Family says $9 million lawsuit against police only avenue for justice in son's death


The family of a 23-year-old man shot and killed by Las Vegas police in July filed on Thursday a $9 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department.

At a news conference, attorney Brent Bryson and Alma Chavez, the mother of Rafael "Ralfy" Olivas, said the lawsuit is the family's only avenue for justice.

In addition to the Police Department, the lawsuit names as defendants the two officers involved in the shooting, Christopher Grivas and David Hager, and Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

Bryson said a video of the incident exists that shows officers did not issue warnings to Olivas before they shot him 14 times.

"This lawsuit ... is the only way to get Metro's attention," Bryson said. "At some point Sheriff Gillespie has to get a hold of his police department."

Bryson described a culture of "us against them" taught to officers that has led to about five dozen officer-involved shootings in the past few years.

Bryson said he would not release the video until the trial because he wants to protect the family from having to see Olivas shot by police.

Chavez, with tears in her eyes, said she felt guilt for her son's death because she called 911. "I feel I helped them kill my son," she said.

Police spokesman officer Marcus Martin declined to comment on the lawsuit, noting the department's policy not to comment about ongoing litigation.

Olivas was shot July 14 on Firestone Drive, near Buffalo and Westcliff drives.

Chavez, an employee with Clark County's Department of Family Services, said she called 911 on the advice of a counselor and told police that her son was distraught.

She had hoped a specialized team of officers who deal with mentally or emotionally disturbed people would come and calm down her son, who had ulcerative colitis. Olivas was upset over a fight with his girlfriend.

When police arrived, they said, Olivas ignored their orders to drop a kitchen knife he was carrying and began to approach officers. Officers fired four beanbag shotgun rounds at Olivas, which didn't stop him. He continued toward police and was fatally shot by the two officers.

Police said Olivas was "waving" a knife as he walked toward officers.

Chavez disputed that and said her son approached police with his hands at his side. She also said she never heard police tell her son to drop the knife.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

 

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