Lapel video released in dispute between Las Vegas PD, students
May 24, 2018 10:10 PM
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Newly released lapel video reveals how a verbal argument turned violent between Las Vegas Police Department officers and New Mexico Highlands University students.
During the early morning hours of May 5, officers confronted three students near a parked car on Eighth Street that matched the description of a reckless driver. Neighbors called police after hearing a loud bang from a possible crash.
Now facing charges for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, Ofalopeti Santos and Walter Lipnoski believed they were racially profiled.
Las Vegas Police Chief Deputy Kenneth Jenkins stands by the officers' use of non-lethal force. Officers said the students were loud and disorderly and failed to go inside when instructed.
Unarmed students Santos, Lipnosky and Sir-Devonta Stewart had plenty to say to the officers on Cinco de Mayo. Police were questioning them about a reckless driver in the area. The trio claimed it wasn't them.
Refusing to leave, police asked the students to go inside, but Santos refused to keep quiet. Lapel video shows Santos continued to argue with officers.
When it became clear that words would go nowhere, one officer armed himself with a bean bag gun. After getting hit with bean bags and tased, Santos fell to the ground.
Cell phone video shows Lipnosky ran outside after his friend Santos. Within minutes, an officer had Lipnosky on the ground.
Claiming Lipnosky hit the back of his head, the police officer admitted in a report that he punched Lipnosky.
KOB-TV reviewed the Las Vegas PD's use of force policy, which states, "A police officer shall only use that degree of force that is objectively reasonable under the circumstances."
Officers must consider the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of law enforcement personnel or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or evade arrest by flight.
KOB-TV asked Deputy Chief Kenneth Jenkins why the officers used force that morning.
"There's going to be a different side to every story. Again, I stand behind the officers' actions and I think the amount of force was reasonable," Jenkins said. "Based on the video the students had more than enough opportunity to go inside."
Police denied that they racially profiled the students, but Jenkins said the department is investigating the students' claims.
"Because the allegation was made, it wouldn't be fair to the public if we just ... it's our duty," Jenkins said. "It protects the citizens, it protects our officers, it protects the integrity of the department to look into these matters."
The students say they disagree with the officers' use of force and plan on filing a civil lawsuit.
A spokesperson for New Mexico Highlands University said the school's president is in the process of reviewing the case and talking to police about what happened.
Updated: May 24, 2018 10:10 PM
Created: May 24, 2018 09:22 PM
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