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October 25, 2014

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Family of slain veteran still wants to see someone held accountable

Police shooting of Stanley Gibson to be examined in revamped process

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Steve Marcus

Rudy Gibson remembers his younger brother Stanley during an interview in his attorney’s office in Henderson Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Stanley Gibson was killed in an officer-involved shooting in December of 2011.

Rudy Gibson Remembers Brother

Rudy Gibson cries as he remembers his younger brother Stanley during an interview in his attorney's office in Henderson Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Stanley Gibson was killed in an officer-involved shooting in December of 2011. Launch slideshow »

In the 14 months since Stanley Gibson was shot and killed by Metro Police officers, Gibson’s family has struggled with unanswered questions.

What was Gibson, a 43-year-old Gulf War veteran allegedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, doing out of the house that fateful December night when police approached him, his older brother Rudy asks. Why did a plan to remove Gibson from his vehicle with beanbag rounds and pepper spray end with him being shot seven times by police officer Jesus Arevalo? And why were police in such a hurry to end the standoff with the unarmed Gibson, whose vehicle was boxed in between two patrol cars?

“Why not give him another half an hour? The car wasn’t going to fly anywhere,” Rudy Gibson said. “I’ve been running that in my mind over and over and over again. It doesn’t make any sense. … This never should have happened.”

The family’s quest for understanding has yielded lots of closed doors but few answers.

•••

In December, a grand jury declined to indict Arevalo after evidence was presented during hearings closed to the public and Gibson’s family.

Some of the questions surrounding Gibson’s case could be answered Thursday during the first Police Fatality Public Factfinding Review Panel, a new iteration of the controversial coroner’s inquests into fatal officer-involved shootings. Still, Rudy Gibson isn’t optimistic.

“We hope something will happen, but we know nothing’s going to happen,” Gibson said.

His comments echo much of the skepticism surrounding the revamped process.

The last inquest was in 2010 before legal challenges derailed the process. Those legal wranglings, in turn, prompted Clark County Commissioners to make changes in January aimed at getting the hearings back on track.

Along with the new name, the hearings have been moved out of courtrooms and into the county commission chambers to take them out of a judicial setting. Gone is the panel of pseudo-jurors that heard cases and issued rulings on whether a shooting was justified.

Instead, the process has been pared down to include three key people: a hearing officer (for the Gibson case, it's retired judge Stewart Bell) who will preside over the proceedings; a prosecutor from the district attorney’s office who will present the facts of the case and call witnesses; and an ombudsman representing the interests of the family and the public who is allowed question witnesses, but not call any of his or her own.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the changes were intended to make the hearings less adversarial and promote the dissemination of information to the public.

“We’re going to get the District Attorney’s office to opine why they didn’t choose to file charges in this case,” Sisolak said. “The public will have more access to information.”

During the hearing, the prosecutor will present the evidence collected by the District Attorney’s office and call witnesses who can either make a presentation of facts or answer questions.

•••

It is unclear what new information, if any, will be presented about what happened when Stanley Gibson was killed on Dec. 12, 2011.

According to police reports, officers were responding to a burglary call at a northwest valley condominium near Smoke Ranch Road and Rainbow Boulevard when they encountered Gibson.

After being approached by police, Gibson – reportedly disoriented and distraught – refused to surrender and allegedly rammed his white Cadillac into a patrol car.

Officers used two patrol cars to box in Gibson’s car, pinning him there for more than an hour. When Gibson continued to try to drive away and ignored police orders, officers developed a plan to use a beanbag round fired from a shotgun to break a window on Gibson’s car and then fill the cabin with pepper spray, forcing him out.

When the beanbag round was fired, Arevalo fired seven live rounds from his rifle, striking and killing Gibson.

Police have attributed the shooting to a miscommunication caused by a radio failure.

Rudy Gibson said his brother, a Las Vegas native and graduate of Eldorado High School, was disabled because of cancer and suffered from severe anxiety from his days serving in the Gulf War. He worked as a cook but also helped bury the dead bodies of the enemy — a task Rudy Gibson said haunted his brother.

