I-Team: 2019 death of Byron Williams brings attention to Metro policies on use of force

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Department of Justice announced in 2012: The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department needed to change.

After an extensive review, the DOJ wrote in its report, “The shooting of unarmed suspects remains a concern.”

“For example,” the report said, “Between 2007 and 2011, there were 10 officer-involved shootings that involved unarmed individuals, seven were Black.”

I think it’s safe to say that they were not keeping with best practices.

Bernard Melekian, Department of Justice Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing

Metro implemented multiple changes.

In 2019, Metro reports that out of 16 shootings by police, 15 of the subjects were armed.

There is an emphasis on de-escalation techniques.

In a report analyzing use of force in the years 2014-2019, the department provides data while also acknowledging lessons are still being learned.

It notes four critical incidents in 2019 in which the coroner determined officers’ actions may have contributed to the subject’s death.

The Clark County Coroner’s Office ruled Byron Williams’ death a homicide because the prone restraint officers placed him in was a factor in addition to methamphetamine in his system and health issues.

Williams ran from police after they tried to stop him for not having a bicycle light.

Once police had him in custody, Williams told officers he couldn’t breathe at least 24 times.

Multiple officers deactivated their body cameras at the scene.

“He deserves justice. What they did to him was not right. It was not fair, it was inhumane,” says Renee Ricks-Jones, Williams’ cousin.

The Use of Force Review Board, which includes three commissioned officers and four citizens, determined officers should have immediately rolled Williams on his side after he was handcuffed. The board said officers’ medical response violated training and policy.

Metro took action notifying all officers to place suspects on their side or sit them up so they are not kept in a position like Williams was and to get medical attention immediately in a situation like this.

And the department updated policy: Officers must keep their body cameras on while at a scene.

Donavin Britt is a citizen volunteer on the review board.

He says: “We kind of see these events and we understand what they shouldn’t be doing and something that’s outside of the norm. We have, we can focus in on and go, ‘Why is that the case?’ “

The board also makes recommendations on officer discipline.

According to Metro, out of 31 cases reviewed in 2019, 14 officers were disciplined, none were fired, and one resigned.

Capt. Fred Haas works in Internal Affairs.

“If there are bad cops out there, I don’t want them standing next to me out there in the community,” Haas says.

And throughout the community in 2020, there were Black Lives Matter protests, and calls for police reform.

While Metro is more advanced than many departments around the country, incidents like Williams’ death demonstrate there are still serious flaws that need to be fixed.


State of Metro:

In a five-day series, 8NewsNow looks at reform in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the questions raised by Black Lives Matter protests.

The series:

Nov. 16: (overview): I-Team: Metro police face-to-face with racial tensions in Las Vegas
Nov. 16: I-Team: Examining how Metro stacks up when it comes to police reform policy changes
Nov. 16: State of Metro: By the numbers
Nov. 17: I-Team: Black police officers are in the middle as protests flare, challenges grow
Nov. 17: I-Team: Black police officers set national example for community service
Nov. 18: I-Team: Use of Force Board gives citizens an inside voice in Las Vegas police matters
Nov. 18: I-Team: 2019 death of Byron Williams brings attention to Metro policies on use of force
Nov. 19: I-Team: ‘We don’t use any virtual reality,’ Metro trains using real-life scenarios
Nov. 19: I-Team: Police hiring is crucial to building a force Las Vegas can trust
Nov. 20: I-Team: ‘There’s nobody that dislikes a bad cop more than a cop,’ sheriff says
Nov. 20: Deaths in police interactions, 2013-2020 — MAP
Nov. 20: I-Team: Metro reaction to police protests mirrors progress, willingness to change

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't Miss

Trending Stories