I-Team: Federal Lawsuit Details Alleged School Police Cover-Up - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Federal Lawsuit Details Alleged School Police Cover-Up

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Angela Peterson Angela Peterson
Kevin Miranda was convicted of DUI in Peterson's death. Kevin Miranda was convicted of DUI in Peterson's death.
Angela Peterson's car. Angela Peterson's car.

LAS VEGAS -- Employees of the Clark County School District Police Department will soon face tough questioning about a deadly crash linked to a party staged for department employees more than three years ago.

The grilling of at least eight police department employees stems from a federal lawsuit filed by the parents of Angela Peterson, a young woman who was killed by a drunk driver. Witnesses said school police supplied alcohol to several teenagers at the party and failed to prevent them from driving away drunk.

Two years ago, the I-Team first broke the story of the scandal and the alleged police cover-up. The plaintiffs said they think their case is getting stronger by the day.

I-Team: Underage DUI Suspect Allegedly Drank with Police Before Fatal Crash

"They were coming to the point of, what would it take for us to go away? And we said nothing. There is no dollar amount. Don't even think about it," said Frank Peterson, Angela Peterson's father.

"They wanted to know a price for Angela's life and I told them to go to hell," Angela's mother, Linda Peterson, said.

The Petersons said they were appalled during their deposition when lawyers hired by the school district asked how much money might it take to make their lawsuit vanish. For the Petersons, it's never been about money. Their daughter was the light of their lives. When she was killed by a drunken teenager in Nov. 2009, their world collapsed. By now, they said, Angela would have had her Ph.d, and would have been married.

Instead, the Petersons said they mark the days since Angela's death and are tormented in knowing that most of the school district police whose booze party led to Angela's death are still working, still pretending they had nothing to do with it.

"Can you let it go when the CCSD dispatchers and police are supposed to be protecting our children, not drinking with them?" Linda Peterson said. "This could happen to someone else's child."

Added attorney Mark Cook, "This was a police department sponsored event. Officers were drinking with school-age kids."

Cook has been busy, deposing current and former school police employees and said the combined testimony paints a pretty clear picture of what happened. A party was held at the home of police dispatcher Rebecca Wamsley. It was advertised throughout the department. At the party, school police drank heavily alongside a few dozen teenagers.

I-Team: Witness Speaks of CCSD Police Employees Drinking with Teens

Former dispatcher Penny Higgins first told the I-Team about the kids drinking. She has since given sworn testimony.

"They started drinking beer … then they were getting into hard alcohol," Higgins told the I-Team in 2011.

Said Linda Peterson, "Penny Higgins said the whole front yard was a puke fest. She said there could have been 30 or 40 of them."

Among the teens who were slamming shots and beers with school police was 18-year-old Kevin Miranda, now in prison for smashing his truck into Angela Peterson's car. Miranda has been deposed by Cook and confirmed he drank plenty at the party.

"He was so drunk, he has no idea how many he had," Cook said. "He says he went directly form the party to the accident scene."

Cook said the key targets of the lawsuit still maintain they didn't see any kids drinking, but he claims he already has enough testimony to show it's a lie. For one thing, witnesses say Miranda was asked before he left the party if he was okay to drive?

"Common sense tells you, you don't ask a kid if he is OK to drive if you don't think he was drinking," Cook said.

But the most disturbing allegations in the lawsuit involve the attempted cover-up, Cook said, and attempts to intimidate potential witnesses within the school police department, in what Cook calls a culture of retaliation.

Penny Higgins said she was ordered to keep her mouth shut. Another witness Sgt. Eric Aldays testified that, during the time when an alleged cover-up was instituted, school police were ordered to stay out of the dispatch center. Other witnesses say they were chastised or punished for refusing to go along with a cover-up.

The Petersons, and their lawyer, plan to be there for every one of the depositions of the key targets in the lawsuit.

"I expect to go and listen to a bunch of people lie about a lot of things," Cool said.

Frank Peterson said, "This is what we've been waiting for. It's all coming out in July."

The only person to lose their job after the story broke was police chief Phil Arroyo, though the district will only say they parted ways with the chief. A Metro Police detective investigated the alleged cover-up, but no charges were filed and no report was ever made public.

School district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said, "The district is watching the case closely as it moves through the process and is fully cooperating with the courts."

 

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