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Las Vegas police officer arrested in dispute with neighbor

The disputes had been brewing for years. Restraining orders were filed. Threats were issued. Police were called dozens of times. In one corner, the Trice family. In the other, the Smith family.

Both families have young children. But only one has a police officer.

The rivalry between the next-door neighbors came to a head over Labor Day weekend, when Lourdes Smith, a 36-year-old Las Vegas police officer, was caught on the Trice family’s surveillance video aiming a rifle-shaped BB gun at one of the cameras and firing.

She missed — by about 8 inches — but it was enough for Henderson police to charge Smith with two misdemeanor charges of damaging other property and using an imitation firearm in a manner that would be threatening if the firearm was real.

She turned herself in to police last week and was arrested, and now her own department has launched an internal investigation into the matter. The Metropolitan Police Department announced Friday she has been reassigned from the South Central Area Command’s patrol division to an administrative job where she will not have contact with the public.

Nobody answered the door Friday at Smith’s home on the 2300 block of Teton Ranch Avenue in Green Valley, a well-kept neighborhood of large two-story homes valued in the mid-$300,000 range.

But next door, the Trices wanted to talk about what they’ve been through over the last few years. They’ve felt they were going up against the system, with a police officer living next door who seemed to them to receive favorable treatment from Henderson police who were called out so often.

“I’ve suffered and endured for so long, I’m a nervous wreck, and I just want people to know the truth,” Victoria Trice, 36, said, fighting back tears.

Since August 2007, Henderson police had been called to the two homes 33 times. Information wasn’t available Friday on how many calls were initiated by either party.

When the Trices found their car one morning with two nails in the tires, they called police. When Lourdes Smith allegedly threatened Trice that “If you put a toe on my property, I will shoot you until you stop moving,” as Trice claims, they called police.

Nothing came of all the calls. When the two families met in court, a judge told them to simply ignore each other and get along.

“Would you feel safe?” Trice said. “The police don’t believe you. You’re a liar.”

Henderson police spokesman Todd Rasmussen said the number of calls was unusually high, but not unheard of among neighbor disputes. He said these types of situations can be hard for police to handle.

“Neighborhood disputes are very difficult to deal with because it’s one person’s word against another,” he said. “And as police officers, we can only take action when probable cause exists to make an arrest.”

Trice said the feud started the first time she went to meet her next-door neighbors, after the Trices moved to the neighborhood in 2006. Steven Smith was rude, she said, and it all went downhill from there. After the tires were flattened in 2007, Victoria Trice’s husband, Curtis, installed security cameras on the outside of the house.

Two were aimed at the driveway. One was on the balcony in the backyard, aimed at the Smith’s backyard. And another was on the side of the house, aiming at the block wall dividing the two properties and parts of both backyards.

Things calmed down after that but the tension between the two families was still there, the Trices said. The Smiths erected large blue and green tarps to try to block the camera’s views.

In August, the Trices said they started occasionally hearing popping sounds of BB guns in their neighbor’s backyard. Pellets ended up in the Trice’s backyard, and in some cases landed in their pool, rusting and leaving red stains on the bottom, they said.

Then, on Sept. 6, the Trices were in their back yard when they said they heard the guns again. They called police, who listened to both families and left.

Not more than 10 minutes later, Curtis Trice heard the pop of the BB gun and a ping as it hit the side of the house. He checked the surveillance camera on the side of the house and it caught her on video, so he called police again.

The video, shown to the two officers who arrived, shows Lourdes Smith walking in her backyard, with the rifle-shaped BB gun in her hand. She then stops, looks at the camera and aims.

The camera recorded the sound of the shot and the sound of the pellet hitting the house. It also recorded her strutting away and raising one of her hands in what police described in her arrest report as a “taunting gesture.”

When police confronted Lourdes Smith, she became “very irate and defensive,” using expletives and denying shooting the house, according to the police report.

“I’m telling you now you’d better call your supervisor or whoever you need to because I’m about to lose my (expletive) mind,” the report quotes her as saying.

Police obtained an arrest warrant and she turned herself in on Sept. 17.

If convicted, she will have to pay for the estimated $250 in damage and could face up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

The Trices say they feel a little better because justice has been served. But that won’t be what ends the dispute.

No, the Trices have joined the thousands of others in the valley forced to foreclose on their home. They’re moving, to a rental home in a gated community, and that will bring the rivalry to an end.

“We waited 15 years for this house. Now, for the first time in 15 years, I’m going to be a renter,” Victoria Trice said.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. �

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