LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Nevada Attorney General’s Office report on a boxer’s death at a 2021 fraternity charity event criticizes Metro police for failing to gather evidence that might have revealed more about what happened that night.
The long-awaited Kappa Sigma Fight Night Investigation report says it was “conclusory and premature” for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to forego a larger investigation. Instead, Metro limited its investigation to only whether the Sahara Event Center had a valid Clark County business license.
“Metro’s original statement was limited to ‘criminality on the part of the venue,’ its December 13, 2021 statement was far broader and definitive, stating ‘the circumstances surrounding his death are not criminal.’ As a result, this statement completely forclosed the possibility of any future prosecution – regardless of any additional investigative findings,” according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Metro police fired back Monday, disputing the findings of the Attorney General’s investigation.
“After the initial event, LVMPD communicated in a timely manner with UNLV Police, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” Metro police said.
“From LVMPD’s preliminary investigation, and after discussion with the District Attorney’s office, it was determined there was no criminal intent. If the Attorney General has probable cause to believe the athletic commission’s regulatory statutes were violated, or any criminal violations occurred, they have investigative and prosecutorial authority to pursue the matter,” according to a statement released Monday evening.
Nathan Valencia, 20, died following the “main event” at the Nov. 19, 2021, fight night, collapsing after the fight before he was taken to Sunrise Hospital, where he was placed on life support. His opponent, Emmanuel Aleman, has refused to cooperate in the investigation.
Valencia was removed from life support on Nov. 23, and died shortly thereafter. His organs were donated, and the story continued to grow. “Nathan’s Law” was approved shortly after his death, closing loopholes in jurisdiction and assigning the Nevada Athletic Commission to oversee events like this to ensure proper safety protocols were in place.
Valencia’s family sued in February, naming the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, UNLV, the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education, referee Christopher Eisenhauer and the Sahara Event Center.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) Chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck said in a statement released Monday that the commission “intends to provide a summary report at Tuesday’s meeting.
Metro said NSAC had jurisdiction over the “fight night” event, but the fights weren’t limited to UNLV students and NSAC didn’t have the power to investigate crimes and enforce criminal penalties.
Questions about the event have centered on the medical staff on hand for the fight, jurisdiction over “unarmed combat” events, and especially about the qualifications of referees at the event. Photos from Nov. 20 show a referee drinking a beer at the event. People who attended the event said it was chaotic.
But the criticism of police for not conducting a wider investigation hasn’t been questioned until now. After Metro determined that the Sahara Event Center’s license was in order, the investigation stopped.
“As a result, effervescent evidence was not timely obtained and secured. This evidence includes the boxing gloves used by Mr. Valencia’s opponent, the wraps used by his opponent, or potential evidence of illicit substance use. These items were critical to establish or rule out whether the hand wraps or gloves were tampered with, or whether one opponent had an unfair advantage over the other due to performance-enhancing or illicit substance use.”
Allegations about whether the equipment had something to do with Valencia’s death remain unanswered.
“It should be noted that to date, Aleman’s gloves have not been recovered, therefore we are unable to inspect his equipment.” See the statement released by Aleman’s attorney on Monday.
Alex Ybarra, Chief Inspector for NSAC, said that Valencia’s “significant weight loss” — 15-20 pounds to “make weight” for the fight — could have played a part in his injuries. When someone loses an extreme amount of weight in a short time, some of the weight loss “is loss of water around the brain,” Ybarra reported. “Losing a significant amount of water surrounding the brain could have played a part in the injuries sustained by Valencia,” he said.
The investigation found that the event was not sanctioned by USA Boxing or the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and so many important protocols were not followed. Among the safety protocols that were violated:
- Pre-fight weigh-in
- Pre-fight medical physical
- Inspection of hand wraps
- Inspection of gloves
- Inspection of headgear
- Certified referee
- Certified judges
- Doctor at ringside
- Ambulance staged at venue
The Nevada AG’s Office said the event points to the need for more regulations on what to do when the athletic commission doesn’t have full jurisdiction. “This issue requires a legislative fix that more clearly transfers oversight to another recognized sanctioning body, e.g., the United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association, USA Boxing, or an equivalent entity,” the report said.
The report also calls for increased collaboration between NSAC and local law enforcement. It also singled out this kind of event as a need for trained personnel.
“Unarmed combat is an inherently dangerous sport and should be closely supervised by trained personnel. Although unarmed combat charity events are popular, only combatants who are sufficiently conditioned and well-trained should be allowed to participate in such events,” according the the Nevada AG’s Office.