LAS VEGAS (CN) – The family of a man killed by a Las Vegas police officer who improperly used a chokehold sued the officer and police department in federal court on Tuesday, claiming their loved one sought help from the officer who escalated the situation into a deadly conflict.
Tamara Baylee Kuumeali’Makamae Farmer Duarte and Elias Bay Kaimipono Duarte, through their mother Stevandra Kuanoni, sued the Las Vegas Police Department and Officer Kenneth Lopera on claims of wrongful death, battery and civil rights violations.
Also filing suit is the Estate of Tashi S. Farmer aka Tashii Farmer aka Tashii Brown, through administrator Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio.
Kuanoni says Farmer sought help from Lopera and another police officer while inside the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino on the night of May 14, when Lopera escalated the encounter into a conflict and killed Farmer with a chokehold.
“He was a victim,” Kuanoni says of Farmer. “It should have been recognized by the officers that he was mentally confused and exhibiting symptoms of mental disorder.”
Instead, she says Lopera treated Farmer like a suspect, although Farmer was unarmed, had committed no crime and was not threatening anyone.
“After tasing decedent Farmer seven times and striking him approximately a dozen times in the head, defendant officer Lopera administered a chokehold, approved and taught by defendant LVMPD,” Kuanoni says.
She says Lopera used the chokehold for more than a minute, until Farmer was unconscious, and then released it. Shortly thereafter, Farmer was pronounced dead, Kuanoni says.
Kuanoni says Farmer thought he was being chased by someone and sought help from Lopera and the other officer. Farmer showed signs of “mental confusion and appeared to be suffering from a mental disorder,” Kuanoni says.
Instead of helping, she says the Lopera caused Farmer to become fearful and flee to a roadway outside the casino, where he approached a pickup truck but did not get inside.
Kuanoni says Lopera used a Taser seven times and afterward struck Farmer on the face and neck with “several blows” while on the ground, and then applied the chokehold.
“The chokehold is a classic example of violent police tactics,” she says. “All chokeholds should be impermissible, improper, unnecessary and constitute excessive force.”
Kuanoni says the police department did not properly train Lopera in the use a lateral vascular neck restraint, which caused Farmer’s death.
“Had defendant LVMPD properly trained its officers and/or banned all types of chokeholds, decedent Farmer’s tragic and preventable death could have been prevented,” she says.
Kuanoni and the other plaintiffs seek special and general damages.
Attorney Mitchell Bisson of Las Vegas law firm Callister Law filed the complaint Tuesday, but was in court and not immediately available for comment by telephone.
The police department did not comment on the matter during a telephone call Tuesday afternoon and did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
The Clark County District Attorney has charged Lopera with involuntary manslaughter and oppression.