The Clark County district attorney’s office has charged two Las Vegas police officers involved in a May fatal crash with reckless driving, officials said Wednesday.
Officer Aron Carpenter faces felony reckless driving and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for his role in the May 19 death of 26-year-old Ivan Carrillo.
Officer Andrew Charles Ubbens faces misdemeanor reckless driving.
Because of the severity of the charge, Carpenter, a four-year Metropolitan Police Department veteran, has been shifted from paid to unpaid leave pending the outcome of his trial.
Ubbens remains on paid leave.
Both officers are accused of ignoring their sergeant’s commands to stop their pursuit of Carrillo, who was suspected of drunken driving.
A coroner’s toxicology report released in August showed Carrillo had "acute methamphetamine intoxication."
According to a police report, Carpenter 29, and Ubbens, 26, ignored three commands to discontinue the pursuit. Ubbens attempted to end the chase by using the Precision Intervention Technique, also called PIT, to bump Carrillo’s car and spin it out of control. However, Carrillo regained control and continued to drive.
Carpenter is alleged to have radioed to his sergeant that he and Ubbens had broken off the chase, when they had not.
Later in the chase, Carpenter’s vehicle struck Carrillo’s and spun it into traffic, where three other vehicles were struck. One driver was injured and hospitalized. Although Carpenter’s and Carrillo’s cars hit in precisely the way a PIT is done, Carpenter maintains he was not trying to do the maneuver, police said.
Carpenter steered to the right because he perceived that Carrillo was moving into his travel lane, the report said, and investigators agreed with Carpenter’s account.
Ubbens, who has been a Las Vegas police officer since February 2008, is accused of lying during the internal investigation, in which he said he never attempted a PIT on Carrillo’s car.
"It was only after the first interview had concluded and Officer Ubbens had time to think, did he request to change his statement," the report said.
Police recommended criminal charges against Carpenter and Ubbens last month. Neither officer can be terminated from the force until completion of the internal affairs investigation.
Deputy Chief Joseph Lombardo said Wednesday that the officers’ supervisor had told them more than once to discontinue the pursuit, as the supervisor had been trained to do.
"The officers chose to disregard the supervisor and took the matter in their own hands, and we know the results of that decision," Lombardo said.
He said the officers also turned off their lights and siren. Nevada law, as in other states, allows for police officers to disregard some traffic laws. But Lombardo said those laws don’t apply to officers when they have their lights and sirens off.
"When they chose to shut off their red lights and siren, they become a citizen. And their actions led to the wanton disregard of the public’s safety."
Review-Journal reporter Lawrence Mower contributed to this report. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.