.”

Metro did not identify the employees who are under investigation. In response to questions Wednesday, police spokesman Larry Hadfield did not say how many officers are under investigation.

Steve Grammas, president of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, said Wednesday that no union members have told him they are under investigation, but he is aware that some officers may have traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the rally that led up to the riot.

“I believe that there were some officers back in D.C.,” he said, adding that he was not aware of any Metro employees who entered the Capitol building.

He said that if any officers are found to have participated in the riot, they could face suspension or termination.

“As long as they were doing things peacefully, just like any protest should be, they shouldn’t be facing any discipline,” he said.

Hadfield said participating in a political rally or protest does not violate department policy, as long as the officer was off duty.

The Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol by right-wing extremists and supporters of President Donald Trump forced the evacuation of lawmakers and delayed their constitutional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory for hours.

Five people died during the attack, including a police officer who was beaten and an intruder who was shot in the chest. The three other people who died suffered “medical emergencies,” D.C. police have said.

The Henderson Police Department, North Las Vegas Police Department, Boulder City Police Department, UNLV Police Department, Clark County School District Police Department, Reno Police Department, Nye County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Washoe County Sheriff’s Office all said they are not conducting similar investigations. Other law enforcement agencies in Nevada did not respond to requests for comment.

Police departments across the country are conducting similar investigations into their own employees.

The Philadelphia Police Department opened an investigation into whether one of its detectives participated in the riot, and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas is investigating a lieutenant who posted photos of herself on social media with a crowd outside the Capitol, The Associated Press reported.

The Seattle Police Department and the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland also are investigating employees. The Wall Street Journal reported that the New York Police Department’s internal affairs bureau is investigating an active member in connection with the riot.

The Army is investigating Capt. Emily Rainey, a psychological operations officer assigned to Fort Bragg, who told The Associated Press she led a group of people from North Carolina to the rally that led up to the attack.

Rainey said said she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law.

Robert Futrell, chair of UNLV’s sociology department, said it’s not surprising that law enforcement or military members may have been part of the Capitol attack, as both groups have a presence in extremist right-wing and white supremacist groups.

“The FBI has routinely warned of the notion that white supremacist and far-right groups are infiltrating law enforcement,” Futrell said.

Futrell, co-author of the 2015 book “American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate,” said researchers have noticed growth in extremist militia and far-right groups. Not all Trump supporters who were part of the riot fall into those categories, but they were “aligned close enough to be present and to participate,” he said.

Many veterans find places in extremist militias after returning from combat and searching for another “team,” he said. Law enforcement officials are likewise drawn to a group environment, and may also radicalize in response to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests.

“They feel vilified, marginalized in some way,” Futrell said. “That may push some towards kind of a more militant stance to defend themselves as individuals, and to defend law enforcement generally.”

Las Vegas police are not aware of any credible threats of violence in the valley related to Inauguration Day, but the department is moving forward with caution, Deputy Chief Andy Walsh said Monday. The FBI has warned that armed protests are being planned this week through Jan. 20 and may target state capitols across the country.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Colton Lochhead and Bill Dentzer contributed to this report.

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