School district releases video of officer encounter with Durango High School students

A screenshot from a video released Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, of a confrontation between Clark County School District Police Lt. Jason Elfberg and students outside Durango High School. (Clark County School District Police Department)

By Lorraine Longhi

January 20, 2024

The Clark County School District released the body-camera footage of the altercation Thursday, nearly a year after the incident initially took place.

“You want next?” “Come at me again.” “You’re gonna be the next one in cuffs.”

That’s what Clark County School District Police Department Lt. Jason Elfberg can be heard saying to students in newly-released body camera footage of a February 2023 incident where students filmed an altercation involving Elfberg outside Durango High School.

Elfberg was captured on camera throwing a Black student to the ground after school police were called to the high school in response to what they said was an investigation into a report of a firearm near the school.

The district released the body-camera footage of the altercation Thursday, nearly a year after the incident initially took place, and nine months after the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a lawsuit seeking the release of video and other records related to the incident.

Last month, after the district previously denied requests for the records, a Las Vegas judge ordered that the footage be released.

In the initial video of the altercation that went viral, Elfberg can be seen throwing a student to the ground and putting his knee onto the student’s back, a move which drew comparisons to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020 that launched widespread civil rights protests.

The district initially denied requests for copies of the original report into the incident, the body-camera footage, and any past complaints made against Elfberg, calling the information confidential and arguing that it was not required to be produced under public records law.

“I have a lot of anger, and I think a lot of people in this community do as well,” ACLU Executive Director Athar Haseebullah told The Nevadan Friday. “They have wasted public money, they have been so unprofessional through this whole thing and they have disrespected these kids and their families. It’s a pattern they engage in routinely because they can get away with it.”

The school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday about the contents of the video, or about its decision to not discipline Elfberg.

On Friday, the district said in a statement that it was required to protect the identity and safety of minors and the rights of police officers under Nevada law.

“Those laws were upheld, and the release of the court-ordered video shows that the rights of citizens were honored and laws were followed despite the challenges of that day’s events near Durango High School,” it wrote.

I can stop anybody I want’

The ACLU is representing two students involved in the incident, one of whom was thrown to the ground by Elfberg. The organization said Friday that both students were 14 years old at the time of the altercation.

In the video, Elfberg can be seen walking toward a student who is walking away from him, ultimately putting him in handcuffs as the student shouts “I didn’t do anything.” Elfberg later throws a second student to the ground and takes out pepper spray to point at other students.

Later, while addressing the first student, Elfberg can be heard accusing the students of wanting to “make a show.”

“You refused to leave, so now you made yourself a part of it,” Elfberg said. “Everybody else here is making themselves a part of it. If they just leave, we don’t have to do this.”

But ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Chris Peterson said any danger in the situation was manufactured purely by Elfberg’s actions.

“It is only Elfberg who is yelling. It is only Elfberg who is detaining students. It is only Elfberg pulling out pepper spray,” Peterson said.

Elfberg went on to defend his actions later in the video, saying, “I can stop anybody I want.”

After a parent appears in the video irate about her child being in handcuffs, Elfberg can be heard saying, “That’s not how you’re going to talk to me. She’s about to talk herself into handcuffs too.”

Peterson maintained Friday that the students were not violating the law by standing on the sidewalk, asking questions or filming officers, and threats suggesting otherwise violate their First Amendment rights.

“You cannot chill First Amendment activities, and the threat of arrest is chilling First Amendment activity,” he said.

“I think this incident really highlights how aggressively police officers will do what they can to force you to stop exercising your most basic of freedoms,” Peterson told The Nevadan.

What’s next?

Peterson said Friday that the question is not if the ACLU will file a lawsuit on behalf of the students, “the question is when.”

For Quentin Savwoir, president of the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP, the release of the footage demonstrated that the system can work, but that it can be a slow process to see results.

Savwoir asked the school district’s Board of Trustees to make “serious changes” to its use-of-force policies, and also called on District Attorney Steve Wolfson to open an investigation into the case.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has established an Emerging Leaders program for young people to learn about leadership, professional development and civil rights.

Haseebullah, the ACLU executive director, said his organization was pleased they were able to obtain the records, but called for more oversight and accountability of agencies looking to obstruct the release of records.

“A non-transparent government is a non-accountable government,” he said.

  • Lorraine Longhi

    Lorraine Longhi is a reporter for The Nevadan and native of the southwest. A graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication, she spent eight years reporting in Arizona, including at The Arizona Republic and The Copper Courier, where she covered education, health care and state politics. She returned to Las Vegas, her hometown, last year as an education reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where she was later promoted to assistant city editor

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