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Cop Cleared in Killing of Unarmed Man in Marijuana Raid

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #646)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

The Las Vegas police officer who shot an unarmed Trevon Cole during a June drug raid over small-time marijuana sales was justified, a coroner's inquest found Saturday night. The ruling came late in the evening after an inquest that was supposed to end Friday dragged through the day and into the night Saturday. (See our recent coverage of the case here and of a looming lawsuit over the killing here.)

Trevon Cole and his fiance Sequoia Pearce, nine
months pregnant at time of shooting
Of about 200 Clark County coroner's inquests in officer-involved killings since 1976, only one has resulted in a finding of criminal negligence. Whether that near-perfect percentage of acquittals results from exceptionally good police work in Las Vegas, or an inadequate process and institution, depends on who one asks.

Cole, 21, and his pregnant fiancé, Sequoia Pearce, were at the apartment they shared when police serving a search warrant burst through their door. Cole was shot in the bathroom by Det. Bryan Yant, who, in testimony Saturday afternoon, said he kicked in the bathroom door and saw Cole squatting by the toilet, apparently flushing marijuana. He said Cole rose to his feet while moving his hands in a shooting motion and that he saw something silvery or metallic in Cole's hand. He then fired once, killing Cole.

"Unfortunately, he made an aggressive act toward me," said Yant under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens. "He made me do my job."

Owens questioned Yant sharply at times, suggesting that Yant's weapon had accidentally discharged as he came through the door. Owens cited the position of Cole's body on the floor and the downward trajectory of the bullet as it entered his cheek before lodging in his neck, which suggested that Cole was still kneeling when shot.

No gun or other silvery or metallic objects were found in the bathroom. But clutched in one of Cole's hands was a yellow tube of lip balm.

The inquest also heard testimony about errors in the search warrant application written by Det. Yant, in which he misidentified Cole as another Trevon Cole -- from a different city, with a different date of birth, different middle initial, and a dramatically different physical description. Yant also mischaracterized the other Trevon Cole's police record as including drug trafficking offenses, when all that came up was some possession misdemeanors.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent asked Sgt. John Harney, who led the team conducting the raid, if he agreed that Yant's work on the affidavit was "sloppy," but Harney said, "No, it was a mistake."

Immediately after the verdict was announced, Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie issued a statement saying that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's internal investigation continues and that until it is completed, the department's SWAT team, "which trains regularly and is well-suited for high-risk operations," will be handling all forced entry search warrants.

"The Department will examine the narcotics investigation; supervision that led to the identification of Mr. Cole as a suspected narcotics dealer; all related policies and procedures pertaining to the writing and serving of the search warrant; and the decisions made by officers assigned to this incident," the statement said. "The results of Metro’s internal investigation, and any recommended policy changes, will be made public."

In the meantime, the family of Trevon Cole is preparing a lawsuit alleging wrongful death, civil rights violations, and possibly a RICO claim. Talk is cheap; paying for questionable police killings is not.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


thewhitegorilla (not verified)

So sad an unnecessecary. It is just a weed and they can't lock us all up can they ? If so who will work to pay them? It is past time to give up this charade before it takes even one more life.

Tha gorilla

Sun, 08/22/2010 - 3:38pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

In reply to by thewhitegorilla (not verified)

If cops that do " Dynamic Entries" had Hat Cams, we would know what happened in that bathroom in LVGS. Motorcross dudes have `em. Cops on patrol have `em. Imagine see`ing a cop shoot an innocent , un-armed man in the face, kneeling on the bathroom floor,  on CNN. Murder INC., courtesy of the Drug War. Taxpayer funded.

Tue, 08/24/2010 - 12:50am Permalink
OLD VET (not verified)

surprise surprise surprise .the murders continue

Sun, 08/22/2010 - 4:41pm Permalink
Any mouse (not verified)

Even if this was the right Trevor Cole, and even if he was sitting on 20 pounds of cannabis, that officer's bullet took more human life than all the marijuana ever grown or smoked throughout history.

And the officer is cleared of charges.

Good luck, Las Vegas.

Sun, 08/22/2010 - 6:30pm Permalink
True Republican (not verified)

The judge that signs the warrant must be held accountable if the basis for the warrant turns out to be bogus. Law enforcement can no longer be trusted to protect and serve in cases where marijuana is concerned due to the federal funding from the DEA. When the federal government provides funds to local law enforcement toward marijuana eradication the needed funding promotes risky, unnecessary and unwarranted practices. Unfortunately another life was taken never to be given an opportunity to make different choices.
Sun, 08/22/2010 - 7:15pm Permalink
hk (not verified)

so his job is to shoot unarmed people in their own bathrooms after obtaining warrants based on false information?


god help us all.

