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Taxpayers have a right to the details

Police are entrusted with the power of life and death. When things go wrong, the voters and the taxpayers deserve to be told what corrective or disciplinary action, if any, has been taken.

Thus far, all we are being told is that officer Bryan Yant has been re-assigned to a desk job.

Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn told the Review-Journal recently an internal investigation found officer Yant violated several agency policies in connection with a drug raid that ended in the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Trevon Cole. Mr. Flynn said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the disciplinary actions, but only that Mr. Yant "received discipline below the level of termination."

A coroner’s inquest jury ruled Mr. Yant’s actions in Mr. Cole’s shooting were "justified," despite the fact Mr. Yant’s testimony did not match with certain evidence.

Mr. Yant said Mr. Cole was standing and reaching forward in a shooting motion. But an assistant district attorney noted that the downward angle of the bullet through Mr. Cole’s cheek into his neck indicted a different position. Also, other officers on the raid did not hear both a door being kicked and a gunshot, suggesting the officer’s weapon accidentally discharged simultaneous with kicking in the door.

Mr. Flynn said the department’s Use of Force Board also cleared Mr. Yant in the shooting itself, though he didn’t know details of the decision.

Prior to the raid, Mr. Yant signed an affidavit for a search warrant swearing Mr. Cole was a dangerous drug dealer with a record in Texas and California. Mr. Yant apparently confused Mr. Cole with someone who was seven years older, and at least 3 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter.

Mr. Yant also swore Mr. Cole sold marijuana to undercover police or informants on four occasions. But an attorney representing Mr. Cole’s family said Mr. Cole was not even in Nevada on one of the days he is alleged to have sold pot.

The raid found no guns, only a small amount of drugs and an amount of cash Mr. Cole’s fiancee said was to pay rent.

Mr. Yant also was involved in two other shootings, one of which resulted in death.

In that case, Mr. Yant said he fired at a suspect he was chasing on foot, causing the suspect to fall to the ground. When the officer approached he said the man tried to aim his gun at him, so he fired another three or four rounds, killing him. Crime scene analysts found the suspect’s gun 35 feet away on the sidewalk. During the inquest that found that shooting justified, the location of the suspect’s weapon never came up.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie said he believes he should wait until Mr. Yant has exhausted the appeal process, at which time he plans to make public whatever disciplinary action was taken. Taxpayers and voters and citizens who interact with police deserve to be told as soon as possible, so they can judge whether the discipline fits the deeds.

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