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NLV police plead for patience, refocus shooting investigation

Patrick Harper was wearing a dark gray t-shirt the night of Sept. 5.

The gunman who fatally shot a 20-year-old woman during a marijuana deal earlier this month was wearing a white t-shirt, a North Las Vegas police report obtained by the Review-Journal stated.

Still, Harper was arrested for the crime and jailed for 12 days after several teens involved in the drug deal pinned him as the shooter.

Despite wearing different clothes than the gunman and having an alibi — security video shows Harper at an AM/PM 1.5 miles away from the scene of the shooting just minutes before it happened — North Las Vegas police as of Friday have not ruled the boy out as a suspect.

But police documents obtained by the Review-Journal and interviews with Harper, his family and his lawyer, Kristina Wildeveld, show police may have botched the initial investigation and wrongly jailed Harper.

The results of those mistakes have been tangible for Harper and his family.

He’s been suspended from Mojave High School where he played basketball and volleyball, he cannot return to the Clark County School District and his father was fired from his job with a plumbing company for missing work while defending his son.

On Friday, police asked the media and public for patience. “At this point we’re done looking in the past. We want to look to the future and we want an opportunity to investigate this case. And the more that this case continues to be tried in the media and in the public, the more it’s jeopardizing our investigation and what it’s truly doing is inhibiting our ability to actually go find the real murderer,” police spokeswoman Chrissie Coon said.

Harper still has not been ruled out as a suspect, she said.

“There was more to the investigation than what the defense was saying,” Coon said. “Our detectives are focused on the entire investigation, not just him (Harper).”

Earlier this week, prosecutors dropped the murder case against Harper after his lawyer and private investigator found the AM/PM video and showed discrepancies in the case submitted by North Las Vegas police.

Andrea Lafon was shot in the face below her left eye after a drug deal gone wrong at Small Mountain Avenue and Guinyard Street, inside a gated community near Ann and Losee roads, the night of Sept. 5.

The time of the shooting is critical to Harper’s defense. Police have publicly insisted that the shooting occurred at 7:18 p.m. and that a receipt shows Harper made a purchase at the AM/PM at 7:11 p.m.

Police have suggested Harper could have made it to the crime scene in time and say witnesses placed him in the neighborhood prior to the shooting.

However, the police reports show that 911 was called at 7:18 p.m. and the shooting likely occurred minutes earlier, at 7:15 p.m.

According to the police reports, after Lafon was shot, the woman with her got out of the car, pulled Lafon from the driver’s seat and onto the ground. The woman then waved down cars and asked them to call police. It’s not known how long that took, but police were called at 7:18 p.m.

Wildeveld and her private investigator, Toby Tobiasson, found security video at the AM/PM at Ann Road and North Fifth street showing Harper leaving the store at 7:14 p.m. and walking south on North Fifth toward Mojave High School, a block away where he was watching the football game.

The shooting happened 1.5 miles east of the convenience store.

Harper said he walked to a football game that Friday night, walked home after it was over and never had access to a vehicle. He also said that after leaving the AM/PM he made contact with two Mojave coaches who could vouch he was at the game just after the shooting occurred.

Prior to arresting Harper, detectives interviewed several teens, including a classmate of Harper, who were involved in the drug deal with Lafon. At least two teens interviewed said Harper was the gunman, according to police. Since, the classmate has in media reports recanted what he told police and said he was pressured into implicating Harper.

Wildeveld questioned the validity of the statements made by those involved in the drug deal. “I think that they set him (Harper) up. Whether or not to distract attention from themselves, I can’t answer that,” the defense lawyer said.

Harper was first pulled out of history class at Mojave High School a week after the shooting, handcuffed by police and brought in for questioning.

Harper told the Review-Journal he offered to take a drug test to prove that he’s never smoked marijuana.

Detective Jesus Prieto declined, Harper said Friday. “He was laughing at me on the way there (to the police station). I offered him a drug test on the way there,” said Harper, adding Prieto told him: “No. You’re done. Throw yourself in.”

Harper said he told Prieto that he was at the AM/PM and at the football game the night of the shooting. But detectives didn’t check out his story until after the security footage surfaced.

Despite being released from jail Tuesday, Harper remains suspended from Mojave and must go through a hearing process to be allowed to return as a student to the Clark County School District, his mother Latreavor Henderson said.

“Now I feel like he’s unprotected and I don’t really want him to go back,” Henderson said.

And his father, Wayne Patrick Harper, lost his job because he needed too much time off to help his son deal with the criminal case hanging over his head, Wildeveld said.

There remains a significant hole in the investigation: Lafon’s phone records. She contacted the people she was selling marijuana to the night she was killed several times on her mobile phone.

Police have had that phone for weeks, but have been mum about who she called.

Wildeveld — who offered to have Harper take a lie detector test, which authorities declined — said Harper’s phone did not show any call from Lafon. And she believes Lafon’s phone records will show the same thing.

Meanwhile, Coon said there is no new information in the case as of Friday. The shooting is being treated as an open murder investigation and “we’re done trying this in the court of public opinion and this is going to be tried in a court of law.”

“We want the public to know that we know that there’s a lot of questions in this case, but our detectives are working to answer those questions,” Coon said.

As for the description of what the shooter was wearing, Coon said only one witness mentioned a white shirt and that is being taken into consideration. She stressed there are several witnesses involved.

Wildeveld seemed frustrated police won’t officially remove Harper as a suspect. “They seem to be focusing their efforts on proving us wrong as opposed to finding out who the actual murderer is. Saying that they’re starting from zero, I think it’s being disingenuous.”

Review-Journal writer Mike Blasky contributed to this report. Contact Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe. Contact Ricardo Torres at rtorres@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @rickytwrites.

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