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Lyon County District Attorney Releases Bonta Police Report

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Last week Indian Country Today Media Network received a copy of the police report concerning the arrest of John Bonta on May 24, 2011. (A request had been sent on June 22, 2011.) Significantly, there is no reference or mention in the report to the claims of the Bonta family that they were targeted by alleged assailants for being Native, or that anti-Native slurs were used during the incident. Put simply, the events recorded in the documents from the Sheriff’s office are considerably divergent from what the Bontas have alleged.

According to the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office’s District Attorney Fact Sheet filed by Deputy Steve Tustin, Johno Bonta, Shane Murray (Bonta’s son-in-law) and Alyssa Bonta were charged with Assault and Battery with a Deadly Weapon. Although a box is checked indicating the “suspects” were interviewed, no written statements by them are included in the police report. In another section for Statement of suspect(s), the following boxes have checkmarks: “Denied,” “Conflicting,” “Written” and “Verbal.” The Case Disposition is recorded as Closed by Arrest and Warrant Requested. Hands, feet, ratchet wrench, small baseball bat, golf club and automobile are listed under the description for weapons or instruments used. See the Bonta's account here. Under Hate Crime, the box “No” is checked.

The Narrative written by Deputy Tustin has Tustin dispatched on May 24 to the scene of a reported fight on Truckee Lane, near the Nevada Department of Transportation. Arriving at the scene he observed two cars, a white Ford Crown Victoria and a green Mitsubishi Eclipse 60 feet apart, and was approached by Jacob Cassell, Josh Janiszweski, and another male (who shall remain unidentified as he is under the age of 18). Bonta and Shane Murray were observed in a field south of the cars, and Deputy Travis Clarke, also dispatched earlier, was sent to them.

According to Cassell as reported by Tustin, he and his friends drove into a local Quik Stop where Bonta and Murray began yelling at him. Cassell drove to an unknown address at a local street, departed, and observed Bonta and Murray following them in white car. They continued to drive along various streets, trailed by the white car, until Cassell drove onto Truckee Lane, discovered it was not a thoroughfare, and in the midst of trying to turn around his car was intentionally struck in the driver’s side by Murray.

Murray got out of his car with a ratchet in his hand, said Cassell, then smashed the driver’s window. Cassell and Janiszewski exited via their passenger door; Cassell tried to pull a small baseball bat out of a side-door compartment, but it broke and he dropped it. Murray and he began fighting; he got the ratchet away from Murray; he tackled Murray and put him in a “rear naked” chokehold. Alyssa Bonta then came over, grabbed the ratchet and hit Cassell in the head.

Janiszewski told Deputy Tustin that he fought with Bonta, who approached him wielding a golf-club that he used to strike him on his back. Bonta dropped the club, and they fought. A witness from the Department of Transportation yard then shouted and said he called the police. Bonta and Murray ran into the field.

According to the narrative, Tustin spoke to the young underage man, who said he was not involved, but he corroborated Cassell’s and Murray’s stories. Tustin spoke to Alyssa Bonta next. The information attributed to her is minimal: The three men drove around their car at the QuikStop and stared at Murray and Bonta which, according to the narrative, “instigated the altercation.” The other piece of information: She said she “began striking Cassell in the head” with the ratchet when she began to fear for Murray’s life. As they talked, Lisa Bonta started having a seizure and Alyssa went to her mother, who was being helped by paramedics. Tustin told her he would finish speaking to her “after Lisa Bonta was no longer having a seizure.” He then scanned the scene for weapons; as he did, Alyssa and Lisa went into the ambulance. His report then has Deputy Conner MacPherson taking their information and providing them with statement forms; the ambulance then left for Renown Medical Center. Tustin wrote: “I was not aware that Alyssa Bonta accompanied Lisa Bonta to the hospital until after the ambulance was already on the way to the hospital.”

Detailed descriptions of the scene, placement of the cars and bat, ratchet and golf club follow. Tustin met with the witness at the Transportation yard, who said he saw John Bonta fighting with Janisweski and Cassell fighting with Murray, and Alyssa striking Cassell.

