LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) Chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck yelled at a Clark County assistant district attorney on Tuesday and frequently interrupted a Metro deputy chief, pressing for police to investigate the death of a 20-year-old boxer at a fraternity charity event in November.
Cloobeck wanted Metro to commit to investigating the death. He says police have already refused his requests to do so twice. After Tuesday’s meeting, Cloobeck said Metro representatives had agreed to meet with him to discuss it. But not before some very tense moments during the NSAC meeting.
Nathan Valencia died on Nov. 23, four days after he was taken out of a boxing ring of the Sahara Events Center on a stretcher. Valencia collapsed after fighting in the “main event” of the Kappa Sigma Fight Night.
Since Valencia’s death, questions about who is responsible have stirred anger, and a report released Monday by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office has stoked emotions. The report said Metro should have investigated further, but Metro fired back, saying there was no criminal intent.
8News Now obtained the report first, and the I-Team’s Vanessa Murphy broke the story on Monday.
Here’s a portion of what was said at Tuesday morning’s meeting:
Stephen J. Cloobeck: Can I ask you just a real quick question? You guys have already doubled down. You gonna triple-down today? Or are you going to come to grips with this situation?
Deputy Chief James LaRochelle: Sir, I’d like to explain …
Cloobeck: No, no, I’m asking you a question. My opinion, my question … I’m due an answer. I’m due an answer. Are you going to triple-down today? Or are you gonna come in and do the right thing?
LaRochelle: I’m here …
Cloobeck: I’m asking you to answer binary questions. Either a yes or a no. You represent Metro. You’re here. We appreciate that very much.
LaRochelle: It doesn’t seem like it …
The Nevada Attorney General’s Office investigated the fraternity boxing match in November after Valencia, a UNLV student seen on video in red head gear, collapsed after his match and died from head injuries.
A key finding identified in the report: a failure by Metro to look into whether foul play was involved.
The Valencia family sent a statement to 8 News Now early Tuesday evening: “We are pleased with the Attorney General‘s findings and appreciative for their efforts. We further hope that the Nevada Legislature implements change that ensures events like this can never happen again.”
Cloobeck made it clear he was unhappy with the sequence of events that preceded Tuesday’s meeting, and he was also disturbed that Metro was not prepared to talk at the meeting today.
Cloobeck: Did you do a homicide investigation?
LaRochelle: No. We did not do a homicide investigation.
Deputy chief LaRochelle said that decision came after input from the Clark County District Attorney’s Office. Then Cloobeck addressed Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli.
Christopher Lalli: I received a copy of the report this morning. And I am not in any position whatsoever to comment on the report.
Cloobeck: Whoa, how could you come to a meeting when you got a certified letter from this commission putting you on notice that you were being talked about? You’re not prepared?
Lalli: I didn’t …
Cloobeck: Are you kid… No, you just said you’re not prepared. You said you didn’t read anything and you’re not prepared.
Lalli: I didn’t receive a copy of the report.
Cloobeck: That means you’re not prepared!
As first reported by the I-Team Monday, investigators listed numerous protocols that weren’t followed at the unregulated event. Commissioner Anthony Marnell calls it an underground fight.
“This was a cluster from beyond belief from one end to the other on organization, promotion, safety, inspection, drugs, alcohol in the ring,” Marnell said. “I mean, really, a referee drinking in the ring.”
The report also raises questions about Valencia’s opponent Emmanuel Aleman. Investigators say they were able to examine all gear used at the event except for his. Witnesses said his hands were wrapped long before the fight. This is one of his attorneys, Geordan Logan.
“I will talk to my client,” Logan said. Aleman’s attorneys also told the I-Team Monday by phone they advised him not to talk with investigators.
Vanessa Murphy: It begs the question though, why not speak to investigators?
Geordan Logan: Who? who should we have spoken to?
Murphy: The Attorney General’s Office for the investigation.
Logan: The Attorney General’s Office just said they didn’t get the case until months later. Metro didn’t have the case. Who were we supposed to speak to?
Murphy: The Attorney General’s Office was doing the investigation, so why not speak to them?
Logan: There was no refusal to speak to the Attorney General’s Office.
Murphy: If investigators want to talk to Emmanuel now, will you advise him to talk to them?
Logan: They can reach out to me and we will discuss with them whatever it is they’d like to discuss.
Commissioners are saying they want to make sure an illegal fight like this one never happens again.
While Nathan’s Law helps close a loophole in the regulation of student matches, the commission acknowledges there may be a need to push for additional legislation.
Metro police released a statement a short while ago calling the hearing unprofessional and unproductive, also saying the department is willing to assist the Attorney General’s Office if they want to move forward with any criminal prosecution.
Deputy Chief LaRochelle suggested the chairman was making this political.