LAS VEGAS — The president of the southern Nevada chapter of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization joined a call Friday for Las Vegas police to stop using a neck restraint that can render suspects unconscious.
Police body-camera video made public this week appears to show Officer Kenneth Lopera using excessive force to subdue an unarmed man who died after the struggle last weekend in a parking-area driveway behind The Venetian casino, NAACP leader Roxann McCoy said.
Lopera, whom a department official said is white, is seen using a stun gun, punches and what police say was an unapproved chokehold on Tashii Brown, who is black.
Steve Grammas, executive director of the police union representing Lopera, said Lopera told him his racial heritage is Columbian and Puerto Rican.
Brown also used the name Tashii Farmer. The county coroner has said it could take several weeks to receive test results to determine what caused his death.
“It looks like he’s trying to comply, but excessive force is used,” McCoy said of Brown, who is seen on video stiffening when he’s shocked with the stun gun and falling backward to the pavement with his arms raised.
Lopera fires six more jolts from the stun gun, wrestles with Brown as he tries to handcuff him, punches Brown’s head and neck from behind, and then puts his arm around Brown’s neck.
Lopera maintained what he is later heard calling a “rear naked choke” for more than a minute, Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said.
The hold is used in mixed martial arts, but it differs from an approved technique taught to Las Vegas police called a “lateral vascular neck restraint” or carotid artery hold.
Police in many other cities are told to never go for a person’s neck, but Las Vegas police report that officers used the hold an average of more than once a week over the last five years.
“It’s a chokehold by any name. Neck restraint,” McCoy said. “I would like to have it banned altogether.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada is also calling for Las Vegas police to quit the practice. A lawyer for Brown’s family said the officer should be fired and brought up on criminal charges.
Lopera is on paid leave while police investigate.