Lieutenant Abel Ortiz and Deputy Travis Clarke interviewed Bonta and Murray away from the scene. Murray’s visible injuries required the attention of paramedics and he was taken away. Ortiz reported that Bonta identified himself as Wade Bonta but provided no papers or id card. Lieutenant Ortiz transported Bonta to the scene and to Tustin, where they identify him as Johno Bonta. When asked about the golf club and ratchet, Bonta stated: “I had the ratchet, but I did not use it.” (Note: In a summary page of the report, the statement is attributed to Murray.) The report says that Bonta told Tustin that they (with Murray driving) followed the other car after the three men stared at them in the QuikStop. And: “Johno Bonta continued telling me someone from Cassell’s vehicle used the golf club.”

Tustin’s narrative concludes: “Upon completing my investigation, I determined Murray, Johno Bonta, and Alyssa Bonta to be the primary aggressor since they followed Cassell, Janiszewski and [NAME REDACTED] and struck them with the vehicle. I also determined Murray, Johno Bonta and Alyssa Bonta to be the primary aggressor since they approached Cassell’s vehicle with weapons and battered Cassell and Janiszweski with the weapons.

“Deputy Macpherson placed Johno Bonta into custody for a warrant out of Pershing County and for battery with a deadly weapon.”

Note: Bonta was the only person who was, or has been, arrested.

As noted earlier, there are no written statements by anyone in the Bonta family.

In the written statements provided by Janiszweski and the underage young man, they have the Bontas leaving the QuikStop first; according to the Tustin narrative, Cassell said he and his friends left first. Also, Tustin has Bonta saying they followed the car with the young men in it.

In his statement, Cassell wrote that Murray and Bonta yelled, “What you looking at” and “fuck you white boys.” He wrote that they “smashed into my car.” Murray is described as “the smaller mexican guy.”

Janiszewksi’s statement uses “tall Indian man and skinny Mexican looking kid” to describe Bonta and Murray.

The underage young man’s statement says “they slammed us from the side” when describing the accident.

The statement by the witness at the Department of Transportation yard presents an image of four men fighting, and uses the familiar terms “Jake” and “Josh” to describe Cassell and Janiszewski. Bonta is referred to as the “big indian guy” and “big indian.”

Many photos were taken at the scene, particularly of Jacob Cassell, who had two bloody contusions on his head. Murray is equally bloody and bruised. Bonta has thin gashes on his neck, a contusion in the shape of a stripe on his back, a dazed look and what appears to be a swollen nose. Janiszweski has scrapes on his back.

The cars were also extensively photographed and apart from a broken driver’s side window on the Mitsubishi, the damage appears to be minimal. Some white paint on the Mitsubishi left rear quarter panel (and perhaps a dent), and a broken side-blinker next to the right headlight on the Crown Victoria. There also appear to be curving skidmarks from the Mitsubishi, and a short skid mark from the front right tire of the Crown Victoria.

Additionally, though the photographs show the Crown Victoria to have little damage, another form in the report has boxes for “wrecked” and “damaged in accident,” along with the signature of T. Clarke as “Officer Ordering Vehicle Stored.”

Finally, there is a follow-up report from June 14 by Lieutenant Ortiz, in which he states that he received information on the 14th that Jacob Cassell had posted comments on Facebook about the incident. Ortiz was unable to view Jacob Cassell’s page, but he was able to view the page of his mother, Dee Cassell. He saw a post from her at 6:07 on May 25 in the morning: “What the heck is our small town coming to? Jacob got forced off roadyesterday & people took a golf club & wrench to him & his friends & the car. Thanks to the NDOT workers who called it in & to the deputies who arrested the other idiots.” Ortiz met with Dee Cassell later that day on “an unrelated matter” and he asked if she could log in to Jacob Cassell’s page for him. He looked at Cassell’s postings and only found one comment about the incident where he mentioned needing to get his car repaired.

See: Bonta Family Revisits Site of Alleged Attack