Sun, 08/22/2010 - 10:02pm Permalink
Bast Hotep (not verified)

In reply to by hk (not verified)

In this case, it seems that his job is to simply execute anyone he doesn't like or is found at the scene or is black or is suspected of anything. "He breathed hard! --- bang!"

Why do so many governments think it's their right to tell people how to medicate or even entertain themselves?

Drink ethanol, which poisons your body, numbs your mind, destroys your brain cells and makes many people violent: Good

Smoke dried flowers from a plant with 1001 uses to society, which calms people down and helps them actually enjoy life: Bad

Go figure.

Mon, 08/23/2010 - 4:33pm Permalink
Rizoe79 (not verified)

Another unjustified police killing in corrupt LV to top it off over a weed that grows naturally....better off in cali where it will soon become legal come November!
Sun, 08/22/2010 - 11:27pm Permalink

This incompetent Police Officer needs to be charged with Manslaughter just like that BART Police Officer who "accidentally" killed Oscar Grant in Oakland this past Summer. This Police Officer essentially killed another human being over the possession of a plant. We cannot let these trigger-happy Police Officers get away with "legalized murder". Some Police Officers have abused their power for far too long; they bring shame & suspicion upon the good Police Officers who do their jobs. 

If you disagree, the burden of defense is upon you: the taking of a life over a plant! 

Call in the ACLU & the NAACP, now!

Mon, 08/23/2010 - 1:09am Permalink
mary james (not verified) protect and serve who exactly?

methinks it's to protect the PTB from "we the people".

Mon, 08/23/2010 - 8:29am Permalink
rita (not verified)

Trevor Cole was not killed "over a plant."  Police do not kill people "over drugs" at all; they kill people because they can. 

Mon, 08/23/2010 - 3:10pm Permalink
Someone (not verified)

@newageblues - You could care less huh? So you must care some already to be able to care less then? I'll let David Mitchell help you out with this one.

Tue, 08/24/2010 - 3:15am Permalink
Stoney13 (not verified)

In reply to by Someone (not verified)

Woa there Someone! That's not what newageblues said at all! The whole fact of the matter is this person said Las Vegas could care less! This cop walking free is proof positive of that! Newageblues DOES care, as do I! Read it over! I'm sorry, but you're wrong coming down on somebody like that!

Tue, 08/24/2010 - 10:42am Permalink
newageblues (not verified)

the comment, but IMO the phrases "could care less" and "couldn't care less" mean the same thing in common usage, but "could care less" is a punchier (shorter), even more sarcastic way of putting it. Since no one uses the phrase "could care less" in its literal meaning, the meaning is clear, except to sticklers. I know very well what the literal meaning of the phrase is (so I'll skip the tutorial), I just don't care about that. Language isn't just for using correctly or incorrectly, it's also for playing around with, and being inventive.

Tue, 08/24/2010 - 1:21pm Permalink
Kelli (not verified)

Why am I not surprised at this. Did this boy die for nothing? I'm a criminology major at CCSU, and I hear about this kind of stuff all the time. The description between the two Trevors was totally different.Even the middle name was different. I suggest that all warrants include the following, especially in this type of case where two individuals have the same name. These should be minimum requirements

Full name: meaning first, entire middle name last name, and Jr. Sr. I, II, III etc

Date of Birth, Place of Birth

Body Markings: tattoos, scars, even freckles and birthmarks, height, weight

I realize that the extra typing is a lot of work, but if it saves a life, so what!!

Thu, 08/26/2010 - 12:03pm Permalink
Name withheld … (not verified)

The police and the politicans no longer work for the people in this country. Their disregard for the law has become so brazen I look upon them with disgust after 40 years of believing they were the "good guys." A friend of mine, whom I grew up knowing, recently introduced me to her recently wedded husband. As I shook his hand he stated "Hi, I'm (name here), I work for Metro Vice, I get paid to have lap dances all day." Huh? What a thing to say to someone you've never met before. After washing my hands I thought it was extremely poor judgement on his part but after hearing about their exspensive new home I have a another opinion of him. How does a single income police officer live in a home valued at $600,000 on today's market? That was answered when I heard the name of a prominent club owner mentioned at dinner. Like I said, brazen disregard for the law.

