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Police settle with man who said officers used excessive force

Las Vegas police will pay $83,000 to settle a case with a tourist who alleged officers used excessive force and broke his ankle as he tried to stop an argument between two people in 2008.

The Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs approved the settlement Monday with little discussion. The board, made up of representatives from Clark County and the city of Las Vegas, authorizes police spending.

According to District Court documents, Raymond Romero was on vacation with his fiancee when they saw two people arguing around 3 a.m. Aug. 29, 2008, on the Strip. Romero tried to stop the argument. Officers Ricardo Lara and Joey Hernandez responded to break up the fight.

The officers allege they approached Romero and asked him to step aside, but he refused their request, and that’s when Lara took Romero to the ground, according to court documents. Lara and Hernandez detained and handcuffed Romero.

Romero said Lara, thinking he was part of the fight, picked him up from behind without warning and slammed him to the ground, causing the injury.

Lara made headlines in 2007 after an officer-involved shooting in which he killed 28-year-old Justin Brimmer. Police wanted to question Brimmer about a fight outside a restaurant. Lara survived being shot six times, and that shooting was ruled justified during a Clark County coroner’s inquest. Brimmer was not involved in the fight, and it was unclear why he shot at police. Lara was named the 2008 Police Officer of the Year by the National Latino Peace Officers Association, the largest Latino law enforcement organization in the country.

During a 2004 officer-involved shooting, Hernandez and another officer killed Arcangelito Contreras , who had pointed a .44-caliber revolver at officers at his home and threw a hammer at his son. Contreras, 45, was suffering from a terminal illness, and a coroner’s inquest jury ruled the shooting was justified.

The Romero settlement closes the case, but the department is not admitting liability. Funding is expected to come from the department’s self-insurance trust fund.

Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody told the Fiscal Affairs Committee that Romero lost about $35,000 in wages and about $46,000 in associated costs as a result of his injury.

“It turned out Mr. Romero was simply a passer-by who had seen the fight to which he involved himself to attempt to break it up,” Moody said. “That, of course, was not known to our officers in our initial response.”

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 455-4519.

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