Powers collide in tense meeting after Nevada AG calls LVMPD’s conclusion of UNLV student’s boxing death ‘premature’

AG cites missed opportunities for prosecution
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police chose not to file any charges toward any involved party after the death of 20-year-old Nathan Valencia.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 10:13 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Las Vegas Metropolitan Police chose not to file any charges toward any involved party after the death of 20-year-old Nathan Valencia, a UNLV student who died in November after a charity boxing match “Fight Night,” an event that was hosted by the fraternity Kappa Sigma off-campus at the Sahara Events Center.

Valencia died from blunt force trauma to the head, and Metro Police have repeatedly told FOX5 they believe there was no criminal intent and will not seek charges. But as a new findings report released Monday by the Nevada Attorney General’s office criticizes Metro’s investigation and conclusion, the police are now fervently defending that position.

A meeting at the Nevada State Athletic Commission to discuss the AG’s findings got heated Tuesday morning, after the AG’s office stated in the report, “Law enforcement statements that no crime has been committed were conclusory and premature, and compromised any possible future prosecutions.”

Stephen Cloobeck, Chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, loudly criticized other government authorities present, specifically in response to the allegations raised in the report.

“We all pay you to do your job! We all pay you to do your job!” said Cloobeck, to Metro’s representative. “Are you gonna triple down today, or are you going to come in and do the right thing? No, no, I’m asking you to answer a binary question, either yes or no.”

Metro’s representative Deputy Chief James LaRochelle fired back Tuesday, disputing the report and poking holes in its credibility.

“There’s people within the Nevada State Athletic Commission that said, ‘Hey, we think that the person-- Valencia, the decedent-- lost too much weight before this fight and that may have contributed to his death. We think that the sparring beforehand might’ve contributed to his death.’ How are we going to go out and conduct a criminal investigation when we have experts or other people weighing in that say those types of things?” said LaRochelle.

Metro first denied any criminality on the part of the venue less than two weeks after his death. “At the time this statement was made,” the AG’s office wrote, “Metro’s investigation had been limited to the sole question of whether the Sahara Event Center possessed a valid Clark County business license that allowed them to legally host the fight night event.”

LaRochelle said that was a misrepresentation.

“That is not true,” said LaRochelle. “We reviewed reports, we reviewed the dead bodies report, and we discussed it with [the DA’s homicide lead], and upon that review, she said that there was no criminal intent, and we asked if--”

“Can I stop you--” said Cloobeck.

LaRochelle attempted to continue.

“Can I stop you for a second--” reiterated Cloobeck. “I have pertinent information, sir, from the DA, from Steve Wolfson, from the DA, sir. Metro did not ask the right questions, metro did not ask the right questions! You asked a very binary, specific question, you didn’t ask the right questions.”

The AG’s report suggested a missed opportunity by Metro to discover whether cocaine was used by the opponent or others -- or if the boxing gloves had been tampered with, among other alleged violations.

In one example, the report revealed some alarming allegations about Emmanuel Aleman, Valencia’s opponent in the ring. “Due to the erratic behavior in the ring,” the AG’s report reads, “and his ability to not tire throughout the fight, [Valencia’s fraternity brother and friend] questioned if there was some sort of ‘foul play.’ Specifically, Aleman may have been under the influence of an illicit substance or that he had packed his gloves.”

This is something Geordan Logan, a lawyer representing Aleman at the meeting, fiercely refuted.

“They were both doing this as a charity event to help the community,” said Logan. “And what happened here was devastating to my client. He wants to get to the bottom of this too.”

Cloobeck quickly responded, “Has Mr. Aleman-- has he ever had substance use issues?”

“There is absolutely no evidence of anything like that,” said Logan.

The AG also said in the report that they were unable to get in touch with Aleman’s other attorney Sean Claggett to recover the gloves he wore that night.

“Because Aleman and his family refused to speak with law enforcement, investigators were unable to recover Aleman’s gloves, despite numerous attempts to contact Aleman’s attorney, Sean Claggett.”

Logan refuted this.

“There was never an intent on our part to prevent or hinder the investigation -- we were just never asked!” Logan said.

Cloobeck said, “We would love for you to ask your client if your client would hand over the gloves.”

“If he has them, absolutely,” said Logan.

The owner of Sahara Events Center chose not to comment at the meeting at the request of his attorney.

“We came here today to answer as many questions as possible. I feel as though that’s not going that route, kind of with the intent of criminal action, I’ve just advised my client not to say anything,” his attorney stated.

Meanwhile, authorities’ fact-finding missions continue.

“As of today, we have not received a request for prosecution involving this matter,” said a representative of the Clark County DA Office at the meeting. “If we do, what I can assure you, is we will thoughtfully and thoroughly review that request and make the appropriate decision with respect to the prosecutorial merit of the case.”

Metro police sent two emailed statements to FOX5 on Tuesday in response to the criticism.

“The LVMPD disputes the findings of the Attorney General’s Investigative report. After the initial event, LVMPD communicated in a timely manner with UNLV Police, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Nevada State Athletic Commission” said Officer Larry Hadfield, spokesperson for Metro.

That Metro spokesperson later added, “The hearing this morning at the Nevada State Athletic Commission was unprofessional and unproductive. LVMPD is willing to assist the Attorney General’s office if they want to move forward with any criminal prosecution.”

Cloobeck told FOX5 Tuesday that he hopes Metro will be “participatory” going forward.

“Let’s see what they do. Actions speak, right? Actions speak,” said Cloobeck.

Here is more information on Monday’s report by the AG’s office.