Thu, 08/26/2010 - 5:11pm Permalink
Moonrock (not verified)

but in the likely event that we are unable to get our corrupt government to go for "hatcams", how about "cheap cams everywhere we want them to be, recording everything all the time"? I don't imagine that a jury would rule in favor of an officer who opens a door and immediately fires upon whoever happens to be there, particularly if they can see it happening precisely that way. Technically, I don't believe this is unavailable, though I'm not sure about how much a whole-house system would cost. I'm certain that if the price could be brought down to $50 or less, many millions of people could be convinced that this is a better security device than any weapon for detering unnecessary police violence and holding officers accountable for incompetence. Preferably the cams should be concealed and even networked so that the video is uploaded in real-time: evidence is difficult to destroy if one cannot locate the camera, its connection to the internet, or the data itself. In addition, encryption is very useful for making the data opaque.

Thu, 08/26/2010 - 5:55pm Permalink
KIng Pothead (not verified)

This piece of shit police officer should be in prison!  And I hope Trevon Cole's family sues Las Vegas, the police force and Wild Bill Bad Cop personallly.  And I hope they get a shitload of money!  This is disgraceful!  And sadly, this shit begins to happen more frequently in nations drifting towards fascism, as the U.S.A. is.  It's time to wake up and fight people.  Unless we do, events like this will become commonplace.

Thu, 08/26/2010 - 9:34pm Permalink
Rick (not verified)

This state, county, and country needs gun control: Take them away from law enforcement. These are the biggest source of violent gun deaths and if you study enough of the instances when police, at all levels, discharge their firearms, you discover just how stupid, narrow-minded, John Wayne types most cops are.

When you hear a cop say he/she was just doin' his/her job, that is cop-speak for killin' or harrassin' or destroying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Law enforcement, legislators, judges are the biggest threat to freedom in this country.

And the bought and paid for media supports their assault on individual liberty, instead of doing what the 1st Amendment protects them to do: watch guard the government and expose its tendencies toward tyranny.

Fri, 08/27/2010 - 9:13am Permalink
Moonrock (not verified)

In reply to by Rick (not verified)

with what you say, Rick, but you need to be realistic. I'm highly doubtful you could convince any government body that their police should go unarmed in a country where the populous is armed. However, if you want to start a movement I'll back you. Since you aren't part of the "bought and paid for media" you at least have a chance of accomplishing what you set out to do. All you need to do is get enough people to support what you're proposing. The mere fact that you could do this, that we can even have this conversation, is the strongest refutation of the "tendency toward tyranny" that I can imagine.

Fri, 08/27/2010 - 2:10pm Permalink
Rwofl (not verified)

Can Police non-lethal weapons Lead to More Violence?

Prior to police having access to non-lethal weapons, they were restrained, police could not lawfully shoot demonstrators causing an unlawful disturbance. And when Police used batons or visible tear gas to deal with protesters they often caused injury and ended up on the Six O’clock News.

Increasingly as police turn to non-lethal weapons they are reported on the news using Taser Guns and other supposed non-lethal weapons against Citizens when it isn’t justified, because they can. It was recently reported that police used a Taser Gun on an uncooperative 84-year old woman while she was in bed.

Police now have Ray Guns that burn and soon laser beams that can temporarily flash-blind thousands of protesters. It is problematic police may unjustifiably use these non-lethal weapons to crush Citizens who lawfully demonstrate for or against any issue.

Historically when a government or its police have been perceived by a population as suppressing free speech, crushing lawful dissent to where Citizens are afraid to protest on the street, Citizens have been driven underground, some becoming violent against any authority that represents the state. When British forces in Northern Ireland excessively used non-lethal force against Irish Catholic populations that caused many Catholics to support or join the IRA.

Non-lethal weapons if not used appropriately by police can trigger the violence the purported non-lethal weapons were meant to stop.

Sun, 08/29/2010 - 4:26am Permalink
Pennsylvania Man (not verified)

Make no mistake folks, Police have no duty to protect you. They only enforce Laws. I was unaware that marijuana is rationale to kill someone. How often are Police EVER found to have done anything wrong? They are routinely violating the Laws they Swear to uphold and Murder people when they feel like it, even caged dogs aren't safe from these "Law Enforcement", tax funded killers. Even when it is documented on video, these "shoot first ask questions later" Police are Rarely ever found Guilty of Murder, in fact they are regarded as Hero's??? I have no respect for Law enforcement, having dealt with them personally, only 1 in 10 may be Honest people and yet society just sits there saying how horrible the Police killings are rather than protest their contempt for Laws or human life. Marijuana never killed anyone, but it sure has gotten a lot of people killed. They build more prisons and hire more Police while important public services go unfunded in their lust for "justice". I have never been in trouble with the law and have a concealed carry permit as proof. If no one complains, the unjustified killings and abuse of power will continue. When it happens to someone you love maybe you'll act, until then you'll just say how sad it is.

Mon, 08/30/2010 - 12:56pm Permalink

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