I-Team: CCSD Faces Expensive Lawsuit over Woman's Death - 8 News NOW

I-Team: CCSD Faces Expensive Lawsuit over Woman's Death

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Angela Peterson's car following the crash. Angela Peterson's car following the crash.
Angela Peterson Angela Peterson
Linda and Frank Peterson Linda and Frank Peterson

LAS VEGAS -- The public could be on the hook for millions of dollars in damages now that a federal judge has ruled against the Clark County School District and several employees of the school police department.

The ruling comes in the case of Angela Peterson, whose family is suing the school district because Peterson was killed by a drunken teenager who had been partying with off-duty school cops. The I-Team brought this story to light three years ago, but from the moment of Peterson's death in Nov. 2009, the school district and its police department have wanted to keep this story in the dark.

Federal magistrate Larry Hicks has ruled there is evidence that a cover-up was initiated by the school police and that this case will go to trial after all.

"Remember what the number was the first time I saw you? Frank Peterson asks. "It was 599. Been quite awhile and we're still here."

The number on Peterson's arm changes every day. It's 1,505 as of today. It was 599 the first time the I-Team interviewed him. It marks the number of days it's been since Frank and Linda's lives changed forever when their daughter Angela was killed by drunken teenager Kevin Miranda.

Miranda is in prison, but has admitted he and other teens were drinking and partying at a house on that fateful night, along with several employees of the school district police department.

Since day one, the Peterson's say, the attitude of the school police has been to treat the issue as if it never happened.

"We're not going away. I'm sure they wanted us to drop dead, dry up, and blow away, basically what they did with Angela. We're not going away," Frank Peterson said.

"Their employees were drinking with underage children and let them leave, and take no responsibility for any of this? It could happen to their children," Linda Peterson said.

The ruling by federal magistrate Larry Hicks makes it clear the Peterson's will have their day in federal court. Hicks denied a motion by the school district to dismiss the civil lawsuit. The judge said there is sufficient evidence that the off-duty officers should have known Miranda and other teens were drinking and, the ruling says, there is also evidence of a conspiracy within the police department to cover-up the scandal.

"This order makes it clear we're going to get to a jury and let a jury decide," the Peterson's attorney Mark Cook said.

He says the school district has been haughty and condescending in its approach to very serious allegations, starting with former CCSD Police Chief Phil Arroyo who dismissed I-Team reports about the booze party as "fairy tales," followed by heavy-handed tactics to keep department employees from talking about what happened.

"If it was a movie, you wouldn't believe it. We've taken more than 20 depositions and the story has become clearer and clearer. They've had the same ostrich approach. It didn't happen. Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes? I would hope this is a wake up call for them," Cook said.

Public records compiled by the Nevada Journal show the school district has already paid more than $400,000 to two private law firms to defend the off-duty employees named in the lawsuit. It's about to get much more expensive because the judge lifted the normal cap on damages that can be paid by a public entity.

"It gets rid of the statutory cap of $50,000 and exposes them to real costs and that's millions of dollars. They've tried to get out of this by putting their heads in the sand," Cook said.

The scandal has also cost the district in other ways.

"It's a black cloud over the department," said Erik Aldays who is not only a school police officer but also heads the association which represents most of the rest of the school police.

His members can't understand why there was never an internal investigation of the party and cover-up.

"They watch the news and it is talked about every day. And after a couple of years, it starts to wear you down. I think we're at that point," he said.

Another consequence of the judge's ruling is that current CCSD Police Chief Jim Ketsaa, who was not named or deposed in the original filing, will now face a grilling under oath about what he may have known about the cover-up.

The school district sent the I-Team the following response late Tuesday afternoon: 

"This is a terribly sad situation and the district extends its condolences to the Peterson family. Our position remains that there was no cover-up of this case and that our off-duty officers were not responsible for this tragic accident." Chief of Staff and External Relations Kirsten M. Searer said.

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