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Board suggests officers’ mistakes could have been deadly

Bad tactics and poor communication nearly cost Las Vegas police officer Brian Jackson his life.

The Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday acknowledged the mistakes of Jackson’s fellow officers during a March shooting. They also revealed the steps taken to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

As promised on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Department released internal documents on a nonfatal shooting involving 56-year-old Sammie Lee Clay. The reports revealed the Use of Force Board was critical of four officers involved in the March 16 shooting at 1213 Wyatt Ave.

Five officers went to the home in response to a University Medical Center report that an 8-year-old girl had been grazed in the cheek by a bullet.

Upon arrival, the five patrol officers – Jackson, Larry Miles, Jacob Legrow, Brian Walter and Roberto Medina – spotted blood outside the residence.

Sgt. Leopoldo Aguilar, who went to the hospital to interview the victim with several other officers, via his radio ordered the officers to check inside the home in case anyone else was injured and needed medical attention.

But Aguilar and the officers had not yet interviewed the 8-year-old girl or her mother and didn’t know that Clay, the shooter, was armed inside the home and had been making drunken threats to kill his family.

Aguilar was criticized by the Use of Force Board for “misinterpreting data” and failing to obtain information on Clay’s location. The board recommended a finding of “Tactics/Decision-Making” for the supervisor, who was ordered to complete 40 hours of critical incident review training.

“The review found officer safety was compromised when officers failed to take time and ask further questions, and resulted in them entering a residence with an armed suspect who previously showed a propensity for violence,” the report said.

Legrow, a 21-year-old trainee in his fifth week on the job, kicked in the door. He took only a few steps before being met by gunfire from Clay.

Jackson, standing outside in the carport, was grazed in the head. Legrow, Walter and Miles immediately returned fire.

Medina, who witnessed the shooting, later fired three suppression shots at the corner of the residence without seeing his target.

SWAT was called, and a barricade situation developed. Jackson and the 8-year-old girl survived their minor injuries. Clay took his own life a few hours later.

Legrow and Miles both received “Tactics/Decision-Making” grades for their poor entry into the home. Medina received “Administrative Disapproval” for firing blindly at the residence, which is against department policy. Walter was given an “Administrative Approval” for his actions. Jackson, who did not fire his weapon, did not receive a grade.

Officers involved attended reality-based training at the Advanced Officer Skills Training Center specific to ambush situations and completed training in high-risk entries and training enhancement regarding officer safety tactics.

Changes to the Use of Force Review Board were made in July after a federal review of the department’s use-of-force policies. The board was found to lack accountability and transparency and rarely found fault with officers.

In the past, the department’s Use of Force Board determined whether a shooting was “justified” or “not justified.” The department changed the classifications to “administrative approval” and “administrative disapproval.” The changes are aimed at examining the totality of the officer’s actions rather than simply issuing a blanket approval or a rare disapproval.

Any finding of wrongdoing is a stark change from past boards. A Review-Journal investigation last year showed the panel was inherently skewed in favor of the officer, and it cleared officers 99 percent of the time over a 10-year span.

The department’s disclosure of internal documents is also new. In the past, the department has been reluctant to disclose details of nonfatal shootings and has kept its findings private.

“Historically, I just don’t think we’ve let the public know much about these incidents. And we’re attempting to change this,” said Sgt. Kelly McMahill on Tuesday.

Findings in all six nonfatal shootings this year will be released as the criminal cases are concluded.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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