Las Vegas Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter For Choking Man To Death
On May 14, 2017 at about 1 a.m., 40-year old Tashii Brown (also known by the last name Farmer) approached police offficer Kenneth Lopera of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Lopera and another officer were in a coffee shop in the Venetian which is located in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.
According to police, Tashii asked them if they knew where a drinking fountain was located and said that people were chasing him. He then abruptly ran through an employee-only area. Lopera gave chase. When he caught up with Tashii, he was trying to unlatch the tailgate of an occupied pickup truck. Lopera believed that Tashii was trying to carjack the truck, and he tased Tashii. The driver later told investigators that he did not think he was being carjacked.
Lopera shocked Tashii 7 times. Body cam video from the incident shows Tashii writhing on his back in pain with his hands in the air as Lopera commanded him to roll onto his stomach. Lopera hit Tashii with a closed fist several times in the head and face. He then put Tashii in a chokehold and held him in that chokehold until other officers arrived. Body cam video shows that another officer told Lopera to release his chokehold on Tashii, but Lopera continued the hold for another 46 seconds.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Lopera asked the other officer, “Is he out yet?”
“Let him go, Ken,” the officer is heard saying.
“Are you sure?” Lopera said.
“Yeah,” the officer replies 3 minutes and 26 seconds into the struggle. The exchange between the two officers can be heard clearly when the sound from previously released body camera footage is enhanced.
The investigation found that the taser’s prongs attached to Tashii’s lower back caused “neuromuscular incapacitation” that would have made it difficult for him to move.
Tashii was pronounced dead at the Sun Trauma Center at 1:39 a.m.
Initially, police described the maneuver Lopera used as a “lateral vascular neck restraint,” designed to restrict blood flow to a person’s brain by compressing neck arteries rather than cutting off the airway. The technique is used by police departments around the country, including the Las Vegas police department, and is not considered deadly force. However, investigators later found that Lopera used a “rear naked choke” on Tashii. It is a martial arts technique and is not authorized by Las Vegas police.
The coroner found that Tashii died of asphyxiation related to police restraint. Tashii suffered from an enlarge heart and at the time of the incident, was high on methamphetamines.
Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said
“The charges are the result of the coroner’s findings, along with evidence gathered from video surveillance, body-worn cameras and witness statements.”
Officer Kenneth Lopera, who is 31-years old, has been charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of oppression under the color of office. Investigators found that Lopera violated policy when chasing Tashii because he was committing no crime. If convicted, Lopera faces a maximum of 4 years in state prison on each charge. Lopera is currently on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the case and findings of a separate administrative investigation.
Tashii’s family is represented by attorney Andre Lagomarsino.
The following video is graphic.
Arrest report. Violations begin on page 7