LAS VEGAS (CN) – A police officer accused of using an unapproved chokehold and killing an innocent man near the Las Vegas Strip will face criminal charges, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department said Monday.
The LVMPD on Monday said it had concluded its investigation, and officer Kenneth Lopera will be charged with involuntary manslaughter and oppression under the color of office in the death of 40-year-old Tashi Farmer early on May 14.
Charges against Lopera came after the department used coroner’s findings and evidence gathered, including body-cam footage, video surveillance and witness statements in its investigation.
Now that he faces charges, Lopera, 31, is suspended without pay. He is a five-year member of the police department and had been suspended with pay during the investigation.
The Clark County Coroner’s Office determined Farmer, a 6-foot, 195-pound black man, died from “homicide due to asphyxiation related to police restraint,” the LVMPD said Monday. The coroner’s office also reported methamphetamine intoxication and an enlarged heart were factors in Farmer’s death.
During a press conference Monday, LVMPD Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said Farmer had done nothing for which he would have been charged with a crime.
Immediately prior to his death, the department said Farmer approached Lopera and his partner inside the Venetian Hotel.
“Farmer was sweating heavily, looked panicked, and stated that people were chasing him. Officer Lopera attempted to speak with Farmer to help him, and Farmer immediately ran away and went through a set of doors into the ’employee only’ area of the hotel,” the department said.
Lopera caught up with Farmer outside the hotel in a roadway, where the department said “Farmer was attempting to open the tailgate of an occupied pickup, but he was unsuccessful. He then ran around to the driver’s side of the truck.”
“Believing that Farmer was attempting to carjack the citizen, officer Lopera deployed his Taser, warned Farmer he would tase him, and then discharged the taser in an attempt to incapacitate him,” the LVMPD said.
Farmer overcame repeated stunning with the Taser and began fighting with Lopera and security officers from the Venetian, the LVMPD said.
Lopera “struck the suspect with a closed fist multiple times” and “may have applied a ‘rear naked choke’ to Farmer … for over a minute,” before more officers arrived and handcuffed Farmer, the LVMPD said.
The police department said a rear naked choke is not an approved technique for its officers.
While handcuffing him, officers discovered Farmer was not breathing and administered CPR until paramedics arrived, the LVMPD said.
Farmer was taken to the Sunrise Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead.
The Clark County District Court system does not indicate charges were filed against Lopera as of noon Tuesday.