Board Reinstates Police Officer Fired After Trailer Park Run-In

 

Monday, September 15, 1997

William Stark says Sheriff Jerry Keller will disregard or appeal an order to put him back on the LV police force.

By Joe Schoenmann
Review-Journal

A Las Vegas police officer, fired two years ago after being accused of bursting into a Boulder Highway trailer home and terrorizing a couple, has been reinstated to the police force.
Officer William Stark, fired by Sheriff Jerry Keller in July 1995, can go back to his old job at entry-level pay Sept. 26, the Civil Service Board has ruled.
But 30-year-old Stark, reached at his home 180 miles north of Las Vegas in Pioche, said he is confident the sheriff will do everything he can to keep him off the force.
“He’ll either disregard totally the board’s decision or at the last day appeal it,” said Stark, who works for the Nevada Department of Prisons. “Metro has all the money and all the time, and they don’t care.”
Keller referred questions about whether the Police Department would appeal the decision to Doug Spring, police personnel executive director.
“A decision hasn’t been made yet,” Spring said, adding that the final determination will be made by the department’s executive staff before the end of the month.
In its ruling, the Civil Service Board said Stark should have been punished, not fired, for the Oct. 20, 1993 incident.
“The level of discipline imposed by the (Police Department) was not proportionate to the violation committed by officer Stark,” the board said in its Aug. 29 ruling.
Stark and officer William Van Cleef came under heavy media scrutiny after Randy Holder and Cynthia Calli accused the pair of terrorizing them at the couple’s home.
The officers’ run-in with the couple stemmed from Stark losing his off-duty badge and weapon while frequenting a nearby tavern, the Free Throw Lounge, 5749 Boulder Highway, with Van Cleef. Stark left a fanny pack containing the badge and gun behind when he went to the restroom. The pack was gone when he returned.
Police eventually arrested Robert Bonata, also known as “Bam-Bam,” on suspicion of taking the items after he tried to enter a crime scene using the stolen badge.
But Van Cleef and Stark didn’t know about that yet. What they knew was that Bonata, who had been sitting just behind them, had left the tavern. They were told that some people in a nearby trailer would know how to contact Bonata, so they went to the trailer.
“What happened at the home of Mr. Holder and Ms. Calli is the subject of conflicting testimony,” the Civil Service Board said.
Stark and Van Cleef, wearing shorts and T-shirts, knocked on the door of the trailer home, and Holder answered. Stark didn’t have his badge, so he handed over his police identification card.
The two officers entered the home and began to question Holder. “We knew he wasn’t the one,” said Stark, adding that the two were only trying to determine if Holder knew where Bonata had gone.
Though the officers deny harassing the couple, Van Cleef later admitted that he pulled the telephone cord out of the wall when Calli tried to call 911.
The two left, Stark said, when Calli started getting irate.
“His old lady runs into the bathroom screaming, ‘You can’t take my boyfriend to jail!’ ” Stark said. “About 30 seconds later, we left.”
Holder and Calli “blew it out of proportion” in talking to the local media, Stark said.
“They got the media involved, and once the media is involved with the police, it automatically turns into a bad situation,” Stark said. “The media always seems to jump on a cop story.”
Eventually, Stark pleaded no contest to the reduced misdemeanor charge of trespassing. Van Cleef pleaded guilty to coercion and no contest to battery.
For two years the officers were suspended without pay. Keller, elected in November 1994, fired them in July 1995.
In May 1996, the two officers settled out of court with Calli and Holder, who had sued, claiming their civil rights had been violated. The officers paid them $4,000 total; the Police Department paid the couple an additional $7,500.
The officers, meanwhile, took their cases to arbitration, where Van Cleef won and Stark lost.
Despite Van Cleef’s victory, the Police Department refused to reinstate him. He appealed to District Court, which sided with the department. Van Cleef appealed, though, and the case is in the hands of the Nevada Supreme Court. The date for an oral hearing has not been set, said Van Cleef’s attorney, Tom Beatty.
Stark took a different route, appealing his case to the Civil Service Board, which reinstated him in August.
Now, Stark says, if the department doesn’t appeal the board’s decision, he will gladly rejoin the force.
“I’m not saying I didn’t make any mistakes,” he said of the 1993 incident. “I shouldn’t have investigated it myself, but I did. Now I want to get back to my job.”

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

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  2. WEI STENCEL
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 09:47:10

    First-rate weblog.

    Appreciate it…

    affownicene

    Reply

  3. david
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 01:32:27

    makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages

    Reply

  4. Randy
    Oct 21, 2013 @ 06:57:00

    I am one of the victims in this case, the officers comments above demonstrate a lack of remorse and accountability for his actions, The facts are not now disputable wherein they both pled guilty to reduced charges and admitted in open court their full knowledge that their actions were both wrong and illegal and in violation of our civil rights.
    WHY because a trial would have been very bad choice on the two felony charges they were charged with simply because the facts supported a convection of the charges.
    Like anyone else I believe everyone deserves a second chance in life to demonstrate the ability for rehabilitation and a change in perception of their actions.
    The above comments by the officer does not convince me of ether one.
    I know this commit is years later and he may well have been returned back to the force by now, I only hope that he has more respect for individuals rights today.

    While on duty an officer is in a position of absolute power that needs to be guided by his character, in this case it was not just his bad judgment to investigate while off duty, it was very bad to do so while intoxicated.
    Intoxicated he unleashed any character constraints to operate within the law to achieve his goal of getting his weapon back at any cost.

    They entered our home by force, physically attached us both, held us against our will, ripped out the phone cord, interrogated us, and threatened us all while being stanchly intoxicated.

    He knew it was wrong and illegal but driven by the motivation to protect his reputation after carelessly losing both his weapon and his badge; he acted without consideration of our individual rights and stepped over the line from protector to predator.
    I only have to ask myself one question if he was coming through my door again as an on duty police officer would I trust him to act within the law after reading his above statements.
    NO here he is still protecting his reputation at the cost of his integrity and I believe I would be in danger!

    Randy

    Reply

    • F... U
      Oct 18, 2015 @ 04:07:48

      I think randy is stupid!!! I knew these officers personally and yeah they fight when threatened, however never without cause!!!!!

      Reply

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