Vegas police: Officer fired 7 shots into vet's car

December 16, 2011 - 9:50 PM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas police said Friday that a patrol officer fired seven shots with a military-style AR-15 assault rifle into an immobilized car, killing an unarmed Gulf War veteran in a shooting that has drawn calls for a federal investigation of department policies and practices.

One officer fired the fatal shots after another officer with a shotgun fired a non-lethal beanbag shell at the window of Stanley Lavon Gibson's vehicle, according to police accounts.

Gibson's car was pinned — with its tires spinning and smoking — between patrol cruisers after a standoff that lasted for more than an hour in the parking lot of a northwest Las Vegas apartment complex. Police say the idea was for the beanbag to break the window so another officer could use pepper spray to force Gibson out of the car.

"Almost immediately after the beanbag round penetrated the rear passenger window, a second officer discharged seven rounds from an AR-15 rifle, striking and killing Gibson," police said.

The shots fired at 12:57 a.m. Monday started with a 911 call at 11:23 p.m. Sunday about two men trying to break into an apartment.

Police previously identified the four patrol officers involved in the shooting as officers Jesus Arevalo and Malik Grego-Smith, Sgt. Michael Hnatuick, and Lt. David Dockendorf. They are on paid leave pending a departmental review.

Gibson's friends and family say Gibson, 43, was a troubled veteran suffering from cancer that he blamed on his Gulf War service, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. Witnesses said police stopped him while he was driving his Cadillac slowly through an unfamiliar apartment complex with his emergency flashers activated like he was lost.

Federal Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., said they were reviewing calls for an investigation after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Las Vegas and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada noted that Gibson was the 12th person slain by police this year.

Public scrutiny of officer-involved deaths using Clark County coroner's inquests as a fact-finding process have been suspended since August 2010. The Las Vegas police has sued in state and federal courts to block the implementation of revisions to the process that officers say subjects them to unconstitutional questioning. NAACP and ACLU leaders said they didn't believe Las Vegas police can properly investigate themselves.

On Thursday, Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, the elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, endorsed the idea of a Justice Department probe. He pleaded earlier for patience from the public and promised a thorough internal investigation.

Gillespie said he didn't see an outside review as an adversarial process.

"If more innovative methods come from this, everyone will benefit," he said.