Sisolak described the review hearing, which will be broadcast live on television and on the Internet, as a presentation of facts that will allow the public to make its own opinions about the case.

He said he planned to attend the hearing and use feedback from the public to see if any changes to the process need to be made.

“I’m going to ask everybody to go in with an open mind and see what the strengths are and what the weaknesses are,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll agree with the district attorney’s decision or not until I see the evidence that’s presented.”

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, called the police fatality review process a "glorified press conference" when commissioners approved it in early January. He hasn't changed his mind since.

Lichtenstein said the new setup essentially takes eyewitness testimony out of the equation, creating a situation that isn't conducive to shedding light on the facts.

"What we've basically lost is all the information that would have and should have come out about how things progressed to that terrible point," he said.

Lichtenstein said he worried information about possible procedural mistakes, for instance, might not be made public, weakening the transparency of the review.

At the least, he hopes officers' Garrity-protected statements — meaning statements officers gave the department immediately after the incidents that cannot be used against them criminally — will become a part of the fact-finding review.

•••

Rudy Gibson said he planned to be at the hearing with his mother and older sister. A younger sister is still unsure whether she will attend, Rudy Gibson said.

Once the hearing is done, the Gibsons hope they’ll find the answers they’re seeking through a civil suit filed by Stanley’s mother, Celeste Gibson, against Metro Police and several officers.

Rudy Gibson says all the family wants is for someone to be held accountable for the shooting.

“You go out to (Stanley’s) grave and there’s a guy on his left born in 1927. The guy on his right was born in 1931. (Stanley) was born in 1968,” Rudy Gibson said. “You do the math and you realize how much time that minute police couldn’t wait any longer took from him. They took that. You can’t give that back.”

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  1. This just shows that Metro does what Metro wants and gets away with it. Sometimes the guys in blue are criminals too. Sometimes they have bad judgement, sometimes they make the wrong decisions, sometimes it ruins someone's life.........but not metro's. How is the law so lawless in Las Vegas? Because we allow closed door hearings and meetings in public sectors. There is no right to privacy for the murder of an adult. This isn't a child rape case where we protect the victim. Why are we protecting this bad news cop and his friends?

    My dad was a cop. I like to think they're the good guys. But when you read a story like this, and then see the COVER UP - it only leads you to believe that there is something to be covered up, if nothing was wrong they'd lay it all out on the table.

    Two police cars box in a car with an unarmed man. What's the obvious thing to do? Pull the guy out put him in handcuffs shove him in a patrol car. What does metro do? Bean bag, gas, and probably tazer the unarmed man, then they shoot him several times. Yes, they shot an unarmed man at close range several times. Sounds like those police officers need help and fast....you know people say kids who brutalize animals go on to kill people, and these police were brutalizing a person, then oh wait...yea they killed him. Great job Metro. Bravo. This city needs a clean up.

  2. We need Metro. The City needs Metro. What Metro is lacking is leadership from the top. The Sheriff, and the position, has not grown with the department.

    The death of Mr. Gibson could have be avoided. Metro deserves an upgrade in leadership starting at the sheriff position and several grades down. The culture is morphing into something the community cannot recognize. It seems accountability is faded and blurred at Metro.

    There are many good Police Officers who "protect and serve", doing exactly what the mission statement says. The officers involved in the death of Mr. Gibson made serious mistakes. Mistakes that cost Mr. Gibson his life. The mistakes reflect the lack of leadership and direction coming from the top.

    The community needs Metro. Both the community and Metro need and deserve new leadership at Metro. The community should not be afraid of our police force.

  3. Horrible things happen. I've long asked for reform in POST--Peace Officer basic training. I'm tired of the headlines--over and over again we heard about newer officers who killed a guy at a traffic stop--when the senior gentleman reached for his wallet / I.D., the young cop shot and killed thinking the guy was reaching for a gun. WHAT IF the guy couldn't hear the cop shout to stop? Traffic noise? Tragedy after tragedy. Why are LEOs in such a hurry? Now I'm on their side whenever the civilian was a violent felon, an escaped convict, holding hostages, was fleeing a violent crime....but when the civilian has not hurt anyone but is just not "complying" with what the cops want him to do..... Sorry, I'm not a mind reader and don't know what you want me to do. I don't hear well. I can't imagine why you'd be afraid of me or think that I'd be reaching for a weapon or otherwise trying to harm you. A year or two ago I was stopped while driving. I'm a 60-ish, silver-haired former federal agent (no chance I'm out to hurt anyone) and I was treated like a violent armed criminal. I shouldn't have to but I can get over that. I cannot get over Metro killing civilians just because they couldn't figure out what the officers wanted them to do.

