The woman at the center of a federal case against a former Metro Police officer who is accused of using excessive force against her is now implicating the department as a whole. Amanda Ortiz says she was victimized, and she is speaking publicly for the first time only to 8 News NOW.
“You're an officer that's supposed to be there for my safety or, you know what I mean, and at that point, I just felt unsafe,” she said.
The incident occurred in January 2015. Ortiz says former Metro Police Officer Richard Scavone threw her to the ground, slammed her into a patrol car and knocked out a couple of her teeth.
“I seen my face on the glass, and my face was bleeding all over the place,” she said.
The 24-year-old woman was suspected of working as a prostitute - something she's been arrested for before. After Scavone stopped her in a hotel parking lot, she says the stop turned violent. She was taken into custody. Ortiz says she immediately complained.
“I felt like it was wrong. I know my rights as citizen,” she said.
Scavone was fired months later. In January, a federal grand jury indicted him for excessive use of force and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying on a police report.
Ortiz is now suing Scavone, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and other officers at that scene.
“It's unfathomable that an officer wearing a body camera thinks that he can change the facts,” said Ortiz’s attorney Cal Potter. “It's like the Rodney King case. If there hadn't been video tape, it would have just been another beating. So, you have a situation here where this young lady was beaten for not committing any type of offense and not doing anything that was unlawful.”
Potter says he has not yet seen the bodycam video. Ortiz says she was able to view the video once after her complaint at police headquarters.
8 News NOW has repeatedly asked Metro Police to release the bodycam video. The most recent request came in January. Metro deferred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, citing the open federal case.
When a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office told 8 News NOW the office would not prevent Metro from releasing the video, 8 News NOW asked Metro again for it. Again, Metro declined the request.
8 News NOW responded by filing a Freedom of Information Act request on January 13. A Metro Police spokesperson said the request would take at least 30 days to process.
On February 2, 8 News NOW received a letter from Sheriff Joe Lombardo denying the station’s request. The letter read, “As of the date of this letter, the item requested is not a public record. It is evidence in an open criminal case and not subject to disclosure pending release in open court or other action in the criminal case.”
Ortiz filed her civil lawsuit on February 5.
“I think it's wrong. It's wrong, because it was what… what is the point of having a body camera if it's only gonna’ be internal?” Ortiz asked.
“I think what's important is it shows there is a deterrent. I mean the reason you have body cameras is to prevent these types of situations or hopefully discourage these types of situations,” Potter said.
8 News NOW also asked for a mugshot for Ortiz from the day of her arrest, since it may have shown injuries she's referencing.
It's common practice for the department to release mugshots at the request of the media.
8 News NOW was told in an e-mail Tuesday the department will not release the booking photograph at this time.
“I just feel like if I wouldn't have been as assertive as I have been, it would have just got swept under the rug, and that's what's not okay with me,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz says she's also having trouble getting reports and other information from Metro. They say a sergeant arrived later to the initial scene and failed to look more into her claims against Scavone. They say they have been unable to obtain the name of that sergeant. As a result, a ‘Sgt. John Doe’ is listed in the civil lawsuit.
Metro Police has not yet had an opportunity to respond to this new element of the case. Historically, Metro Police does not comment on pending litigation.
8 News NOW also reached out to Scavone’s attorney for comment, but the call was not returned.
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