District Attorney Richard Flores said his office didn’t know about reports of an abusive incident at the county jail when charges against the alleged victim were dropped in exchange for a letter of apology.
In a Wednesday interview, Flores said his office conditioned dismissal of the charges against Bernadette Varela on receipt of a letter of apology at the request of Las Vegas police Sgt. Martin Salazar.
In a criminal complaint against Varela, Salazar said Varela had kicked him in the crotch. Varela’s letter of apology does say that she struck Salazar.
The Optic has received several incident reports filed by jail personnel describing Salazar’s behavior when he arrived with Varela at the county jail on the afternoon of Feb. 18.
According to jailers’ reports, a “raging mad” Salazar told jail staff, “Get this (expletive) good-for-nothing piece of s--- female out of my car before I hurt her.”
But Varela was already injured, jailers reported. Jail documents describe Varela, a 52-year-old, 136-pound woman, as crying uncontrollably and complaining of pain in hear head, arm and shoulder, which she said were caused by Salazar grabbing her by the hair, slamming her into a vehicle and injuring her shoulder.
After examination by the county’s medical personnel, her condition was deemed sufficient to merit her transfer to Alta Vista Regional Hospital. But jailers didn’t want Salazar to take Varela to the hospital, fearing for her safety, according to reports.
District Attorney Flores expressed skepticism at the possibility of police wrongdoing in this case.
“If Ms. Varela felt she was beaten, don’t you think I would have gotten a call from Ms. Varela?” Flores said. “If she is alleging any sort of police brutality, I find it strange that she has never filed any sort of civil claim against Martin Salazar or the LVPD. I’ve never received these reports and I would assume if the jail felt there was any criminal wrongdoing, I would have got them. Chief (Gary) Gold got those reports, and I never heard about it.”
“If I got the report,” Flores added, “and I believed there had been criminal wrongdoing, it would have been my duty to initiate an investigation and because there is a LVPD officer involved, the investigation would likely have been done by the state police.”
Police Chief Gary Gold declined to comment on the allegations against Salazar, saying it was a personnel matter. Salazar remains on the job.
Varela’s attorney, Marc Grano, didn’t return a call for comment.