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Ousted Nevada legislator arrested near Barstow after car chase

Steven Brooks is jailed in San Bernardino County, accused of resisting arrest, hours after being expelled from the Nevada State Assembly.

March 29, 2013|By John Glionna, Los Angeles Times
  • Steven Brooks raises his arms as he is arrested near Barstow after a police chase. Hours earlier, he had been expelled from the Nevada State Assembly.
Steven Brooks raises his arms as he is arrested near Barstow after a police… (Jennifer Simpson, Associated…)

LAS VEGAS — A disgraced Nevada politician who just hours earlier had been expelled from the State Assembly in an unprecedented vote was arrested outside Barstow after a high-speed chase with police.

Steven Brooks was being held Friday on charges that included resisting arrest and throwing objects. His arrest came after state lawmakers in Carson City, Nev., voted to remove him from office, calling him "potentially dangerous."

Officials say Brooks, 41, was arrested about 7 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 15 at Stoddard Wells Road. He was taken to the San Bernardino County Jail in Rancho Cucamonga, where he was being held on $100,000 bail. Authorities said it was unclear why Brooks was in California.

The arrest marked the continued downward spiral of a politician who had multiple run-ins with authorities in recent months. Brooks, a Democrat, represented a blue-collar district in North Las Vegas.

The personal descent began in January when Brooks was arrested on suspicion of threatening a fellow Democrat, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. Within days, he was briefly hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation after a quarrel at his grandmother's house involving a sword. Not long afterward, the father of four was accused of grabbing for an officer's gun while being arrested on suspicion of the domestic battery of his wife.

In February, new troubles arose: Law enforcement officers said investigators shadowing Brooks reported that he unsuccessfully tried to purchase an unspecified type of gun at a northern Nevada sporting goods store. Investigators said Brooks had a gun and dozens of rounds of ammunition in his car.

Brooks had been banned from meetings with party colleagues in the Assembly, the Legislature's lower house, and was banished from the Nevada Legislative Building. In recent weeks, he was also kicked out of a casino restaurant in Reno for unspecified reasons.

Assembly Majority Leader William Horne last month notified Brooks in a letter that he was being placed on paid leave pending recommendations from a select committee named to investigate whether he was fit to serve.

That decision came Thursday, when often-tearful Assembly members voted to oust Brooks. Horne called him "potentially dangerous" and said lawmakers didn't feel safe with him in the building.

Horne said that Brooks' unpredictable behavior — which included missing meetings, calling news conferences he never showed up for and posing shirtless for the Las Vegas Review-Journal — had made the session look "more like a circus and daytime drama than a serious legislative body."

Mitchell Posin, Brooks' attorney, did not return several phone calls Friday. Calls to Brooks' office, which he typically answered himself, went unanswered. A special election will be held to replace him.

Brooks, who was born in Los Angeles, was first elected to the Assembly in 2010, according to the website Project Vote Smart. A former math teacher, he has also served as a liaison and management analyst for the city of Las Vegas. As an assemblyman, he served on committees dealing with health and human services, transportation and the state's judiciary.

His ouster Thursday marked the first time the Legislature had kicked out one of its members since a lawmaker was accused of libeling other members in 1867. Last November, Brooks won reelection by a 2-1 margin over a little-known challenger.

Reached after the assembly vote, Brooks told a reporter from the Review-Journal, "You just want to harass a poor old crazy guy because I'm black." Then he hung up.

Just after 6 p.m., Barstow police say, they were called by a tow-truck driver who said a client, Brooks, had refused to pay for services. With officers on the scene, Brooks fled in his vehicle onto southbound I-15 with a flat right-front tire, according to the department's arrest report.

With officers giving chase, "Brooks continued to accelerate at a high rate of speed and was traveling at a high rate of speed and was traveling in and out of multiple lanes," the report said.

The incident ended when officers used spike strips to disable Brooks' vehicle, but not before he had thrown several items out the window, police say.

During his arrest, Brooks also reportedly hit a police dog with a metal socket wrench before he was subdued by officers who used a stun gun, the Barstow police report said. The dog, named Buck, was treated for a cut above the right eye.

john.glionna@latimes.com

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