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September 19, 2014

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J. Patrick Coolican:

The tragedy of Stanley Gibson’s death began days before he was shot by police

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Reading accounts and watching the video of last week’s public fact-finding panel on the Metro shooting of Stanley Gibson was like being in a helicopter and hovering above an intersection — watching a brutal car accident while being helpless to do anything about it.

I’m not even talking about the actual shooting of Gibson, during which a botched plan to remove the unarmed, mentally ill Army veteran from a car wound up with him being shot seven times and killed by a Metro officer.

I was just as struck by the series of events in the 48 hours before the shooting, when Gibson, who was apparently experiencing a severe psychiatric episode, repeatedly came into contact with law enforcement and the health care system.

Flashing red lights should have prompted someone to secure his safety, and the safety of all of us, but the warning signals were unseen or perhaps ignored.

It reminds me of those government reports in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when various agencies knew bits and pieces but no one put the whole puzzle together.

Let’s review what happened, as testified in detail last week by Metro Detective Clifford Mogg, the lead investigator of the incident.

On Dec. 10, 2011, police arrested Gibson — who had been diagnosed by the Department of Veteran Affairs with anxiety and depression and had been out of some medication and not taking others — after he lunged at an officer responding to a 911 call placed from his apartment, Entrata Di Paradiso, on North Rainbow Boulevard. Gibson was taken to the city jail, where the officers told the booking officer that Gibson needed to receive a psychiatric evaluation.

The nurse at the jail filled out a form, and under “Treatment plan” wrote, “Psychiatric evaluation.”

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 »

Except there was no psychiatric evaluation because he was released. Mogg explained that as part of a “depopulation program,” the detention center finds candidates to release on their own recognizance to relieve jail overcrowding, and Gibson fit the bill.

A Metro spokesman, citing ongoing litigation, said he could not comment.

After Gibson was released, he went to the Golden Nugget, where he grabbed some chips off a table and ordered to be dealt in. A Gaming Control officer was called. Gibson apparently had a rambling, nonsensical conversation with him. The officer cited Gibson for petty theft and released him.

The following morning, just after 8:30 a.m. Dec. 11, Gibson was wandering on foot in and out of traffic around Vegas Drive and Jones Boulevard.

An officer who responded had been one of the very same officers who had dealt with Gibson the night before.

Mogg said the officer “was surprised because it was his understanding, he told correctional officers that (Gibson) needed a psychiatric evaluation prior to being released.”

The officer determined that Gibson was “not lucid” and “not in touch with reality.” The officer began the process of what’s called a “Legal 2000,” in which someone who is a threat to himself or others can be detained.

“The officer felt Mr. Gibson was not of a mental status where he could adequately ensure his own safety and was actually a danger to himself,” Mogg reported.

Gibson was taken by ambulance to MountainView Hospital. Paramedics noted his history of anxiety, depression, suicide attempts and post traumatic stress.

He told paramedics he just wanted to get out of the cold and was not feeling suicidal.

He was admitted at 9:23. He briefly saw a physician, reported his history of mental illness and desire to get out of the cold and was released at 9:45, 22 minutes after admission.

A MountainView spokeswoman she said she could not provide any additional information. (Federal patient privacy laws continue after the patient’s death.)

According to Mogg, Gibson called 911 two more times that day, first complaining of chest pains and telling paramedics he was out of his anti-anxiety medication but then refusing service. After a second call in the early evening, he again declined treatment from paramedics, this time driving away in his own white Cadillac.

Police Fatality Review: Stanley Gibson

Rondha Gibson, the widow of Stanley Gibson, listens during the first Police Fatality Public Fact-finding Review concerning the Dec. 12, 2011 shooting of Stanley Gibson by a Metro Police officer at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Gibson’s wife, Rondha, thinking Stanley had been taken by ambulance to University Medical Center, went there to find him. Not finding him there, she called Metro and reported her concerns about his erratic behavior. An officer spent time with Rondha Gibson. After consulting with a supervisor, he did not file a missing person’s report because Stanley Gibson had been calling Rondha that day (though always abruptly hanging up) and wasn’t considered a suicide threat or a threat to anyone else.

Here’s Mogg: “So at this point there was nothing put in to the Metro system that would flag Mr. Gibson or the Cadillac as being involved in these erratic acts that had occurred earlier in the afternoon.”

More 911 calls came — this time from residents in the Alondra Condominiums south of Gibson’s apartment. A caller reported a white Cadillac rammed its way through an emergency gate. Next, a woman reported an attempted burglary at her unit, with the suspect fleeing in a white Cadillac. Gibson was likely confused and lost.

As police responded to the burglary call, motorists were making 911 calls to report a white Cadillac driving east in the westbound lanes of Lake Mead Boulevard.

