48°F
weather icon Clear

RJ sues Las Vegas police for Alpine fire records

The Las Vegas Review-Journal sued the Metropolitan Police Department on Thursday for records related to the historic Alpine Motel Apartments fire.

Metro repeatedly denied requests for the records, despite extensive efforts by the newspaper to resolve the issue outside a courtroom. However, two hours after the 30-page lawsuit was filed in Clark County District Court, the agency agreed to release related 911 calls, radio traffic and “certain portions” of body camera footage at no charge.



In addition to those records, the newspaper is seeking incident reports and witness and officer statements related to the blaze, which broke out early Dec. 21 inside a rundown apartment building in downtown Las Vegas.

Metro has opened a criminal investigation into the city’s deadliest residential fire, which killed six people, injured 13 more and left nearly 50 people without a home.

The lawsuit came after several detailed email exchanges between attorneys for both parties regarding Metro’s failure to comply with the Nevada Public Records Act.

Reasons for denial

In its refusals, Metro cited an “open investigation” and a “balancing test” established by a 1990 state Supreme Court decision — now a common method of blocking public access to government records. Donrey of Nevada v. Bradshaw allowed governments to withhold records not deemed confidential if officials decide secrecy is in the best interest of the public.

The newspaper’s lawsuit also came a day after Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s annual State of Metro address. The majority of media outlets in the Las Vegas Valley, including the Review-Journal, were not invited to the event.

During his roughly hourlong address, which was livestreamed by KLAS-TV, Channel 8, on its website, Lombardo characterized the volume of public records requests submitted to Metro as a “challenge” that his agency has “to deal with.”

“I can only imagine it’s going to get worse, and it’s almost getting to where a huge amount of our resources is not helping what our mission is,” he said. “It’s just for that zest for information for people to have it, and ability for them to sue us in the justice system for our failure to act. That’s one of the challenges we have to deal with.”

A similar request for Las Vegas Fire Department 911 calls and radio traffic was granted by city officials.

Other city records previously obtained by the newspaper regarding the Alpine fire, for example, also revealed that the building had not been inspected by the Las Vegas Fire Department for nearly three years. This week, city officials vowed to implement a proactive fire inspection and enforcement plan for residential hotels and motels.

Newspaper reaction

“If Las Vegas police simply complied with state law, the department would have significantly more resources for policing,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said Thursday. “Instead, Metro dedicates personnel to fighting transparency and spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on outside attorneys despite loss after loss in court.”

The Review-Journal previously sued Metro for records related to sex trafficking and the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting, gaining court-ordered access to public information in each case.