  4. Metro is a year round,equal opportunity,killing machine that must be stopped.Rondha Gibson has had threats made to her,if she shows up at the inquest.The Cartel of Corruption will not prevail.

  5. "In the 14 months since Stanley Gibson was shot and killed by Metro Police officers, Gibson's family has struggled with unanswered questions."

    This is especially aggravated by the fact 1) the primary mission of our republic is to administer justice, and 2) government is creating a monopoly on violence. The first is a Constitutional mandate, the second is outside any of the same sort of mandate.

    "A year or two ago I was stopped while driving. I'm a 60-ish, silver-haired former federal agent (no chance I'm out to hurt anyone) and I was treated like a violent armed criminal."

    Roslenda -- I can relate, having had a similar encounter with Metro's bullies with badges. Yet nearly a year later when I was assaulted on the street Metro treated my assailant with more respect than the deputies gave me for driving without a current registration.

    "...justice delayed will be justice denied." -- Guardians Association et al. v. Civil Service Commission City of New York et al., 463 U.S. 582, 627 (1983)

  6. The plan they had would've been effective had it been caried out correctly. The issue I have is that you don't rely on radio alone for confirmaion that all units understand the plan and their role within. You speak directly with each officer and ensure they know exactly what is happening and how they are to proceed. This failure started on a supervisory level and ended in tragedy. My other issue is with the number of shots fired. You shoot until the threat is stopped, but in most cases after the first few shots you pause to evaluate if a threat still exists and to ensure you are on the right target then you can re-engage if needed. I don't want to monday morning quarterback as I wasn't there, these are simply my observations, no one elses. Everything starts with your leadership. If people can't or don't trust in the leadership from the top down things can and will go wrong.

  7. Sounds like one officer did all the shooting and did NOT stop to see if the first shot made the civilian reconsider. As you say, Jeff, difficult to Monday morning quarterback but did anyone approach the vehicle or try to talk to the guy? Wave a flag? Tell him to "stand down"?

  8. Sounds like ANOTHER CASE where we have Rambo-type recruiting. LEOs are SOCIAL WORKERS, always have been, always will be. The Psych tests applicants take should reflect that attitude.

  9. @RebelJedi....Whose going to hold you accountable for telling lies like, "Where was the brother when Stanley was strung out on drugs and running the streets ?." Gibson wasn't on drugs, and he wasn't running the streets.

    While Gibson has tried to escape his illegal police detainment by, "actively gunning the engine and trying to rock it forward and backward" those actions were not effective and were a danger to no one."

    But just for S&G's how exactly would you want Stanley's brother to have "held his brother accountable." Would a firm talking to suffice. How about not speaking with him for a month. Wait how does one hold a dead man accountable in a way his execution-style shooting has not already done in spades.

    Too bad you couldn't spend more time actually reading the article and less time making up a fictional drug history for Gibson. Such attention to detail might have let you avoid comments like,

    "My guess is be has not been in his life in a long time but now suddenly is I retested to try and cash in. Not a dime for this guy."

    Comments that show a complete inability to understand basic sentences like "the Gibsons hope they'll find the answers they're seeking through a civil suit filed by Stanley's mother, Celeste Gibson, against Metro Police and several officers."

    Sentences that even those with elementary school reading levels can understand don't attribute any lawsuit or attempts to "cash in" to Rudy. Too bad you couldn't make heads or tales of such a simple sentence.

    Such unintelligent garbage you've shared. Perhaps you should heed your own advice.

    "Stay off the dope, and these things Are less likely to happen. Jus' saying."