LAS VEGAS -- A former employee of the Clark County School District Police Department alleges that top officials in the department instituted a coverup regarding officers drinking with teenagers at a wild party that ended in tragedy.
Former police dispatcher Penny Higgins says most department personnel are aghast that a coverup was initiated following a 2009 fatal DUI. Several sources say that school police officials are still trying to keep a lid on what happened at the party.
"Why has this been a coverup all this time?" said Linda Peterson. "I think it's a coverup."
Frank and Linda Peterson are wracked by pain and disgust. The pain comes from the November 2009 death of their only daughter, Angela, at the hands of 18-year-old drunk driver Kevin Miranda.
But they are disgusted at the Clark County School District Police Department, because several members of that department were partying with Miranda for hours prior to the fatal crash.
Peterson's attorney Marc Cook finds it creepy that school cops were boozing it up, not only with Miranda, but with more than 20 other school age kids.
"These are the people they have authority over. It wouldn't be more comfortable if classroom teachers got together and drank with students. This is worse," said Cook.
An internal investigation by the school police failed to find a single witness who could remember seeing Miranda drinking with district employees, even though the party was held at the home of police dispatcher Rebecca Wamsley, and Wamsley's insurance company paid the maximum settlement because Miranda was provided booze at the home.
But now, a witness has come forward.
"I thought it would be an adult party. That's what the flyer implied. We would have Thanksgiving dinner and then we are going to have a party afterwards and yeah, there would be beer pong and drinking," said Penny Higgins.
Higgins was a dispatcher for the school police in 2009 and remembers seeing this flyer for Wamsley's holiday party posted inside the department. It was also sent out via department email.
But she had no idea the party for police employees would coincide with a birthday party for Wamsley's 17-year-old daughter until teenagers started showing up, helping themselves to booze set up on tables inside Wamsley's garage.
"They started drinking. They were getting into hard alcohol. We had several teenagers ask us if we could move so they could get into a beer cooler behind," said Higgins.
Higgins says it would be impossible for any of her police department co-workers to have missed seeing the teenagers drinking.
"There is no way, not unless they were blind," she said.
Police dispatcher Tina Zuniga, whose Facebook photo showed her at a bar drinking a margarita, was at a table, Higgins says, drinking with her 16-year-old daughter Marissa and Marissa's boyfriend, Kevin Miranda. Higgins also saw Miranda playing beer pong with adults. Higgins and her date decided to leave.
"We were a little uncomfortable," she said. "Because of the kids drinking, you know. At about 10, I'm like, 'They're going to get raided by Metro any time now because there were 20 kids in the driveway. That's where all the kids went. They were all lined up out in the driveway, then coming into the garage to get their drinks and going back outside... I said, 'Yeah, there's going to be a lot of officers and dispatchers going down cause that is bad.'"
When the news broke the next day about a drunken Miranda killing Angela Peterson, the coverup began, Higgins says. Back at work, she was called into the office of Dispatch Supervisor Mondo Quintanella.
"He goes, 'You didn't see any of the kids drinking, did you?' and I said, 'Yeah, I did.' And he said, 'No you didn't,' and I said, 'Yeah, I did.' And he said, 'No you didn't,'" she said. "He said we need to put this in a good light. He said, 'You left early so you didn't see much and you won't have anything to say.' He said, 'We need to protect Rebecca. We don't want anything to happen to her.' And I said, 'If I get called into IA, I'm not lying.'"
Next, Higgins says she was visited by her immediate supervisor, Sgt. Brian Nebecker.
"He said, 'You didn't see anything, did you?' And I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You saw kids drinking?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'No, you didn't see anything, did you?' and I was like, 'Yeah.' And he got closer and he said, 'You didn't see anything, did you?'" she said.
Higgins and another dispatcher both refused to change their stories, and they were the only persons from the party who were not interviewed by internal affairs. All of those who were interviewed said they didn't see any kids drinking.
Higgins says she is not surprised by the memo sent out last week by CCSD Police Chief Phil Arroyo that called the allegations "fairytales." Arroyo has reportedly told employees who were at the party that this will all blow over soon and no one needs to worry. Higgins hopes that is not the case.
"I hope that all those who swept this under the rug have to answer for it, and I also hope they have to go to that girl's parents and say they are sorry. They hid it. How wrong is that?" she said.
Higgins has just been interviewed by Las Vegas police detectives who are looking into the issues surrounding this case. And another witness, Kevin Miranda, now publicly backs Higgins story. In an exclusive interview with 8 News NOW Reporter Melissa Duran, Miranda said he and the other teens were allowed to drink all they wanted, adding that he too was never questioned by internal affairs about the party or who was there.
Contrary to what Chief Arroyo has told his inner circle, this story is not going away anytime soon. It appears to be growing in several directions.
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