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Officer accused of in-custody death at Venetian will face involuntary manslaughter charges

LVMPD Officer Kenneth Lopera. (Clark County Detention Center)

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer who is accused of killing a man who was in police custody at the Venetian Hotel last month will face criminal charges.

Officer Kenneth Lopera was charged with involuntary manslaughter and oppression in the death of 40-year-old Tashii Farmer.

Farmer was shocked seven times by a Taser, punched several times and put in an “unapproved” chokehold for more than a minute.

Three weeks after his death, the Clark County coroner ruled Farmer’s death a homicide by asphyxiation due to police restraint procedures. The coroner ruled other significant conditions in Farmer’s death were an enlarged heart and traces of meth in his system.

Farmer’s mother told News 3: “Everything just went crazy and they killed my boy.”

Had Farmer survived the night of the incident, police say he would not have faced any charges.

RELATED | Mother of man who died in LVMPD custody: 'They killed my boy'

According to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, Lopera is the first on-duty officer to be charged by the Clark County District Attorney's Office in a deadly use of force case.

Lopera, who was previously placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, will now be placed on unpaid leave.

Each charge Lopera faces carries a weight of one to four years in a state prison.

Attorney Andre Lagomarsino, who represents Farmer’s mother, is considering a wrongful death lawsuit but also demand change in LVMPD’s use of force policy.

RELATED | LVMPD undersheriff: Officer applied 'rear naked choke' on suspect at Venetian

“There absolutely has to be an end to any kind of a neck retrain even if they claim it violated their policy. Their policy still allows for the error to occur,” said Lagomarsino.

Civil rights groups also issued statements calling for LVMPD to halt the practice of “lateral vascular neck restraints.”

“The tragic death of Mr. Tashii Farmer was completely avoidable if training and procedure had been followed by Officer Lopera. This situation was a textbook incident of escalation, not de-escalation protocols and violates the new training protocols adopted by the department. The LVMPD and this community have come too far together for anything less than total transparency throughout this process, said Tod Story, executive director, ACLU of Nevada.

The Farmer family is also seeking charges against the Venetian Hotel security officers present during the incident last month.

“They did hold him down and they were placing their hands on him. They could be charged with aiding and abetting … they can also be charged with criminal activity,” said Lagomarsino.

A spokesperson for the Venetian Hotel declined to comment.

As for Officer Lopera, he has been released from jail. The Police Union posted his $6,000 bail and is backing Lopera.

Las Vegas Police Protective Association official Steve Grammas said Lopera will plead not guilty and said a staff attorney will “fight the charges on his behalf.” Grammas said Lopera’s actions were not criminal in nature.

Lopera has a scheduled court date in August.

Tashii's children have set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs. If you'd like to donate, click here.

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