Daily Updates

March 29, 2013

Freeway chase led to ex-Nev. lawmaker’s arrest

LAS VEGAS — A former Nevada state lawmaker who had been expelled from the Assembly hours earlier led authorities in California on a high-speed freeway chase before he was shocked with a stun gun and arrested on charges including resisting arrest, authorities said Friday.

Steven Brooks, 41, was arrested at about 7 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 15 outside the city of Victorville after a 15-mile chase that exceeded speeds of 80 mph, California Highway Patrol Officer Don Spiker said.

It was Brooks’ third arrest since January, and the second involving allegations that he fought with police. He was expelled from the Legislature on Thursday, after lawmakers cited concerns about their own safety around him.

Authorities say Brooks got in an argument with a tow truck operator, fled in an SUV, tangled with uniformed officers on the side of the road and attacked a police dog with a wrench. Officers approached his vehicle with guns drawn, and Brooks appeared to be punched by one of the officers before he was shackled by the wrists and ankles on an ambulance gurney.

Barstow police said Brooks and the tow operator argued about Brooks’ unwillingness to pay for fixing a flat tire on the freeway in Barstow.

“We just know the tow truck driver was uncomfortable enough to call us for assistance,” Spiker said. “He said the subject was acting strange.”

The tow operator didn’t immediately respond Friday to messages from The Associated Press.

Brooks’ arrest came the same day he became the first lawmaker in Nevada history to be expelled from the Legislature.

It disappointed his lawyer, who has been representing Brooks through a series of sometimes bizarre legal and psychological incidents, and who had been fighting to keep the two-term Democratic state lawmaker in his elected seat representing a North Las Vegas district.

“We had started to discuss possible next steps,” attorney Mitchell Posin said, referring to a conversation he said he had with Brooks after Brooks’ expulsion from the Assembly.

“Next thing I know, I heard about this,” Posin said.

Posin said he had no details about the arrest, or about why Brooks was on the interstate in Barstow.

Brooks was arrested near the Stoddard Wells Road exit after leading officers on the chase with a flat tire, authorities said. The location is about 180 miles southwest of Las Vegas.

A witness, 30-year-old Jennifer Simpson, said she was alerted by police helicopters overhead and saw a red four-door SUV hit what appeared to be spike strips on the freeway and veer to the side of the road.

The driver got out of the vehicle but didn’t follow police commands to turn around and put his hands in the air, said Simpson, who lives in an apartment near the interstate in Victorville. The man ran back toward the SUV, chased by a police dog, she said.

Simpson said the driver shut himself in the vehicle before several officers with guns drawn pulled him out. She said she saw at least one officer punch the man several times.

Simpson’s husband videotaped four minutes of the struggle, in which uniformed officers wrestle the driver to the ground in front of the vehicle and an officer in a tan uniform raises his arms three times in apparent punching motions. The driver cannot be seen on the ground.

Kris Reilly, city editor of The Daily Press in Victorville, arrived at the scene with a photographer to see a man in dark clothing on a hospital gurney. He said the man was struggling against wrist and ankle restraints as he was loaded into an ambulance.

“He was yelling something to the effect that, ‘These cops are going down!”’ Reilly said. “He was yelling quite a bit.”

Barstow Police Chief Albert Ramirez released a statement alleging that when the police dog was sent into Brooks’ SUV, Brooks choked and hit the dog with a socket wrench. The dog, named Buck, was treated by a veterinarian for cuts on the head and leg.

“Brooks continued to resist the officers and not comply with their orders,” the Barstow police statement said. “A Taser was utilized on Brooks and after this, handcuffs were applied.”

The police report does not describe any police officers being injured and doesn’t address whether any officers punched Brooks.

Telephone messages for Ramirez and other Barstow police supervisors weren’t immediately returned.

Brooks was examined at Barstow Community Hospital before he was taken to a San Bernardino County jail in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., police said

Jail records show Brooks was being held on $100,000 bail pending a Tuesday court appearance on four felony charges including resisting a police officer with force, willful harm to a police service dog, felony evading arrest and throwing objects from a vehicle.

Brooks’ expulsion from the state Assembly came by voice vote following a recommendation from a bipartisan panel that met largely behind closed doors. The seven panel members considered a more than 900-page investigative report produced by a Las Vegas lawyer hired as a special counsel before voting 6-1 for expulsion.

A coalition of Nevada media outlets is seeking to have the investigative report made public.  

Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, who had called Brooks “potentially dangerous” and said lawmakers didn’t feel safe with him in the building, said Friday he was saddened by the arrest.

“I hope they get Steven the help he clearly needs before he or someone else is hurt or worse,” Horne said.

Brooks’ first arrest was Jan. 19, after he was accused of making threats toward legislative colleagues including Assembly Democratic Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. North Las Vegas police said Brooks had a gun and ammunition in his car when he was arrested. The state attorney general’s office has not filed criminal charges in the case.

Several days later, Brooks was hospitalized for five days for a mental evaluation after Las Vegas police were called to a dispute at his grandmother’s house.

Brooks was sworn in at the Legislature on Feb. 4, but was arrested again Feb. 10 at his estranged wife’s home in Las Vegas after police alleged he threw punches and grabbed for the gun of an officer who responded to a domestic dispute. He faces a court hearing in May in Las Vegas on one felony and three lesser charges.

Brooks was denied the purchase of a gun in northern Nevada last month after he was banished from the Legislature.

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