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Knapp: School cops lawsuit heats up

<p>George Knapp</p>

George Knapp

IT’S CRUNCH TIME for upper management within the Clark County School District Police Department. This month, a parade of veteran school cops and other longtime department employees will be answering tough questions about a drunken party that ended in tragedy.

Depositions are being taken in a federal lawsuit filed by Frank and Linda Peterson, the parents of a gifted young UNLV anthropology student, Angela Peterson. In November 2009, Angela’s car was struck by a truck that plowed through a red light. The driver, 18-year-old Kevin Miranda, was drunker than a skunk and seemingly oblivious to the deadly consequences of his actions. He joked about Angela’s death, even after he was hauled to jail. Miranda is now serving a multiyear prison sentence, but he is not the only person responsible.

Amazingly enough, Miranda and several other rowdy teenagers had reportedly been drinking at a party thrown by and for CCSD cops and dispatchers. One CCSD employee described it as “a puke fest” because so many kids were there, boozing and barfing, as off-duty cops fed them shots and beers. It has taken a long time for the Petersons’ attorney, Mark Cook, to get the key targets of the lawsuit to sit down for depositions, but that time has finally arrived.

As it turns out, the first of the main targets of the lawsuit to be deposed is also the only CCSD employee who paid a price for trying to cover up the scandal. Former CCSD Police Chief Phil Arroyo parted ways with the district in response to news reports about the attempted cover-up. Arroyo had reportedly assured his employees that the whole mess would go away and that no one had anything to worry about. As it turned out, he was very wrong.

From what I’ve heard, Arroyo was a straightforward witness during this week’s deposition. He denied playing an active role in trying to cover up the numerous reports of CCSD cops plying teenagers with booze. Arroyo reportedly swore under oath that his former boss, now-departed CCSD superintendent Dwight Jones, was less than forthright when he announced he planned to get to the bottom of the scandal. Arroyo also said a Metro investigation of the alleged cover-up also fell short of its goals, as if by design.

Attorney Cook has already deposed more than a dozen witnesses. Those current and former CCSD employees have all told the same basic story. The only people who do not remember what happened at the party are the CCSD cops and employees who have been named in the lawsuit. Even Kevin Miranda has admitted that he partied hard with the school cops, and that no one tried to stop him from leaving the party in his truck. At least a few potential witnesses have said they were ordered to keep their mouths shut, and one or two who were suspected of cooperating with outside investigations have been threatened or disciplined.

It is still not clear whether the case will ever be heard in court. Even those of us who do not have kids in local schools should take an interest in the case. After all, we taxpayers are picking up the huge legal bills for all of the eight CCSD employees, even though the party took place at a private home while most of the employees were off duty. But if a jury ever gets to hear the full story of the party, the death and the subsequent cover-up, it could cost the public a heck of a lot more.


Friends of former sheriff Ralph Lamb might want to send some positive vibes to the former lawman. Lamb is facing some daunting health challenges and, characteristically, is scheduled to meet them head-on on Thursday. … For 25 years, former newsman Steve Schorr was the public face of the cable TV industry in Las Vegas. Schorr worked for Prime Cable, then Cox Communications. He helped create both of the government channels, has given time and money to every worthwhile charity in town, even has a school named for him. But as I mentioned briefly in this space a few weeks ago, Schorr parted ways with Cox. He had been told he would have until the end of the year. The end of his year came July 2. The worst part of this is that Cox issued a public release which strongly hinted that Schorr decided to retire, so for the past few weeks, Steve has been shaking hands, high-fiving, and getting pats on the back from friends and co-workers. The thing is, he didn’t want to retire. Not at all. He won’t talk about the situation except to confirm that it was not his decision. Friends say Schorr needs to work, not only because he still has a lot he wants to do in the community, but because his family is facing some unimaginable challenges right now. Cox is a pretty good company and has every right to hire or fire whomever they choose, but it is a disservice to such a loyal employee to put out the word that the departure was voluntary. Schorr is one of the best-known people in the valley. Maybe there is a spot for him out there somewhere. … A federal RICO lawsuit filed by dissident members of the Operating Engineer’s Union in Nevada and California had its first court hearing a few days ago. The allegations in the lawsuit are toxic enough to peel varnish. … Remember all of the dire warnings about the doom that awaits anyone who dares to waste our precious water? Remember all of the expensive TV ads that intimate that those homeowners who waste water will be visited by an old lady who just might administer a swift kick to the balls? It always seemed to me that the anti-water waste efforts were half-hearted, more for show than anything. In reality, there is pretty much zero chance that anyone will be penalized for wasting water. The team of water cops once employed by local agencies has been whittled down to perhaps one full-time person. And just try to file a complaint sometime. Rob Mrowka — no friend to the water district — wanted to report an egregious case of water being wasted, so he tried to give some info to the proper authorities. He clocked and clicked and finally got an auto-response promising to forward his complaint to the proper agency. But the website also informed him that unless someone from the right agency personally observes and documents the waste, then the complaint Mrowka filed will almost certainly be ignored. Okay, water-wasters, it sounds like you’ve got the green light.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8.