A short time later, the white Cadillac returned to the Alondra Condominiums. Patrol officers strategically blocked in the vehicle, and the rest is well known. Gibson wound up dead.

Of course, it’s easy to second-guess police and health care providers, who are already operating in the most challenging situation imaginable.

That’s not my intention.

But I think this story is worth our attention because it illustrates, with clarity, how broken our mental health care delivery system is.

It is underfunded and in disarray.

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  1. @Bob.."start asking people to take responsibility for their actions!"

    Here, Here. That's all most of us want. We want people to take responsibility for their actions. Police need to take responsibility for their inability to deal with a mentally ill person. The Hospital needs to take responsibility for releasing Gibson.

    Had Gibson walked into a Casino and shot a bunch of people, no one would be excusing Metro's or the hospital's handling of him prior. The Gibson's have paid dearly for whatever their failings were that weekend.

    While Mr. Coolican "was just as struck by the series of events in the 48 hours before the shooting" Gibson's tragic end was set in motion long before that. It started when Metro failed to deal with the numerous complaints it had against Jesus. It gained its critical momentum when Jesus told his wife, "he should shoot someone so that he can take six months off."

    The world will be a better place once the man who refers to shooting Gibson as "killing that ni--er," is no longer allowed to carry a gun or wear a badge

  2. Taking all that into account, and then removing everything up to the incident that lead to Mr. Gibson death...the Police at the scene of the shooting were negligence and responsible for Mr. Gibson death.

    Mr. Coolican one can see you showing the disconnect the heath and law enforcement in helping people who have mental problems or in need of psychiatric care.

    What is not lost is who is responsible for Mr. Gibson death. At no time did anyone every say Mr. Gibson threaten to harm anyone. The shooting death of Mr. Gibson was avoidable.

  3. There is shared responsibility for this tragedy.

    Gibson's for running out of some meds and not taking those he had as well as his refusal to accept help when offerred.

    The VA for being of minimal help.

    The healthcare system for being part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    Nevada's close to non-existant mental health system.

    Metro for not recognizing the situation they were dealing with despite their recent contacts with Gibson. To their credit Metro Officers did their best to try to get Gibson help in earlier contacts but the healthcare system fumbled the ball.

    Altogether a recipe for the disaster it was.

  4. What is certain, the Police, not Mr. Gibson, caused Mr. Gibson's death.

    Based on the police, they blamed Mr. Gibson's death on a radio. Why would the police give an order to "shoot"? In this case the Police at the scene were wrong.

    Metro Police Officer Jesus Arevalo, under the color of the law, killed Mr. Gibson. An unnecessary death, an avoidable death. A death caused by the officers at the scene.

  5. Do what the police say or we will shoot you in the head 7 times with an assault rifle. That sounds right. Hair trigger Jesus was an execution/killing waiting to happen.

  6. What I always find lacking in J Patrick's stories is how to resolve a problem. All he seems to do is highlight them.

    So what is our resolution to connect the mentally unstable in to a police data base so that the police could run the license place or the name of the person.....and then how do we put them under a hold until they can receive further care?

    What the man needed was to be stabilized and treated for his problems. He wasn't and was shot in what seems to be a tragic accident, where no one is being held accountable.

    I hope every day that all of the police officers and mental health workers who touched this man's life realize they are all in part responsible for his death because they didn't carry through with their job responsibilities to ensure not only this man's health but the safety of the greater population.

    Yes, we have a complete system failure in this case. So how do we prevent it from happening again?

  7. How does Mr. Gibson bear any responsibility for his own death. Really!

    Really! Common sense is not common anymore!

  8. The bottom line is that the officer who shot Gibson made a tragic, lethal and avoidable mistake and should be held accountable.

    The faulty radio story doesn't hold up.

    If the radio was not working at all, then the officer had no business being in a position to take deadly action, but should have been withdrawn until communications could be established.

    If the radio was only partially missing transmissions, then we are being asked to believe that the officer missed every transmission that would have indicated that Gibson was unarmed and that a plan was being made. That is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.

    No, at the very least Metro command at the scene failed in an epic manner. The officer involved should be dismissed from the force.

    This was in no way Gibson's fault.

  9. I suggest the people who are quick to judge Mr. Gibson while they excuse the police take another look at Jesus Arevalo. He had a lengthy history of complaints from both citizens and his supervisors. Now we have his wife's allegations that before the Gibson incident he had talked about killing someone in order to get six months off from work. She has also revealed that he is a racist and uses the N-word to describe Gibson.

    Stanley Gibson did not deserve to be murdered by that loser.

