Las Vegas reporter was working on another expose when killed

The man in the surveillance video has a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a straw hat to protect his face as he strolls down a Las Vegas sidewalk. It’s late Friday morning and he’s heading west to the home of one of the city’s most respected investigative journalists.

Hours later, authorities responding to an 911 call found Jeff German — a veteran reporter who covered organized crime and political corruption for the Las Vegas Review-Journal — slumped lifeless outside his home. He had been stabbed.

Police were quick to address two theories. Maybe, they thought, was it a burglary gone wrong? Did it have something to do with the maroon SUV spotted during surveillance making multiple stops in the neighborhood just before German was killed? Or had someone targeted the reporter for something he had published about her – or wanted to publish?

Based on the latter assumption, authorities began investigating Robert Telles, a senior area official who lost a primary in June, weeks after German released an exposé detailing the hostile work environment during Telles’ tenure in Clark County describes the office of public administration.

On Tuesday night, Review Journal reporters who were near Telles’s home spotted the officer in his driveway next to an SUV matching the description of the getaway vehicle. The next day, Telles, 45, was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Investigators said Thursday that items worn by the alleged killer – including the straw hat that had been cut into small pieces – were recovered from Telles’ home. They also said they found the officer’s DNA at the scene of the fatal stabbing.

Telles was charged with murder on Thursday. He did not submit a plea and could not be reached for comment on the allegations.

“The assassination of a journalist is particularly problematic,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said in announcing the arrest of the administrator-elect. “We hope that Telles’ arrest and subsequent prosecution will ultimately bring a sense of justice to our community and Mr. German’s family.”

Robert Telles in March 2014.

Robert Telles in March 2014.

(Erik Verduzco/Associated Press)

The reporter’s family members said in a statement they were shocked, devastated and angry.

“Jeff was a loving and devoted brother, uncle and friend who devoted his life to his work exposing wrongdoing in Las Vegas and beyond,” they said. “Jeff is committed to seeking justice for others and would appreciate the hard work of local police and journalists in pursuing his killer.”

During a news conference on Thursday, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Captain Dori Koren told reporters Telles was upset about articles German published as well as a new article he plans to write.

In May, the veteran journalist published an investigative article based on interviews with several current and former employees of the Clark County Bureau of Public Administration. He painted a picture of an office in disarray where allegations of bullying, favoritism and an inappropriate relationship between Telles and a subordinate.

Along with the article, the newspaper published a video, shot by other employees, who secretly recorded Telles and the subordinate – both married – in the back seat of their car. They also included video of a taped interview between German and Telles.

German, who is not in front of the camera, asks Telles what he thinks when he hears people making allegations about an inappropriate relationship with his subordinate. Telles’ lips tighten and he blinks.

“Obviously it’s not true,” he says. “I’m all about justice, fairness and just being a good person, and that sickens me.” He pauses for a moment, sighs, and raises his eyebrows.

“I don’t know,” he says, “it’s unreal.”

After the first story was published, Telles wrote a blog post on his campaign website, calling the Las Vegas Review-Journal a “right-wing newspaper” and declaring that “the article was false.”

“So ugly you almost had to believe it was true,” Telles wrote, saying multiple investigations were being conducted into “everyone involved in this matter.”

By June, it was clear that Telles believed he was losing the Democratic primary and his public office.

German reported on Twitter that Telles was “losing and flailing.” In mid-June, German contacted Telles again.

“Rob, I’m putting together another story about your office,” he texted the officer for comment, noting that employees had seen the blog post, taken it as a threat of retaliation, and reported it to Human Resources.

telles posted the text on Twitter on June 17, claiming the reporter “made a veiled threat to get me to delete my truth-telling website.” However, the screenshot contained no request or threat.

Two days later, on his campaign page, Telles accused German and another official of “trying to drag me through the mud.” On June 18 — the day German published the article about the blog post, which was reported to county human resources — Telles posted a tweet thread.

“I look forward to @JGermanRJ’s Libel Defamation #4,” he said tweeted. “I think he’s mad I didn’t crawl into a hole and die.”

He followed: “*Woman hears rubbish rustling* She: ‘Honey, is there a wild animal in the garbage?’ Me: ‘No, darling. Looks like @JGermanRJ digging through our junk for his 4th story about me. ‘Oh Jeff…’”

“Typical bully,” Telles tweeted a few days later. “You’d think he had better things to do.” He added a winking tongue-out emoji at the end of the tweet.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, German was working on a new story about Telles the week he was killed.

However, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief said that German had not shared any concerns about his safety with the newspaper’s executive team.

Koren, the police captain, said that on the day of the killing, German came out of his garage and walked to the side of the house where he and the attacker had an altercation that ended when the attacker repeatedly stabbed the reporter.

Investigators on Wednesday morning carried out search warrants on Telle’s home and cars, including the maroon SUV registered to his wife, and collected a DNA sample from him. At his home, investigators found a pair of gray shoes matching those of the suspect in the video, they said.

On Wednesday afternoon – hours before his arrest – reporters were outside Telles’ house saw him standing in front of his garage, dressed in a white hazmat suit and flip flops.

“Did you do this?” asked a reporter. He ignored the question and closed the garage. When a special weapons team entered his home to arrest him that evening, they realized he had self-inflicted wounds and required medical treatment, authorities said. He was wheeled out on a stretcher.

Telles – who will remain in office until December – appeared briefly in court on Thursday. He was wearing a brown prison shirt, his hands were tied in front of his body and his arms were bandaged.

A Clark County prosecutor requested that Telles be held without bail, arguing that he was “acting on the resolution of his life.” The judge did not agree to bail, noting that German had fought for his life and sustained multiple defensive injuries.

Before joining Review-Journal in 2010, German spent much of his career writing for the Las Vegas Sun, where, according to his biography, he covered courts, politics, labor, government and organized crime.

He also wrote an organized crime book, Murder in Sin City: The Death of a Las Vegas Casino Boss, in 2001 and was a writer and host of the second season of the true crime podcast, Bullied Up: The Fight for Vegas.

Las Vegas Review-Journal editor-in-chief Glenn Cook said Germany’s “bread and butter” was breaking “great stories,” with many of his investigations leading to significant reforms.

“Journalists cannot do the important work our communities demand,” Cook said in a statement to his newspaper on Wednesday, “if they fear that presenting facts could lead to violent retaliation.” Las Vegas reporter was working on another expose when killed

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