According to an arrest report released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Officer Garret Vandereecken had been abusing the daughter of a family friend and former co-worker for as long as he had been a police officer. The report indicates Vandereecken first abused a young girl on a camping trip to Utah in 2008, the same year he began his career with the LVMPD. The girl told authorities the abuse began in 2008, when she was just 11 years old, on a Memorial Day camping trip to Zion National Park in Southern Utah. While the officer shared a tent with both the victim and his girlfriend, he allegedly touched the pre-teen inappropriately multiple times while Vandereecken’s girlfriend is said to have been asleep beside them.
The following day, Vandereecken apparently asked the girl, who admitted she was confused about what happened, if he “scared” her, and then told he how much trouble he would be in if she were to tell anyone. Claiming she did not fully understand that Vandereecken’s behavior was wrong, she kept silent. This was also the same year Vandereecken vowed to avoid all violence against women as part of the Safe Nest pledge. The abuse allegedly continued over the next three years.
During that time, Vandereecken, allegedly repeated the abuse in a series of escalating incidents, all during out-of-state family camping trips. The girl told authorities that she continued to spend time alone with the Metro officer because would play and swim with her when she was bored. She likened him to “her best friend.” Vandereecken allegedly confided problems in his relationship with the teen, telling her he was unhappy with his girlfriend but “stuck with her” because of her pregnancy.
In August of 2011, during a trip to Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, the girl claims Vandereecken’s sexual contact become more serious than his earlier groping. And a few months later, while attending a sexual assault class at her school she heard stories similar to hers. The girl also told police that it was at that time she learned the officer was expecting a child with his girlfriend and she was concerned the abuse would continue if they had a daughter.
After telling her story to a counselor, she told her father. Rather than contacting police, he decided to confront Vandereecken himself. During a public meeting arranged by the father and attended by the daughter and a mutual friend of the both the officer and the victim’s family, Vandereecken denied the allegations but, according to the father, made several statements implicating himself. The officer claimed to have been under a great deal of stress, specifically from the 2011 rape and murder of Alyssa Otremba, although that event took place some three years after the victim first claims to have been abused.
According to the father, and corroborated by the mutual friend at the meeting, Vandereecken apologized for “hurting” the girl and then threatened to “end it all” by “blow[ing] his brains out.”
The girl and her father finally reported the incidents to police in February and, after the girl told her father about additional incidents, filed a supplemental report in May. Since the majority of the incidents took place during out-of-state camping trips, Metro does not have jurisdiction to investigate them. Whether or not details of these alleged crimes have been forwarded to the proper authorities, in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and to Federal Prosecutors is unknown.
The only incident Metro has been able to find that allegedly occurred with-in its jurisdiction took place in 2010 at Duck Creek Park in Henderson, about 19 minutes from the Rhodes Ranch home owned by Vandereecken
and his girlfriend, Rebecca Gowing. (The home ownership data we found was outdated, Rebecca Gowing is actually Vandereecken’s ex-wife and no longer co-owns the home). Vandereecken allegedly grabbed the teen’s breast while she was on the swings during the August encounter.
Detectives attempted to interview Vandereecken about this incident, but he referred them to his attorney, police said. A warrant was issued for Vandereecken’s arrest on a single count of lewdness with child under 14 years, stemming from the incident at Duck Creek.
Vandereecken voluntarily surrendered to detectives with Metro’s Juvenile Sexual Abuse Detail and was booked into the Clark County Detention Center. He was released a few hours later after posting a $100,000 bond. He was relieved of duty without pay pending the outcomes of both the criminal and internal investigations.
Both Vandereecken and his girlfriend have refused to speak with detectives, directing all questions to their attorney. However, a poster on the LVRJ.com using the screen name “Rebecca Gowing” defended Vandereecken on May 22nd (the day of his arrest) describing him as “one cop that did have a heart.”
That was before Vandereecken was alleged to have described their relationship as his being”stuck with” her because of a pregnancy. She also warned the public, “Hope the hippie helps when you’re in need of actual ‘help’. ”
If convicted, Officer Vandereecken faces a sentence of life, with the possibility of parole after 10 years, and a $10,000 fine.
According to Transparent Nevada taxpayers paid Garrett Vandereecken $104,651.10 in Total compensation in 2011.
- Officer Arrested For Lewdness With Minor (lasvegas.cbslocal.com)