By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in News
Monday, August 23, 2010 at 10:11 am
|Photo: The Cannabis Post|
|Trevon Cole and his fiancé, Sequoia Pearce, in happier days. The unarmed Cole was shot and killed in his bathroom by a narcotics officer during a marijuana raid.|
Cole, 21, and his eight-months-pregnant fiancé, Sequoia Pearce, 20, were at their apartment when police serving a search warrant burst through the door, reports Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org. Cole was shot in the bathroom by Detective Bryan Yant who, in testimony Saturday, said he kicked in the bathroom door and claimed he saw Cole squatting by the toilet, apparently flushing marijuana.
Yant claimed he saw Cole rise 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," claimed Yant under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens. "He made me do my job."
It's unfortunate that Detective Yant believes "his job" is shooting and killing unarmed marijuana suspects.
|Photo: Rad Geek People's Daily|
|Detective Bryan Yant believes he is just "doing his job" when he shoots and kills unarmed marijuana suspects.|
Owens questioned Yant sharply at times, suggested the officer's weapon had accidentally discharged as he busted 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 suggests that Cole was still kneeling when shot.
Yant's testimony contradicts the medical examiner, who said that if Cole lunged at Yant like the officer claimed, the body wouldn't have fallen the way that it did, reports 13 Action News.
"I absolutely believe the shooting is criminal," Cole family attorney Andrew Lagomarsino said.
The police detective in question has been involved in other controversial shootings, according to KOLO TV. Lagomarsino said this is the third time that Detective Yant has shot a suspect, and the second one he's killed.
"I think in this case I believe absolutely Detective Yant was held above the law," Lagomarsino said.
No gun or other "silvery or metallic objects" were found in the bathroom. A yellow tube of lip balm was found clutched in one of Cole's hands.
"It's found justified by a kangaroo court and a dog and pony show," Lagomarsino said.
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 record of acquittals results from exceptionally good police work in Las Vegas, or an inadequate process and institution, depends on who one asks," said Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.
The inquest also heard testimony that Det. Yant made errors in applying for a search warrant. On the applicant, Yant misidentified Cole as a different 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 showed up were some possession misdemeanors.
Sgt. John Harney, who led the team conducting the raid, when asked by Chief Deputy D.A. Christopher Laurent if he agreed that Yant's affidavit work was "sloppy," said, "No, it was a mistake."
Immediately after the verdict was announced, Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie issued a statement 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 warrants.
Wonderful, SWAT teams are notoriously even more trigger happy than other cops -- great idea, Sheriff! Not.
"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," Gillespie's statement said.
"The results of Metro's internal investigation, and any recommended policy changes, will be made public," Sheriff Gillespie said.
In the meantime, the family of Trevon Cole is preparing a lawsuit alleging wrongful death, civil rights violations, and possibly a RICO claim, according to StoptheDrugWar.
Cole's fiancé, Pearce, said she felt helpless about the whole situation.
"I just feel like they stole everything from me," Pearce said. "They stole it all."