Metro officer charged with arson is terminated despite 'corrupte - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU


Metro officer charged with arson is terminated despite 'corrupted' evidence at trial

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Jeff Harper was terminated from the LVMPD (FOX5). Jeff Harper was terminated from the LVMPD (FOX5).

An officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been terminated after being charged with arson and insurance fraud.

Officer Jeff Harper's criminal case ended in a mistrial because of missing and withheld evidence. FOX5 has since uncovered videos that the judge and jury never got to see.

Firefighters responded to a burning RV in the middle of Tecopa Highway on January 9, 2016. The RV was not attached to a vehicle, and fire investigators quickly determined that it was intentionally lit on fire.

Approximately an hour later, Harper showed up and spoke to a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper. Trooper McElroy was next to his patrol vehicle managing traffic, and the dash camera was recording.

"I think you definitely have reason to be suspicious," McElroy told one of the fire investigators.

The Clark County Fire Department stated it had enough evidence to prove Harper intentionally lit his own RV on fire with gasoline and a roll of papers used as a "wick" for igniting the flames. Someone called 911 to report the fire approximately one minute after Harper left the RV unattended.

"I’ll bring it up. It’s the elephant in the room. Yeah, I’m upside-down on my trailer," Harper told investigators, according to an arrest report.

Investigators stated they also caught Harper lying to his insurance company about the extent of the damage.

The NHP trooper's dash camera footage was given to CCFD and LVMPD. At that point, investigators learned that the segment of the video in which Harper arrives went "missing."

"It wouldn't play and (Trooper McElroy) didn't know why," investigator Michael Doughty testified.

As a result, the lead investigator on the case decided not to turn over the evidence because a portion of it was "corrupted."

"I did not feel like it had any evidentiary value," lead investigator Denell Hoggard testified.

"Okay, and why? Why is that?" asked defense attorney Andrew Leavitt.

Hoggard stumbled with her words.

"I don't -- have an answer for it really. I -- I -- uh -- me not turning it over? It was an error. I did not do it intentionally," she said. 

"So if you had to do it over again?" Leavitt asked.

"Absolutely. I would totally turn it over," Hoggard replied. "It wasn't anything nefarious. It wasn't anything calculated. It was just an error."

"You indicated that you wanted to make sure that you dotted the i's and crossed the t's," Leavitt asked.

"Yes," Hoggard said. "It was an oversight, sir."

"I can't think of a piece of evidence in this whole case that would have more evidentiary value," Leavitt later argued.

Prosecutors with the Attorney General's office took the stand and said they were blinded by Hoggard and that they were told there was absolutely nothing on video.

Judge Douglas Herndon said he was "dumbfounded" by Hoggard's ignorance.

"I just can't fathom how that can happen to somebody trained to do these kinds of investigations," Herndon said. "I've never had a case before, either as an attorney or a judge, that's involved multiple agencies that seemed to have dropped the ball."

"It was intentionally withheld, in my opinion, there's just no excuse for it," Leavitt argued. "It's not a misrepresentation. It's not a mistake. Somebody is flat out lying in this case."

Hoggard retired shortly after Harper's alleged crime. She now works in real estate and has refused to talk about the case with FOX5.

Fire Chief Greg Cassell has also refused to talk about the case or policies he expects his investigators to abide by.

"Yeah we're still looking through some of that, so we're not going to delve into that," he said. "I'm not really up to speed on all that stuff right now, but if anything comes up I'll let you know."

Cassell has since ignored all requests for an interview. Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan said the department has "no comment" and "never will" have a comment. He refused to specify a reason.

An attorney representing LVMPD said it was not required to hand over any evidence because detectives were simply handling Harper's internal affairs investigation -- not the criminal investigation. Judge Herndon disagreed.

Harper was terminated from LVMPD on January 11, 2018. The department declined to state a reason.

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