‘It’s not the bullets themselves, but they are bullet casings’

Did you read the interesting five-part series in last week’s Review-Journal on fatal shootings by local Las Vegas valley police.

As ever, I’d urge folks to look not just at the 30 seconds leading up to gunfire, but to what goes on in the minutes or hours before.

Whether or not Officer Bryan Yant was wise to kick in the door of a bathroom where (now the late) Trevon Cole was flushing his minuscule pot stash down the toilet in June of 2010, when the officer had a non-functioning flashlight attached to his rifle in the night-dark apartment (remember, officers got to choose when to go in) — and according to the testimony of other officers at the scene to apparently discharge his weapon at the same moment he was kicking in the bathroom door — let’s go back a day or so earlier:

Why was a night-time SWAT raid set up to bust an unarmed, non-violent, small-time misdemeanor pot dealer? Did they really have this young man mixed up with another “Big” Cole? How did that happen, and what’s been done to stop such recklessness (or creativity) in future search-warrant affidavits? Isn’t putting false or unconfirmed information in such a sworn affidavit a crime? If so, why no prosecution? If not, why bother to require them?

A month later, why did the first officer on the scene order the assistant manager of a local Costco warehouse store to stampede all his customers out the front door with a fake fire drill, so the cops could confront and brace stoned and misbehaving Erik Scott like cowboys trying to rope one particular steer in the middle of a stampede?

Talk about “policies & procedures.” One police source tells me “It’s lucky for those officers he was a body-builder, that he had less than 3 percent body fat, because his chest muscles stopped all those bullets. If they’d shot me or you, some of those bullets would have gone through-and-through, and you might very well have had dead bystanders.”

Once the person of interest was pointed out to the first two officers on the scene, why not calmly approach him, instructing him they were all going to all walk out into the parking lot, close enough together for officers to grab his arms if necessary, to get some distance away before initiating that discussion about not carrying while stoned?

Is setting up a shoot-out in the middle of an exiting crowd still standard Metro policy? If not, why haven’t we been told?


Some of the revelations in the five-part series by Brian Haynes and Lawrence Mower actually make Metro look better.

I don’t have much patience with these letters we get, asserting “I’m not afraid of ever getting shot by a Metro cop because I would never disobey a policeman’s orders, and I would never be foolish enough to point a weapon at an officer.”

When did we reach the point where it’s a capital offense to decline to obey any policeman’s orders? How about if the policeman is demanding oral sex? If you think that hasn’t happened plenty of times, right here in River City, you need to get out more.

Besides, what “weapon” did Orlando Barlow — surrounded by armed cops, kneeling in a front yard with his hands on his head — point at Officer Brian Hartman that got him shot in February of 2003? One of his elbows?

Officer Hartman said he shot Mr. Barlow because he “made a furtive movement.” It certainly does sound better than “So THAT’s why the instructor told me to keep my finger off the trigger unless I’d decided to destroy something!”

The news that makes Metro look better is that — after Officer Hartman and his buddies printed up T-shirts with an image of his AR-15 on them, identifying the squad that took out Orlando Barlow as the “Baby’s Daddy Removal Team,” Metro broke up that squad. An ineffective lieutenant and sergeant were transferred and/or demoted. Hartman and two other officers are no longer on the force.

That’s good news. So why does Metro remain such an insulated and isolated world that the public was never before officially told of those changes?

Not that problems don’t remain. Take Officer Rodolfo Gil, currently assigned to the Southeast Command.

Officer Gil told a Metro public information officer on Nov. 23 that he had no interest in talking to me or answering my questions, about either his tattoo or his setting what was reportedly a single-officer record for IAB complaints, which can range from a surly attitude to improper and excessive use of force.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie was willing to talk to me, though.

For the record, I believe Officer Gil’s two fatal shootings were justified — “righteous.”

In one case, in January of 2006, fleeing suspect Edgar Doubleday, 47, high on methamphetamine and prescription drugs, fired on Gil first. Officer Gil “became one with the sidewalk,” one fellow officer says, and returned fire — effectively. In the second case, six months later, domestic violence suspect Shawn Collins, 43, high on alcohol, cocaine, and prescription drugs, pointed his gun at officers at a local convenience store. Five officers opened fire.

If the story ended there, Rodolfo Gil might be a courageous cop to be proud of.

But I asked the sheriff about reports Officer Gil has commemorated those two fatal shootings with a tattoo on his upper arm — a flaming skull and crossbones underneath which are a pair of dice bearing the dates of his kills.

“He has the tattoo but it does not have the dates,” Sheriff Gillespie told me last week. “From what I’m being told, he has had it for a couple of years, and he has been talked to about tattoos and the appropriateness of them.”

It’s also not a pair of dice, the sheriff explained. “It actually has, like, two bullets, (and) some flames around a skull and a crossbones. Not the bullets themselves, but they are bullet casings. … His captain actually saw it. … It’s a part of his body that’s covered by clothing and wouldn’t be seen at work. When asked about it he says it signifies an important event in his life.

“If it had the dates it would be much more of a concern to me, even if it was covered,” the sheriff said. “If we were involved in any kind of litigation it could put us in a situation, from a lack of sensitivity standpoint, that wouldn’t look like a favorable light on us as an organization. Lawsuits look at pattern and practice, they look at aspects like this. …

“Tattoos are private,” Sherifff Gillespie went on. “We are in an area there where we can’t mandate what people tattoo or don’t. Based on feedback from the people who work closely with him … there are no dates.”


I went back to my original source.

“I saw them; the dates were there. You go down to Diversity Tattoo for an hour and the dates are tattooed over, how long does that take? … This is a lot creepy. This guy was number one on IAB’s (Metro Internal Affairs) complaint list. They pulled him off patrol for awhile, and as his punishment they had him sitting there taking the complaint calls. To me this is one officer who really shouldn’t even be out there carrying a gun. If any officer needs a suitability hearing he’s it. And the creepy thing is, for a time Gil was a field training officer; he trained new recruits.”

I talked to Sheriff Gillespie again on. Nov. 30.

“Because of the number of complaints that he had, yes, he was assigned to Internal Affairs as a ride-along status, riding along to see … what it is about an officer’s conduct that generates complaints. We did this as a way to better educate some of our employees on how to interact with the public. I think it was for 30 days, for a month. Yes, he was answering phones during that time, taking complaint calls. …

And “Yes, he was a field training officer at one point, but he’s no longer in that capacity. …”

Back to the tattoo: Is it to commemorate the two shooting deaths?

“He didn’t say that, but I think the inference could be drawn because of what the tattoo depicts. … His captain talked to him about how the tattoo could raise questions, could cast doubts on his professionalism. … In any litigation, anything has the potential to be brought in … that would tend to show the attitudes of the officers. But we have due process, in this case with Officer Gil with regard to the tattoos and in regard to the IAB complaints, he has due process rights. …”

“Under the union contract, you mean?”

The sheriff indicated that is indeed what he meant.

“Something that shocks the conscience doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of termination,” Sheriff Gillespie said.

2 Comments to “‘It’s not the bullets themselves, but they are bullet casings’”

  1. Howard R Music Says:

    I work with a guy, ex-military in Iraq, ex-security guard at airports and courthouses.
    We were talking about innocent shooting deaths by swat teams kicking in wrong doors. He stated that if police bust into your home you should lie on the floor with your arms out, that way if you’ve done nothing wrong you won’t be harmed. I was stunned. Apparently, peace officers, and even security people are taught that lethal force is necessary if citizens don’t cower like whipped pups.
    Enjoy your writings.
    Best of luck.
    H Music

  2. Steve Says:

    Farenheight 451