Resignation follows breach of policy

A forensic scientist with Las Vegas police resigned Thursday after an internal investigation found that he had allowed a convicted felon inside the department’s crime lab, an act described as “a major policy violation.”

Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn confirmed the resignation of David Witkowski, who had been employed with the Metropolitan Police Department for almost 12 years. Witkowski was placed on paid administrative leave June 4.

Flynn, who oversees internal affairs, said Witkowski led a man through parts of the lab without notifying his supervisor. Flynn said the security breach occurred in the fall of 2007.

Flynn confirmed that the man who was allowed inside the crime lab was a convicted felon. He did not identify the man or provide details of his criminal history.

He said the department found out about the incident in June and immediately placed Witkowski on paid leave. Flynn would not say how the department learned of the unauthorized tour.

No evidence in the crime lab was compromised, he said.

“There’s no reason to believe anything was missing or tampered with,” Flynn said. “It’s a major policy violation.”

Flynn said that to his knowledge, the incident is the first time in his seven years of overseeing the crime lab that such a thing has happened.

Witkowski, whose annual salary was $98,945.60, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

A source with knowledge of the incident said the felon allowed into the crime lab was Francisco Gavaldon. According to a Los Angeles Times story, Gavaldon was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison in 2000 for a failed attempt to have his estranged wife killed.

Flynn said Witkowski committed two violations of department policies: neglect of duty, which happened when Witkowski allowed a person into the facility without notifying a supervisor, and consorting with a person of ill repute.

Flynn called the internal investigation of the incident “exhaustive.”

He emphasized that Witkowski’s major transgression was leading an unauthorized tour. People often tour the lab, he said, but those activities need to be authorized by the proper personnel.

Flynn said Witkowski did not commit a criminal act.

Sgt. John Loretto said the southwest valley crime lab, at 5555 Badura Ave., near the Las Vegas Beltway and Decatur Boulevard, handles a variety of cases from property crimes to homicides.

He said 45 scientists work at the lab performing DNA testing, fingerprint testing, footwear analysis, toxicology testing and ballistics testing.

The crime lab also does work for other Southern Nevada law enforcement agencies, Loretto said.

Flynn said Witkowski worked as a chemist, testing substances confiscated from suspects to determine what drugs they had in their possession. He said there was zero indication that any evidence had been tampered with during the unauthorized tour.

Flynn and Loretto emphasized that Witkowski had limited access to the lab.

“Scientists only have access to their particular disciplines,” Flynn said. “He didn’t have access to DNA labs or firearm examinations.”

Loretto confirmed that. “There are codes and security measures to get from one section to another.”

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

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