A white Las Vegas police officer who chased an unarmed black man from a hotel, tased him seven times, and put him in a chokehold for more than a minute last month is now facing manslaughter charges, the New York Times reports.
Officer Kenneth Lopera was charged with two felonies on Monday—involuntary manslaughter and oppression under the color of office—after a coroner ruled that the victim, 40-year-old Tashi Farmer (who also goes by Tashi Brown), died of asphyxiation. Lopera, 31, was placed on unpaid leave Monday, and could face up to four years in prison for each charge if convicted.
"The charges are the result of the coroner's findings, along with evidence gathered from video surveillance, body-worn cameras, and witness statements," Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Monday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It should be noted that officer Lopera did not provide a statement to the force investigation team, which is responsible for the criminal investigation of this incident."
The fatal incident unfurled in the early hours of a Sunday morning in May, when Lopera ran into Farmer at Las Vegas's Venetian hotel. Farmer—who was unarmed and had taken meth that night, according to the coroner—thought he was being chased. When Lopera caught up with him, he reportedly thought Farmer was trying to carjack a nearby pickup. That's when Lopera shot Farmer with his taser, the Times reports.
In body-cam footage, you can hear Lopera scream at Farmer to "get on your stomach" repeatedly as the officer fires his Taser at the victim six more times. He attempts to roll Farmer onto his stomach several times before other officers arrive on the scene and Lopera administers what he later called a "rear naked choke"—a martial arts chokehold that's not approved for use by police. Farmer was pronounced dead a few hours later.
According to the Review-Journal, Lopera's arrest is the first time in almost 30 years that a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer has been charged in an officer-involved fatality. His arrest follows that of NYPD sergeant Hugh Barry, who was charged last week with killing a 66-year-old woman in her apartment in October. A recent Washington Post report found that only 54 cops were charged in connection with fatal officer-involved shootings from 2005 to 2015. Even when they're facing charges, a majority of officers are never convicted.
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