Drug Law

Officer Bryan Yant Cleared: Shot Unarmed Trevon Cole

| by Marijuana Policy Project

A coroner’s inquest jury ruled this weekend that the fatal shooting of Trevon Cole by a Las Vegas narcotics officer during a botched marijuana raid in June was justified, despite reports of conflicting testimony and contradictory evidence.

Cole, 21, was shot dead in front of his pregnant fiancée after officers raided their Las Vegas home on June 11. He was unarmed. It was later revealed that officers meant to target a different man with the same name, who they claimed was a major marijuana dealer. Officers were serving a search warrant on Cole after allegedly buying 1.8 ounces of marijuana from him over a five-week period.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Detective Bryan Yant, who has been involved in other questionable shootings, testified that he fired the fatal shot after Cole stood up and moved his hands toward the officer “in a shooting motion.”

“Unfortunately he made an aggressive act toward me,” Yant said, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “He made me do my job.”

It took the jury only 90 minutes to clear Yant, even though the Review Journal and other sources report that his testimony and that of others were riddled with disturbing inconsistencies, including:

• Only one of the six officers present during the raid heard Yant give verbal orders to Cole. That officer testified that Yant said nothing to Cole about his hands.
• The bullet that killed 300-pound Cole traveled through his cheek and neck in a downward angle, leading the medical examiner to find it “highly unlikely” that Cole stood and stepped toward Yant, as Yant claims.
• Both the medical examiner and homicide detective who investigated the scene believe that Cole was crouched over the toilet when he turned toward Yant.
• Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens said the evidence suggests there was an “accidental discharge” when Yant kicked in the bathroom door. Other officers present heard both a door kick and a gunshot.

Read the full article in the Review Journal for more outrageous details about this weekend’s inquest, including egregious errors Yant made on the affidavit prior to the raid, and other apparent violations of department policy that officers made while executing the raid.

Cole family attorney Andre Lagomarsino called the inquest “a kangaroo court and dog and pony show” and is vowing to file a civil rights lawsuit, as well as a possible racketeering lawsuit, against the Vegas police department. “I think in this case I believe absolutely Detective Yant was held above the law,” Lagomarsino told the local ABC affiliate. Phil Smith from the Drug War Chronicle has more details about the possible racketeering case.

Stay tuned for updates.