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Las Vegas police use facial recognition to arrest assault suspect

Las Vegas police used facial recognition technology to identify a man suspected of punching another at a car show in November, fracturing the victim’s skull, according to an arrest warrant.

Ernesto Cortez, 38, was arrested Jan. 8 and charged with battery resulting in substantial bodily harm, court records show. The Metropolitan Police Department identified Cortez through facial recognition technology and surveillance footage of a man punching another at a car show near UNLV on Nov. 23, according to Cortez’s arrest warrant.

What exact facial recognition technology was used and where the data came from was unclear in the warrant.

“I utilized facial recognition technology, which is operated by trained individuals assigned to LVMPD’s Technical Operations section, and identified a subject bearing a likeness to the person in question,” wrote the detective who authored the arrest warrant.

The detective did not elaborate further on the use of facial recognition in the case.

Metro’s technical operations section also oversees ShotSpotter, a network of audio sensors designed to detect gunshots in the Las Vegas Valley, according to the department’s 2018 annual report.

The arrest stemmed from a Nov. 23 call from the victim’s son to 911 from the car show at 4800 S. Maryland Parkway to report that his father had been hit in the head and was bleeding, the warrant said. But when officers arrived in the area they could not find the man or his son.

Three days later, officers realized that a man hospitalized at University Medical Center after a reported assault was the same victim from the 911 call on Nov. 23, the warrant said.

The victim’s wife told police that her son had driven the man home after the car show, and the wife then called 911. The son told detectives that his father had argued with people at the show after he revved his car’s engine, producing black smoke.

“(Redacted) said a lot of people at the car show were upset,” the warrant said.

The man’s son then went to watch a “hop show” with his two sisters, but when they returned they found their father lying on the ground with blood on the back of his head. While driving home, the son said he had to stop multiple times for his father to vomit, the warrant said.

The warrant, requested on Dec. 5, indicated that the man injured was in critical condition and was not expected to survive. He suffered from multiple brain bleeds and a skull fracture, and was in a coma at the time of the warrant.

“Victim had brain surgery and has limited reflexes and has not shown drastic improvement,” the warrant said.

The man’s condition was unclear Saturday.

While investigating the assault, detectives found video surveillance from two businesses near the car show. The footage showed a man wearing a blue and gray hoodie and blue jeans walk up to the victim “in an aggressive manner” while the victim was talking with another person.

The man then punched the victim once, and the victim fell to the ground, the warrant said.

After Cortez was identified through facial recognition, a witness identified him in a photo lineup as the man who punched the victim, the warrant said.

The detective wrote in the warrant that the “attack was completely un provoked,” and that the warrant would be amended “if and when the victim is deceased.”

An Ernesto Cortez had previously been arrested in Clark County in October 2010 on suspicion of possession of stolen property. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor the next year, court records show.

Cortez remained in the Clark County Detention Center on Saturday with a $25,000 bail, jail records show. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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