Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Las Vegas cops again: Officer facing probe after beating up videographer as the camera kept rolling

A police officer is being investigated after being caught on tape beating a videographer outside of his home in March. A Las Vegas police department review found that Officer Derek Colling violated police policies when he used 'excessive force' on Mitchell Crooks.

The incident happened on the night of March 20 when Mr Crooks, 36, was in his driveway videotaping police as they investigated a burglary report across the street.

Mr Crooks said that when he refused to stop filming, Mr Colling arrested and beat him, with the sounds of the altercation recorded by the camera. In the video, Mr Crooks can be heard yelling in pain while Colling can be heard telling him to 'shut up.' At one point the officer tells him that his decision not to turn off the camera put him in 'a world of hurt.'

Mr Colling has been on paid suspension since April 1 and could lose his job pending the outcome of a review by the officer's supervisors, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports.

Mr Crooks received a letter from the Internal Affairs Bureau notifying him of the findings earlier this week. He said he was pleasantly surprised. 'It seems like they're saying he was guilty, which is what I've been saying,' Mr Crooks said. 'I really hope he gets fired.'

Multiple supervisors in Colling's chain of command will review the internal affairs report and decide his punishment, if any. If Colling's supervisors recommend his firing, he will go before a pre-termination board for a final appeal. The harshest punishment short of firing is a 40-hour unpaid suspension.

Mr Crooks' lawyer, David Otto, intends to sue Colling and the Police Department. Mr Otto said he wrote a letter in April to Sheriff Douglas Gillespie demanding $500,000 to cover Crooks' medical care, pain and suffering. The Police Department has not paid anything, he said.

He intends to send another letter to Mr Gillespie. 'Mr Sheriff, show us the difference between what the officers did to Mitchell Crooks that night and kidnapping, beating and robbery,' Mr Otto said.

The video went viral on the Internet, and local activists and national "cop watch" blogs scrutiznized Colling's actions.

Local American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Allen Lichtenstein reviewed the video and found clear policy violations. 'It raises serious questions about whether the officer used good judgment and whether he was properly trained,' Mr Lichtenstein said. 'Those questions require answers.'

Mr Colling has been involved in two fatal shootings in his five and-a-half years as a Las Vegas police officer. In 2006, he and four other officers shot Shawn Jacob Collins after the 43-year-old man pulled a gun at a gas station. In 2009, Mr Colling shot and killed Tanner Chamberlain, a mentally ill 15-year-old who was holding a knife at his mother's neck and waving it at officers. Both shootings were ruled justified by Clark County coroner's juries.

Chamberlain's mother, Evie Oquendo, sued Colling and the Police Department in May. When the lawsuit was filed, Mrs Oquendo's lawyer asked why Colling was still working as an officer. 'He's killed two people in 5½ years and beaten one guy up that we know of,' Brent Bryson said.

Mr Crooks has lived in Las Vegas since 2003 and works as a freelance videographer.

Original report here

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