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August 22, 2014

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For widow of Gulf War vet, firing of Metro cop doesn’t erase grief

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Christopher DeVargas

Rondha Gibson, whose husband was fatally shot by Metro in December 2011, speaks to the media following the firing of Officer Jesus Arevalo, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.

Rondha Gibson

Attorney Cal Potter and his client Rondha Gibson, who's husband was fatally shot by Metro in December 2011, speaks to the media following the firing of Officer Jesus Arevalo, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Rudy Gibson Remembers Brother

Rudy Gibson cries as he remembers his younger brother Stanley during an interview in his attorney's office in Henderson Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Stanley Gibson was killed in an officer-involved shooting in December of 2011. Launch slideshow »

Stanley Gibson lost his life. Rondha Gibson lost her husband. Metro Police Officer Jesus Arevalo lost his job.

It took 22 months for the last part of that cause-and-effect narrative to occur, but when Sheriff Doug Gillespie terminated Arevalo’s employment Tuesday, Rondha Gibson wasn’t sure what to feel. She was confused, happy — even mad.

But Stanley’s Gibson widow is certain of this much: “It needed to be done.”

“As far as closure, I’ll never have closure,” she said Thursday. “How can you have closure?”

During a bungled police plan to force 43-year-old Stanley Gibson out of his vehicle, Arevalo fired seven shots from his .223-caliber rifle into the white Cadillac, killing the Gulf War veteran. The date was Dec. 12, 2011.

A Clark County grand jury declined to indict Arevalo on criminal charges, but an internal investigation by Metro Police determined he violated department policy and was no longer fit to be an officer.

In September, the department’s pretermination board recommended that Arevalo be fired. Gillespie agreed, marking the first termination of an on-duty officer involved in a deadly shooting.

Undersheriff Jim Dixon said Gillespie met with Arevalo on Monday to inform him of the decision.

“That was the end of that discussion with then-Officer Arevalo,” Dixon said.

The story isn’t over yet. Arevalo has 30 days to file an appeal, per department policy.

The incident also spawned two federal lawsuits against the department and select officers, including Arevalo. Rondha Gibson filed one, and the other was filed by Stanley Gibson’s mother, Celeste Gibson.

Last week, Gillespie indicated Metro had reached a “tentative agreement” with Rondha Gibson in the form of a $1.5 million settlement.

Rondha Gibson’s attorney, Cal Potter, declined to discuss any agreement, citing the need for the legal process to sort itself out first.

“We’re in the process of trying to settle the case at this point,” Potter said. “Hopefully when we get a resolution, we’ll be able to talk about that.”

While speaking in her attorney’s office Thursday, Rondha Gibson broke down in tears as she tried to describe her late husband.

She and Stanley would have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary this year. After meeting through her brother-in-law, the couple tied the knot July 23, 2003, at a Las Vegas Strip wedding chapel.

She wore a white gown with thin straps. He wore a gray suit and tie.

“He made every day like it was a wedding day,” Rondha Gibson said. “It didn’t matter what it was — something as small as a picnic. We’d go sit on a park bench and he would make that perfect.”

But Rondha Gibson says her husband’s mental state began deteriorating in 2007 or 2008, caused by his experiences serving in the Gulf War. Stanley Gibson worked as a cook but also helped bury the dead bodies of the enemy, his brother, Rudy Gibson, previously told the Sun.

In fact, authorities had several contacts with a distraught Stanley Gibson in the days leading up to the shooting.

He was transported to the Las Vegas jail Dec. 10 after resisting an officer but released the same day. The next morning, an officer found him walking in the middle of traffic near Jones Boulevard and Vegas Drive.

That led to him being taken to MountainView Hospital for a mental evaluation, but like the city jail, he was released within hours.

“There were complete misfires all along on this in terms of the mental health treatment that should have been given,” Potter said. “They are at fault, too, but not in the direct sense of the officer who pulled the trigger and continued to shoot.”

During a public fact-finding review of the case in February, police acknowledged tactical shortcomings at the scene that night, including poor communication.

The deadly incident unfolded at the Alondra Condominiums, 2451 N. Rainbow Blvd., after reports of an attempted burglary. When the suspect vehicle described to police reappeared at the complex, officers blocked it in and ordered Stanley Gibson to exit the vehicle.

He didn’t. Instead, police say Stanley Gibson rammed a patrol car and periodically revved the engine and spun the tires. Supervisors on scene devised a plan to shoot a beanbag round through the car window and then disperse pepper spray to force him out.

When the beanbag round hit the vehicle window, Arevalo mistakenly thought he was being shot at and returned fire. Stanley Gibson, who was unarmed, died at the scene.

David Dockendorf, who was the lieutenant at the scene, has since been demoted to a patrol officer.

But others’ faults that night did not excuse Arevalo from his own mistakes, Dixon said. The pretermination board also considered an altercation concerning Arevalo, which happened at a church when he was off duty and resulted in charges being filed against him, when making its recommendation for termination, he said.

“Every officer involved in any incident surrounding something like this — they are responsible for their own actions,” Dixon said. “Arevalo was held accountable for his decision-making and his tactics that evening.”

Attempts to contact Arevalo for comment were unsuccessful.

Demotions and terminations won’t alter the outcome, nor prevent Rondha Gibson from replaying her husband’s final words to her, she said. Stanley Gibson called her hours before his entanglement with police.

Rondha Gibson, who had been frantically worried about her missing husband, said he told her this:

“I’m cold. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I just want to come home.”

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