LAUGHLIN — The sensitive issue of the recent arrest of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officer Christopher Peto was addressed at the Laughlin Town Advisory Board meeting last week by both Laughlin Principal Dawn Estes and LVMPD-Laughlin substation Commander Lt. Jeff Hewes.
Peto was booked into the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas earlier this month on eight counts: one count of lewdness committed by a person over 18 with a child 14 or 15; three counts of a customer engaged in soliciting a child for prostitution; two counts of kidnapping of a minor; one count of lewdness with a minor under the age of 14; and one count of child abuse or neglect. He has been relieved of his duty with pay, pending official charges.
According to information from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, an anonymous tip was made to the department’s internal affairs criminal investigation section, alleging that an officer assigned to the Laughlin Area Command may have been having inappropriate sexual relations with two minor girls.
During the investigation, detectives learned that over the last two years, Peto allegedly had engaged in sex acts with at least two girls who were between the ages of 13 and 17. It is believed that Peto encountered the girls at Laughlin Junior/Senior High School and during calls for service.
Prior to his prayer at the opening of the LTAB meeting, Pastor Doug Westly said, “ I wanted to say a special prayer for our police department today. There’s something going on there I think most of us know about where one of the officers allegedly may have had some activities with some young people in our high school, so I want to pray about that and talk about that a little bit. This one person of course does not define our police department, you know, we know that. One bad apple does not say that our entire police force is corrupt in any way. These are good people, good men, and I also want to pray for the girls. There’s a couple young girls who may be involved here. I can tell you as counselors I’ve had women in their 50s and 60s who have had abuse when they were kids and they still thought about it. Women that told me that they had to take multiple showers a day because they still feel dirty, so we need to pray about that.”
He then led a prayer for the police department and the victims involved in the situation.
Prior to his report on crime statistics in Laughlin to the board, Hewes addressed the issue to the extent that he could.
Hewes said, “In reference to our officer who has been arrested, I’ve been asked many times, unfortunately that’s still an active investigahion at this time and I can’t comment on that, but we take allegations like this very seriously, and if this is true this person will be held accountable.”
Estes also commented on the issue during her report to the board, given that the two girls involved in that case were students at LHS and Peto allegedly encountered them there.
“When we look at difficult situations and when trust is broken, and we all are in shock, we also have to come back to the closeness that we share in our community and the realization is that in reflection as adult women, stories are being shared of that abuse some of those are not shared for years, but testimony to our girls in our schools and the support that they had that it got reported and I have to give kudos to our law enforcement for dealing with a very difficult situation in a timely manner,” Estes said. “It went quick, once notification was made, and I think that’s very important to note.
“I realize we all have questions — and in a time like this want to know why. I appreciate your support in the beginning days. Remember the victims, and realize it’s their stories to share, and when they’re ready, they’ll share, but the most important thing we can do as a community for them, is to make them aware that we support them and we recognize the trauma they’re dealing with on top of the trauma that they might have already been dealing with, that the community is behind them. I believe that to be true, It’s a difficult situation, I realize that we have a tremendous law enforcement agency in our community and I also recognize that within many agencies there are just ‘people,’ individuals that can bring that limelight to them and destroy the whole image. One of the things that I appreciate in the town of Laughlin and in our celebration of the Citizen of the Year is that we have to bring out the strengths of others and support it, and so thank you.”