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Tashii Brown's Mother Still Wants Answers After Public Review

The underground garage on the Las Vegas Strip where Las Vegas Metro Police confronted Tashii Brown.
Associated Press

The underground garage on the Las Vegas Strip where Las Vegas Metro Police confronted Tashii Brown.

In May 2017, Tashii Brown died in police custody on the Las Vegas Strip.

This was after being tased, punched and choked by police officer Kenneth Lopera. Lopera was fired by the department shortly afterward.

The Clark County Coroner ruled Brown's death a homicide. Later, though, a grand jury found no fault by Officer Lopera. And the Clark County District Attorney did not take the case to trial.

Even so, officer-involved deaths in Clark County go through a fact-finding process if the officer is not charged with a crime.

The review is meant to answer questions, but some people are still looking for answers. 

"There were about 69 questions put forth, but they only read about 15 questions," Trinita Farmer, Tashii Brown's mother, told State of Nevada.

Farmer said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson promised her justice in her son's death.

"He promised me that he was going to make sure they pay for what they done and that they would do time for it," she said. 

The incident started when Tashii Brown approached police at the Venetian. Police described him as being sweaty and looking paranoid. He told them someone was chasing him. 

"I think he was generally scared and he went in there for help," she said, her voice choked with emotion. "All I know is when someone yells 'Help!' you help. You don't chase them down and kill them because he's sweating."

She said her son had had mental health issues and had been told to go to a police officer or a security guard when he was feeling scared or paranoid so they could call for help.

That did not happen and she does not know why.

"I don't know why. God knows -- I don't know why he did it," she said of Lopera.

She also disputes the claim her son fought back against the officer. She said he had an injured wrist and he could barely hold a dinner plate let alone fight back.

"So how could he fight with one hand?" she said.

The coroner's office ruled methamphetamine in his system and an enlarged heart contributed to Tashii Brown's death. Trinita Farmer didn't know her son had a heart condition, and she didn't know he had used meth. 

She believes the drug is what made him crazy that night. 

"Usually, he would call me if he was having a breakdown in the middle of the night and I would go get him," she said. "I don't understand why he didn't call me that night."

Farmer said she didn't know until the next morning her son wasn't in his room. She called hospitals and the police department when she couldn't find him, but they didn't have a record of him.

That afternoon, someone from the coroner's office came to her door and told her that they had her son. 

"That was the worst day of my life," she said.

The public review was supposed to answer why Lepora was not charged. But, Tod Story with the ACLU of Nevada said the review didn't do that.

"Having sat through the entire process, I think that the entire audience -- the public that was there in attendance -- was left wanting," he said.

Story said the whole process did not answer any questions and did not bring up an new information.

"It was just an empty hollow ceremony that I described as a farce," he said.

Story said the ACLU intends to look into why the case wasn't pursued more vigorously and why it wasn't resolved more speedily.

Andre Lagomarsino, an attorney for Farmer, said while the exact way that Tashii Brown was killed was unique -- he was tased several times, hit and then choked -- what was not unique is the "sugar coating type of a coverup that's placed in front of the public to somehow mitigate or justify an officers' actions."

Lagomarsino said while meth and Brown's heart condition contributed to his death, the bottom line is, "if he wasn't choked, beaten and tased to death, he would still be here today."

The center of the issue is the chokehold used by Officer Lopera. 

"It needs to be banned," Lagomarsino said. "Other cities have banned it. It leaves too much room for error."

Story agreed.

"This technique should no longer be used by the Las Vegas Metro Police Department," he said. Story pointed out both Henderson Police Department and the North Las Vegas Police Department have banned that particular chokehold.

Lagomarsino said Brown's children have already filed a lawsuit, as has Trinita Farmer. He said more about what led to Tashii Brown's death will be revealed from that process.

"We look forward to presenting a full and transparent trial that, unfortunately, was not afforded during the criminal process," he said.


Trinita Farmer, Tashii's mother; Tod Story, director, ACLU of Nevada; Andre Lagomarsino, Trinita's lawyer

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)
Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.