Raid Victim Family May Hit Vegas Police with RICO Suit

(This article includes minor updates from the original version published 8/19/10.)

Andre Lagomarsino, the attorney representing the estate of Trevon Cole and his fiancé, Sequoia Pearce, said last Thursday he is considering a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit against the Las Vegas Police Metropolitan Department in the shooting death of Cole in a June drug raid at the apartment shared by Cole and Pearce. In addition to a possible RICO claim, the lawsuit would assert wrongful death, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It would also assert civil rights violations.

Trevon Cole
"We are considering a RICO claim," Lagomarsino told the Chronicle. "The claim would say there is a pattern of criminal conduct by this organization. A similar claim was brought against the LAPD. It only takes two events to constitute a pattern under RICO," he said.

There is already one other questionable police shooting that could be the second event. Last month, Las Vegas police shot and killed Erik Scott, 39, outside a Costco store in Summerlin. There have been five officer-involved shootings in the city so far this summer and 17 this year, though Cole and Scott were the only fatalities among them.

Though best known for its criminal provisions targeting certain criminal enterprises with asset forfeiture and up to 20-year sentences per racketeering count, the RICO statute also has a provision allowing for civil lawsuits by plaintiffs claiming to have been harmed by those enterprises. Successful plaintiffs can collect treble damages.

Cole was fatally wounded by Detective Brian Yant as he and other officers executed a search warrant alleging that Cole had sold 1.8 ounces of marijuana to undercover officers in three buys over a series of week. Cole was unarmed. Yant said he shot after Cole made "a furtive movement," but Pearce, who was present during the raid, said Cole was on his knees with his hands raised and complying with commands when he was shot.

Yant has been involved in two other questionable shootings, one of them fatal. In that incident, Yant said the victim was threatening him with a gun, but the gun was found 35 feet away from the victim's body.

Yant also misidentified Cole as another Trevon Cole from Houston, Texas, despite the two men having different dates of birth, middle initials, ages, and appearances. He also mischaracterized the record of the Houston Trevon Cole, portraying him in the search warrant affidavit as a major drug dealer when his only arrests were marijuana possession misdemeanors. (See more detailed coverage of the raid and its aftermath here.)

When there is a police-involved fatal shooting in Las Vegas, it goes before a coroner's inquest to determine whether the officer involved was criminally negligent. That happened on Friday and Saturday, with the coroner's jury coming back with a verdict of "justifiable" on the shooting. The finding was not unanticipated, especially given the history of coroner's inquests there (only one police officer has been found criminally negligent in about 200 inquests since 1976, and that verdict was later overturned) and the one-sided nature of the inquest process (only the district attorney can present evidence and ask questions), it is considered unlikely that Yant will be found criminally negligent.

"I would guess they will find it justified, but I'm hopeful they will look at the fact that [Cole] had nothing in his hands," Lagomarsino said the day before the inquest began.

While Lagomarsino also cited Yant's history of shootings "under suspicious circumstances," he pointed a finger at the police department too. "This is cleared at higher levels," he said. "It is the policy and procedure of the Metro police to conduct these raids the way they do."

The Las Vegas attorney told the Chronicle last week that once the inquest was over he would file a lawsuit "within two or three weeks." He told local media Monday the lawsuit will now move forward, although he did not outline its precise shape.

Las Vegas, NV
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Corrupt results, flowing from

Corrupt results, flowing from corrupt policy. Corrupt organization.

 

All this God damn horror, and people are willing to put up with it (actually, willing to make other people have to put up with it) 'cause it pisses them off that much that people might smoke pot?

I agree

You are so right TJ Lambert.

But it's not just that...   they are afraid that medical marijuana patients might actually... one day... win rights under Article IV of the constitution that guarantees legal rights of states to honor the laws of other states for those citizens with regards to legal records (doctor recommendations) and such.     

That's why Prop 19 scares them so bad... it could end up at the supreme court eventually.

But those are just my opinions... (and we all know what opinions are worth when your just an everyday citizen in this country).

Coroner Inquest is a total scam.

In the worthless Coroner's inquests only one police officer has been found criminally negligent in about 200 inquests since 1976. If that doesn't convince you, think about this: In the ONE case that the Inquest found a cop guilty, NOT one criminal charge was ever filed against that cop. After all, when the Inquest disagrees with the police and prosecutor, they are quick to tell you that the inquest has NO legal power. It is just a goofy ass process that the prosecutor can and WILL ignore.

Prohibition Sucks

We are all being terrorized because a minority of vociferous small minded bigots believe they have rights over our bodies.

We can either ask the Tooth Fairy to stop people taking drugs or we can decide to regulate them properly. Prohibition is not regulation, it's is a hideous nightmare for all of us and our families, except of course for the lowest lifeforms amongst us.

Because Drug cartels will always have an endless supply of ready cash for wages, bribery and equipment, no amount of tax money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safe again. Only an end to prohibition can do that! How much longer are we willing to foolishly risk our own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

Debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Is marijuana dangerous? I simply don't care if it is or isn't. If someone wants to destroy their lives with drugs, thats their business, not anybody else's. Their lives aren't ours to direct. We can certainly voice an opposition to drug use… but who are we to imprison people over it? which ultimately we do if we support prohibition.

Why on earth does anyone think it's acceptable to want to control certain behaviors, such as the bedroom habits or choice of poison of fully grown adults? Isn't it high time we evolved enough to get past this crap? Surely we need to accept, that the only way to truly be free, is that you agree, in return, to allow other people to be free, even if it offends your personal sensibilities. What's more; if it's not directly hurting you and you forbid it, then you can be sure that it will create unforeseen circumstances, which WILL have an adverse affect on YOUR wellbeing! -- Actually, a large proportion of those arising circumstances may not come as such a surprise to those of us who are capable of paying due attention to historical precedent.

If you support prohibition then you've helped trigger the worst crime wave in history.

If you support prohibition you've a helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

If you support prohibition you've helped to make these dangerous substances available in schools and prisons.

If you support prohibition you've helped raise gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging.

If you support prohibition you've helped create the prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords.

If you support prohibition you've helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

If you support prohibition you've helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

If you support prohibition you've helped to escalate Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

If you support prohibition you've helped to divert scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting your fellow citizens from the ever escalating violence against their person or property.

If you support prohibition you've helped overcrowd the courts and prisons, thus making it increasingly impossible to curtail the people who are hurting and terrorizing others.

If you support prohibition you've helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, controlling vast swaths of territory with significant social and military resources at their disposal.

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