North Las Vegas civil rights lawsuit settled

A North Las Vegas corrections officer has accepted $17,500 to settle a 2007 civil rights lawsuit against the city of North Las Vegas and its Police Department.

Marvin Eastman, who gained fame as a professional fighter, claimed North Las Vegas police officers unlawfully arrested him in May 2006 and booked him into the same jail where he had worked for the previous nine years.

Eastman filed a federal lawsuit in connection with the incident in December 2007. He had sought at least $225,000 in damages, claimed the defendants took their actions in accordance with a “de facto” policy “to summarily punish persons in an unlawful manner without corroborating information and without rightful authority of law and by the use of excessive force.”

The parties and their lawyers filed a stipulation for dismissal of the case on Tuesday. All have declined comment.

Eastman played football at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for two years before graduating in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Nicknamed “The Beastman,” he was a five-year veteran of the Ultimate Fighting Championship at the time he filed his lawsuit.

Eastman’s encounter with North Las Vegas police occurred around 4 p.m. on May 13, 2006, in a parking lot at Mojave High School, where he and his ex-girlfriend had met to exchange custody of their teenage son.

According to his lawsuit, Eastman later discovered that someone had reported to police “that a black male was kicking, stomping, choking and punching a white female to the ground in that parking lot.”

Eastman is black; his former girlfriend, Rebecca Gonzalez, is Hispanic. He was arrested on charges of domestic battery and obstruction of a police officer, but charges were dropped.

Eastman said there was no violence and no signs of physical injury at the time of his arrest. According to his lawsuit, he was driving away when his son called him back, “noticeably distraught over an argument he was having with his mother.”

Eastman returned to the parking lot and was talking with Gonzalez in her car when five officers approached with weapons drawn, according to court papers. Eastman identified himself as a corrections officer, but officer Dwayne Miller ordered him to exit the car and lie on the ground. He said he initially complied and lay on his stomach, but “the scalding asphalt burned his legs, torso and arms” so he tried to prop himself up on his elbows and knees.

Miller then shot Eastman with a stun gun and handcuffed him. Eastman’s son and ex-girlfriend were also handcuffed and detained briefly.

At 7:20 p.m. Eastman was booked at the North Las Vegas Detention Center, where he spent 12 hours before posting bail. He said he was placed on administrative leave for 11 months, including a one-month suspension without pay, before he was allowed to return to work.

He said the suspension was based on a finding that he had engaged in misconduct by failing to comply with Miller’s command to lie flat on the ground. Eastman argued that the command was unlawful and did not require compliance.

In a 2008 interview, his attorney, Howard Gewerter, said police officials found no wrongdoing on Miller’s part.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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