  10. @TomD: If spinning your wheels, creating a layer of smoke so dense no one could see is reason enough to shoot someone, why didn't the police shoot Dale Earnhardt Jr. outside Caesars Palace on Wednesday?

  11. Bob_Realist,

    I might be mistaken, but I recall the original reports saying that Gibson's car had been blocked for a considerable amount of time, almost an hour, and that Metro had determined already that he was unarmed. Clearly Gibson was in a controlled situation and did not present a danger to Metro.

    We are being asked to believe that Officer Jesus was completely unaware of these facts at the time he shot (murdered) Gibson.

    As I said above, under the best of circumstances, a completely failed radio, it indicates a grave failure by Metro command on the scene to leave an officer in that position without communications. At worst (and highly probably in my opinion) Officer Jesus was simply not paying attention and missed the call(s).

  12. "It [our mental health care delivery system] is underfunded and in disarray."

    Coolican -- from what you reported here, also fatally confused. And this is what/who so many are clamoring to be the gatekeepers of our protected our liberties??

    "Metro Police Officer Jesus Arevalo, under the color of the law, killed Mr. Gibson."

    Longtime -- that's it in a nutshell. Gibson's family is right -- where's the justice? For sure not from our overpaid, overprotected government employees charged with giving it.

    "What I always find lacking in J Patrick's stories is how to resolve a problem. All he seems to do is highlight them."

    AshleyX2 -- surely you know that's a reporter's job.

    "I think you all know that I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" -- the late President Ronald Reagan on YouTube @ http://youtu.be/xhYJS80MgYA

  13. Allow me to be blunt: when we write a blank check to K-12, there is no money left to provide ESSENTIAL government services. No matter how much we tax, K-12 wants it all. State workers take a back seat as does every state program including all of DHHS. Sure there are excesses at DHHS but you think anything runs well when it's same as previous years except cut by 2% or 4%. DHHS needs an overhaul as do ALL government programs but the FIRST STEP is to set priorities--and this does NOT mean that because K-12 (or anything else) is essential that it gets unlimited funding. When the cost effectiveness of a program wanes, so SHOULD THE FUNDING. It would be beyond expensive to provide 24/7 care for everyone who "needs it." But we should have programs where there are Case Managers / social workers who check in with marginally "functional" people--including those with mental health issues, those with physical "disabilities", those in foster care, those on ANY welfare assistance.... I'm all for trying dormitory programs for those who aren't making it on there own--and since we have to start somewhere (rather than take on every homeless, dropout, and/or unemployed person, let's develop COST EFFECTIVE dormitories where those who have mental and physical conditions that cause repeat ER visits to have some measure of stability--perhaps including Vets with PTSD. Dorm rooms with dead bolt locks on each room. Sure, we have to expect some problems--like drug use, suicides, violence, fits/seizures/medical emergencies with unpleasant consequences. What we have to consider is that the INTENDED consequences would be much less severe than dumping these people onto our streets--where they sometimes attack others but almost always hurt themselves and their families. Most who would qualify for dorm rooms already qualify for EBT SNAP / food stamps, medicaid, and/or section 8 housing. DHHS ought to be able to set it up where employees would ensure that federally funded programs would be used to defray costs--for food, housing, utilities, health care. And again, re the overhaul, the State (and cities, counties, SD's) need to embrace internal controls that PRECLUDE abuse and fraud, AND all of the above need to recognize reality and budget / fund auditors and investigators that will tell you what you DON'T WANT TO HEAR so you can deal with problems before the public hears about them.

  14. FYI: re the radio and LEO communication inter-department. Nevada has a dozen or so towers with communications equipment. The State budget even allowed a "capital" project (2003-4 or so) to rehab the shacks used to house the equipment--I assisted with the budget proposal that the Legislature agreed was necessary. However, even with upgrades, there remained much geography within Nevada where LEO's cannot communicate with others--mountains / valleys that black air waves.... Recently heard that Washoe County Sheriff is "in charge" of a task force to deal with such issues. SO COOLICAN get on the story--might involve cell phone tower issues too. I don't buy the radio failure thing within Metro, just don't buy it. Sounds much more like a FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE or Officer's failure to perform.

  15. Hey Tom,

    Let's make it easy for you. It was the radio that killed Mr. Gibson.

    One can only hope you are not one of the officer who was on the scene.

  16. handyetc & PISCES41....and anyone else who wants to blame Gibson for not taking his medication.
    Gibson was OUT OF MEDS because the VA was jerking him around and had canceled an appointment.
    Let's also not ignore that
    ---JESUS TOLD HIS WIFE HE SHOULD KILL SOMEONE WHO SO HE COULD A PAID VACATION---
    shortly before killing Gibson
    @Dom...In 2011 the threshold for Grand Larceny was only $250.

    Read more: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/mar...