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December 19, 2014

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Sheriff ‘livid’ over reports of Guns N Roses helicopter ride

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David Becker/Invision / AP

Nathalia Henao and guitarist Dj Ashba of Guns N’ Roses arrive at the world premiere of “Michael Jackson ONE” at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Las Vegas.

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Sheriff Doug Gillespie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

With a proposed sales tax hike to hire more Metro Police officers stalled, the revelation over the weekend that a police helicopter may have been used as part of an elaborate marriage proposal by a Guns N Roses guitarist “couldn’t have come at a worse time,” two Clark County commissioners said.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie was described as “livid” by commission Chairman Steve Sisolak when the two met Monday as part of a regularly scheduled monthly update.

“He had no idea this was going on,” Sisolak said. “He was absolutely beside himself.”

Metro has launched an internal investigation into whether the ride given Saturday to Guns N Roses guitarist Daren Jay “DJ” Ashba and his girlfriend, which reportedly ended with roses, champagne and a proposal in a field near police headquarters, violated the department policy.

Ashba posted a photo on Instagram on Saturday of himself and his girlfriend wearing helicopter headgear and thanking police for the private helicopter tour.

Las Vegas police acknowledged a ride-along in a helicopter was given to two civilians, although no names were provided.

Although there is a procedure in place to allow civilian ride-alongs in police vehicles, including helicopters, Sisolak, who oversees Metro’s budget as part of its Fiscal Affairs Committee, said it’s unclear whether those protocols were followed.

“You ride along on the route that police take,” he said. “You clearly are not allowed to make additional stops on the ride along. You don’t drop somebody and their girlfriend off at a picnic.”

The potential misuse of police resources comes at a time when the department is asking the County Commission to raise the sales tax by .15-cents to help pay for more police officers and to stem a $30 million budget deficit that could force the department to get rid of 250 officers in the coming years.

Commissioners were scheduled to vote on the tax at their meeting Aug. 6 but decided at the last minute to hold the item for more discussion.

Among the concerns raised by commissioners was whether Metro’s current funding is being used efficiently and whether money to pay for more officers could be found within the existing budget. No new date for a vote on the tax proposal has been set.

Commissioner Larry Brown, who also sits on Metro’s Fiscal Affairs Committee, said if police resources were misused during Ashba’s helicopter flight, it sends a bad message to the public, which is already skeptical about how Metro spends its $489 million budget.

“You would hope that taxpayer dollars weren’t used to go above and beyond what they normally would do during ride-alongs,” Brown said. “If there’s a perception out there reinforced by an isolated incident, people start believing that this is what goes on all the time.”

Sisolak and Brown said they’re waiting for Metro’s investigation to wrap up before drawing conclusions.

“I would certainly hope this is isolated,” Brown said. “If the investigation reveals it has become commonplace, then something dramatic has to be done.”

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