A Las Vegas police officer did not use excessive force in 2008 when he fatally shot a schizophrenic man wielding two knives, a federal jury ruled Monday.
Daechull “Dave” Chung, 37, died March 16, 2008. On Monday, attorney Brent Bryson urged jurors to award his wife $3 million in the case against officer Christopher Dennis.
“Officer Dennis’ decision was deliberate, it was unreasonable, and it was unnecessary,” Bryson argued.
Jurors deliberated about two hours Monday before ruling in the officer’s favor.
“We’re just really happy that the jury heard the facts and vindicated officer Dennis,” said attorney Craig Anderson, who represents the officer.
Dennis, 32, declined to comment after hearing the verdict.
In April 2008, a coroner’s jury ruled that Dennis and another officer, Mark Loeffler, acted justifiably when they shot Chung.
The man’s widow, Hui Qin Deng, later filed a civil rights lawsuit against both officers and the Metropolitan Police Department, but Senior U.S. District Judge Philip Pro dismissed Loeffler and the department from the case before trial.
Bryson began his closing arguments Monday by writing the words “Dave was stopped” in red ink on a large pad of paper displayed in front of the jury.
The lawyer argued that Loeffler was justified when he fired the first shot at Chung, who was threatening him with two knives. Evidence indicated Chung could have survived that wound.
But Dennis then emerged from his vehicle and fired two more shots.
“Don’t forget, officer Loeffler did not shoot again,” Bryson told the jury. “He took one shot, and the reason he did not shoot again is because Dave was stopped.”
Anderson asked the jury to return the officer’s integrity and honor by telling him he did nothing wrong.
“You can’t put a price on that,” the lawyer said.
Anderson said Chung caused the situation by refusing to take his medication, knowing that choice could put the community in danger.
Chung was rising up with a knife after Loeffler shot him, the lawyer argued. “He wasn’t going to stop.”
During Bryson’s rebuttal argument, he told jurors that Dennis took an oath “to protect and serve, not to kill and cover up.”
The trial began last Tuesday in Pro’s courtroom.
Las Vegas police had responded to several other calls involving Chung in the years before his death.
Deng, who goes by the name “Fay,” was working as a dealer when police were called to their neighborhood, near Maryland Parkway and Harmon Avenue, around 3 a.m. on the day of the shooting.
Chung was holding knives and walking around in his underwear.
Loeffler arrived first on the scene. The officer has testified that Chung ran toward him and repeatedly ignored commands to drop his knives.
Investigators found two kitchen knives, each with blades of about 5 inches, at the scene.
Deng, a native of China who later became a U.S. citizen, said she and Chung were married about two months before his death.
“I just want to say it’s still not right to kill my husband,” Deng told the Review-Journal after hearing the verdict.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.