Inquiry clears Vegas officer

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By David Giuliani

Authorities have cleared a Las Vegas police officer of any criminal wrongdoing in his handling of a suspect earlier this year.

District Attorney Richard Flores announced this week that a state police investigation found that Officer Martin Salazar’s actions didn’t rise to the level of a crime — a conclusion with which the DA agreed.

Flores said the state police conducted a thorough investigation, interviewing about 20 people, including jailers who alleged that Salazar threatened the female arrestee, Bernadette Varela, with violence.

According to jailers’ reports, an angry Salazar referred to Varela by saying, “Get this (expletive) good for nothing piece of (expletive) out of my car before I hurt her.”

Varela had bruises that she said she suffered as the result of Salazar’s misconduct at her house, the jailers’ reports stated.

However, the officer reported that the woman had kicked him. She was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, concealing identity, assault on a police officer and felony battery on an officer.

The charges were thrown out after Varela wrote a three-sentence apology letter, but she later told the Optic that it was coerced.

Flores said state police canvassed Varela’s neighborhood, asking if anyone had witnessed anything in connection with Varela’s arrest.

He said Varela refused to talk with the officer investigating the allegations and that she failed to show up for a scheduled interview, even though it was arranged through her attorney.

Varela doesn’t have a phone, so she couldn’t be reached for comment.

Flores said that his morals and values “mean everything to me in pursuing justice.”

“My final decisions, I know, are not going to always satisfy everybody and may not be the answer they want to hear, but I believe the citizenry of the Fourth Judicial District trusts that my decisions are based on the facts as applied to the law — both of which we do not get to pick and choose,” Flores said in an e-mail.

Police Chief Gary Gold said he was glad the “truth came to light” with the state police investigation. He said his department looks into allegations made against its officers.

“Our obligation as administrators is to seek the truth and do the right thing,” he said.

Gold declined to comment on whether any internal disciplinary action has been taken against Salazar or whether he believed his officer acted professionally with Varela.