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March 30, 2015

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Family of Trevon Cole files civil rights suit against Metro

Complaint alleges deadly raid was a stunt for filming purposes


Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Trevon Cole’s fiancee Sequioa Pearce and Craig Smith react with surprise after hearing the verdict of justifiable homicide during a coroner’s inquest Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010, at the Regional Justice Center.

Inquest Day 2 - Trevon Cole

Craig Smith sinks into his chair and closes his eyes after hearing the shooting of Trevon Cole was justified during a coroner's inquest Saturday, August 21, at the Regional Justice Center. 
Launch slideshow »

Inquest Day 1 - Trevon Cole

Trevon Cole's fiancee Sequioa Pearce testifies about how Cole was holding his hands when he was shot during a coroner's inquest at the Regional Justice Center Friday, August 20, 2010. Cole was shot and killed by Metro Police in June. Launch slideshow »

The family of Trevon Cole, who was fatally shot by an officer last June, has filed a lawsuit against Metro Police seeking $10 million in damages.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, names the department as a defendant as well as Sheriff Douglas Gillespie; Brian Yant, who shot Cole while he was a detective in the narcotics division; and John Harney, a sergeant who was Yant’s supervisor when the shooting occurred.

Yant fired one shot that killed 21-year-old Cole, who was unarmed, during a raid at the Las Vegas apartment he shared with his nine-months-pregnant fiancee, Sequioa Pearce. Police said Cole made a “furtive movement” toward Yant when the detective kicked open a bathroom door and found Cole allegedly flushing marijuana down the toilet.

The raid on the apartment June 11, 2010, was conducted after Cole allegedly sold 1/8 ounce of marijuana to an undercover officer, which was captured on videotape by Langley Productions as part of a reality series.

After two days of testimony, a highly publicized coroner’s inquest in August cleared Yant in the shooting death of Cole. The seven-member jury ruled he was justified in shooting Cole, despite testimony revealing mistakes by detectives handling the case.

An affidavit for the search warrant included an inaccurate criminal history for Cole, confusing him with a man of the same name with previous arrests in Los Angeles and Houston.

Yant — who was involved in previous police shootings, including a fatal one — is no longer a narcotics detective. He has since been reassigned to Metro’s crime analyst group as an officer.

The federal lawsuit alleges violations of civil rights, civil conspiracy, battery, negligence and wrongful death on behalf of Metro and the defendants.

The complaint alleges the raid at Cole’s apartment was a stunt set up for filming purposes by Langley Productions as part of the reality series. Langley Productions is responsible for reality shows such as “Cops” and “Las Vegas Jailhouse.”

“It makes for better television to show an armed raid rather than a routine arrest,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of this policy, practice and custom, Trevon Cole lost his life.”

The raid, however, was not filmed because the production team was busy with footage from another police squad.

The lawsuit also claims “it was a policy, practice and custom for certain members, including higher ranking officers, of Metro to drink alcohol while they were working and investigating alleged cases, including the case of Trevon Cole.”

The Cole family also noted in the lawsuit that the narcotics detectives who are not SWAT officers trained to execute such search warrants mishandled the raid.

Metro changed that policy in the wake of the Cole shooting, now requiring any search warrant requiring the use of force to be done by SWAT officers.

In addition, the lawsuit accuses the defendants of causing harm to Cole and Pearce, who was home at the time of the shooting, based on their race.

An officer interviewing Pearce after the shooting allegedly “used the racially linked phrase ‘baby daddy’ when referring to Trevon,” according to the lawsuit.

Metro Police declined to comment about the lawsuit, citing their policy not to discuss pending litigation.

Attorneys representing the Cole family — Andre Lagomarsino, Cal Potter and John Funk — also declined to comment.

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  1. This does not look good for the Taxpayers. We have all heard the tail that Brian Yant has told and it is truly hard to believe. I am not convinced that the inaccurate criminal history for Cole on the affidavit for the search warrant wasn't intentional so that the Judge would sign it. As far as the so called "furtive movement" any movement in that bathroom could have been considered furtive if you want it to. It is my opinion that Brian Yant shot Trevon Cole more out of fear and Cowardice than defending himself. And that is why I think the family could win the lawsuit. Keep in mind that the Jury doesn't have to have a unanimous decision in a civil suit.

  2. An armed entry with search warrant for 1/8 ounce of marijuana..? The light on Yant's gun had dead batteries, so he goes in anyway? Too much trouble to get batteries for the light? Cole was therefore in the dark and Yant fires into the darkness at a moving shadow...because he is concerned for his life, and is cleared of wrong doing?

    We have a legal industry, not a system and this was a big game hunt. This is the stuff of which careers and pensions are made from.

  3. Yant is a cold blooded MURDERER endorsed by Metro. Coupled with our ridiculous marijuana policy that gives law enforcement license to harass, imprison and kill minorities over a PLANT, Mr. Cole had no chance. Wake up people. This young man would be alive if marijuana was legal, Yant would have had no excuse to be in this man's home. LEGALIZE WEED AND TAKE OUR POWER BACK!!!!

  4. Thanks to all the bozos reelecting this failure of a sheriff. Millions down the drain again thanks to a PD with no control and no oversight.

  5. The "Cops" show, and its connection with Metro is something that should be investigated by the Justice Department. How much in the way of campaign contributions does this outfit donate to the Politicians?

  6. Oh wait till the local talk show crowd, Lord HA HA and Axis Sally get a hold of this one, we know the kind of Boiler Plate "Metro can do know wrong" crap they will belch out.

  7. That Yant "stacked the deck", with the inaccurate criminal history for that the judge would sign the search warrant, seems entirely plausible and even probable.
    That Yant's "story" is hard to believe is entirely believable; that sort of thing is all too common with authorities who, sometimes, seem to feel that they do not have to explain to anyone...and then are forced to.
    The family suing was inevitable.
    Too bad that, when the family wins it's lawsuit, the taxpayers will bear the brunt of the expense instead of Yant/Metro.