“How and why the Alpine fire happened and how law enforcement responded are matters of public concern, and the public has the right to know all the facts. It’s unfortunate that Metro is so resistant to transparency and litigation had to be filed to vindicate the people’s right to know,” said Maggie McLetchie, the Review-Journal’s attorney.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
New Real ID requirements
What you need to know about the Real ID's and why it may be important for you to have one if you don't have a passport.
Major US 95 road project in downtown Las Vegas could cost $1B - VIDEO
The Nevada Department of Transportation wants to reconfigure a 4-mile portion of U.S. 95 between Rancho Drive and Mojave Road at an estimated cost of $1 billion. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Double amputee veteran climbs stairs at Strat
Travis Strong, who lost both of his legs by a bomb in Baghdad in 2006, climbed 108 levels and 1,455 stairs at the Strat. The event brought 1,000 climbers out to raise money for the American Lung Association in Nevada.
Why does the vote count take so long?
RJ political reporter Rory Appleton discusses the vote counting process and why it takes so long.
Doolittle Community Center hosts caucuses - VIDEO
The Doolittle Community Center hosted six precincts in one room for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, and voters engaged in debate and discussion about who to lead each precinct, Feb. 22, 2020. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day in Summerlin - VIDEO
Out-of-state caucus observer Ken Valz speaks about the Nevada Democratic caucuses at Palo Verde High School, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day at East Last Vegas Community Center - VIDEO
Registration begins at the East Las Vegas Community Center for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High - VIDEO
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High in Henderson, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Thousands gather for Trump rally
Thousands showed up for President Donald Trump’s rally Friday morning, forming a line that stretched nearly a quarter mile around the Las Vegas Convention Center.
President Trump speaks to the graduates of the Hope for Prisoners program in Las Vegas - VIDEO
President Donald Trump, along with the founder/CEO of Hope for Prisoners, John Ponder, and Las Vegas Metro Police Department officials, spoke to the graduates of the program, encouraging them to get back into society to be successful, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (James Schaeffer and Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidates go after Michael Bloomberg
Tonight’s 2020 Democratic Debate was a full-blown attack on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Candidates attacked his past policies, his record with stop and frisk and his billionaire status garnishing him a spot on the presidential trail, all while defending their own policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pigeons wearing MAGA hats in Las Vegas - VIDEO
A flock of pigeons wearing Make America Great Again hats and one sporting a Donald Trump hairdo invaded downtown Las Vegas late Tuesday, following their release by an anonymous group: P.U.T.I.N. (Pigeons, United to Interfere Now). (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tuesday is last day to early vote in Nevada Democratic caucuses - VIDEO
Early voting in the Nevada Democratic caucuses ends Tuesday, with sites open throughout Clark County. (Michael Quine and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Senator Amy Klobuchar Interview with RJ Editorial Board
Sen. Klobuchar speaks with the Las Vegas Review Journal Editorial Board regarding key points to her campaign strategies for Nevada and for the country.
North Las Vegas school holds vigil for 2 children hit by pickup - VIDEO
Dozens of parents and students took part in a candlelight vigil at a North Las Vegas school Saturday night on behalf of two young students struck by a truck at a nearby crosswalk. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two years until “I Do” - VIDEOY
Las Vegas locals Sam Cruz and Jeff Gaglione discuss their engagement, in their future wedding venue at Emerald at Queensridge in Las Vegas, on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @elipagephoto
Visible progress on Henderson community ice arena
Construction crews are making visible progress on a Vegas Golden Knights community ice arena in downtown Henderson.
Video shows man stealing money gifts from Las Vegas wedding - VIDEO
A man sneaked into a wedding Saturday in the western Las Vegas Valley and stole most of the monetary gifts, according to the groom’s sister. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fire closes Nellis Boulevard in northeast Las Vegas - VIDEO
Authorities said a vacant mobile home caught fire Tuesday afternoon and spread to adjectment mobile homes, according to a news release from the Clark County Fire Department. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Alpine Motel Apartment residents want belongings left behind in fire
District Judge Rob Bare began hearing arguments Tuesday afternoon to decide if former residents of the Alpine Motel Apartments can finally collect the belongings they were forced to abandon as they escaped a deadly December fire.
Missing hiker's sister on staying hopeful - Video
Karsta Lucas, the sister of Ronnie Lucas, a hiker missing at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, said Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, that family members remain hopeful the 33-year-old diabetic will be found safe despite spending two nights in the open without his insulin. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Search continues for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Volunteers come out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area west of Las Vegas to help find a hiker, Ronnie Lucas, who went missing on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas High School Alumni Association helps historic school - VIDEO
Rollie Gibbs, a 1954 graduate and president of the Las Vegas High School Alumni Association, talks about the school's history and his group's donation to help preserve what is now called Las Vegas Academy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Search for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Red Rock Search & Rescue is looked for the missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on Monday, Feb. 10, 2010. The man was reported missing on Sunday. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CITYPAK distributes backpacks to homeless people in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The CITYPAK Project held a backpack distribution event at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fire injures one at Bridger Inn Hotel in downtown Las Vegas - VIDEO
Anna Ramirez, a resident the Bridger Inn Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, tells her experience of getting out of the building during a fire early Friday morning, Feb. 7, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Fire Department change of command ceremony - VIDEO
Outgoing Clark County Fire Department Chief Greg Cassell turns over command of the department to incoming Chief John Steinbeck during a ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
South Korea flight lands in Las Vegas after first diverted to L.A. - VIDEO
Three passengers aboard a Las Vegas-bound flight from Seoul were screened in Los Angeles after customs officials flagged them for traveling through China recently amid a global reaction to the coronavirus. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police briefing about Excalibur fire
Las Vegas police say a sexual assault and hotel fire Wednesday morning at the Excalibur are connected. (Alexis Egeland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coronavirus medical supplies sent to China from Las Vegas law office
Legal assistant Michelle Zhang, who has family in China working in hospitals affected by the coronavirus, talks about responding to requests for medical supplies during an interview at the law offices of Eric K. Chen in Las Vegas Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Fire spokesman brief media on apartment fire
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Spokesman Tim Szymanski updates news media about apartment fire. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Teens burglarize Summerlin home
Dr. Paul Wilkes’ Summerlin home was robbed while his realtor gave a group a tour during an open house on Sunday. The crime was captured on his home surveillance system.
Fire at Las Vegas Apartment
A fire caused heavy damage to an apartment building in the west Las Vegas Valley on Tuesday afternoon, officials said. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ready to enforce homeless camping ban - VIDEO
Las Vegas police will begin enforcing a controversial camping ban on city streets on Saturday, but officials say they expect to impose the penalties available under the new ordinance only in rare instances. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officials celebrate opening of Las Vegas park named for slain officer - Video
Top public officials came together Friday morning to celebrate the grand opening of Officer Alyn Beck Memorial Park in the northwest valley, named after a police officer killed in the line of duty in 2014. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wrong-way driver causes fatal crash near Las Vegas airport, authorities say - VIDEO
A suspected impaired motorist driving the wrong way on the Airport Connector caused a crash that killed another driver near McCarran International Airport early Friday morning, Jan. 17, 2020, according to law enforcement. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The car that Tupac was shot in is for sale - VIDEO
The vehicle that legendary rapper Tupac Shakur was riding in when he was shot after a boxing match in Las Vegas is up for auction. The black 1996 BMW 7 Series is listed by Celebrity Cars Las Vegas for $1.75 million. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST