A year after police shot and killed Erik Scott in front of a Summerlin Costco, about two dozen people gathered there at sunset to light candles in his memory and reflect on how his death helped bring reforms in the way local police-related deaths are reviewed.
"A year ago today, Erik was shot and killed," Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, a spokeswoman for the Scott family, said Sunday evening. For "all the things that have resulted, ... the changes to the coroner's inquest system, I want to thank you all."
Gina Greisen, a local activist who helped organize the event, read a statement from the Scott family, who did not attend.
Scott "had done absolutely nothing that warranted use of deadly force," the statement said. But his "death was not in vain. It was a turning point for Las Vegas, a singular event that galvanized the community. Through the concerted, combined efforts of dedicated citizens, a fatally flawed coroner's inquest process was changed to one more fair to all parties involved."
Scott's killing was one of two high-profile police shootings in 2010 that caused a public outcry and prompted reforms in the coroner's inquest process.
The other shooting involved 21-year-old Trevon Cole, who was unarmed when he was shot once in the face by police during a June 11 raid at his apartment.
In the aftermath of both shootings -- deemed justified by coroner's inquest juries -- critics called the county's review of police-related deaths biased in favor of officers.
The first inquest that was to be held under new rules and procedures enacted by the Clark County Commission was canceled last week because of a pending constitutional challenge filed by the Las Vegas police officers involved.
That cancellation angered many of those at Sunday's vigil.
"I'm very disappointed about the attempts to stall the new procedures," Greisen said. "I feel so bad for the families waiting to know why deadly force was used" against their loved ones.
Heather Spaniol , who said Scott's shooting was "the last straw" in a string of what she saw as suspicious local officer-involved shootings, vowed to "keep fighting until the coroner's inquest is fair."
"I'm sick of it," she said. "We need the changes to go through."
Three Las Vegas police officers shot Scott a total of seven times on July 10, 2010, after he ignored commands to get on the ground and raised his Kimber .45-caliber handgun, still in its holster, toward an officer, according to the officers and several witnesses who testified at the September inquest.
A Costco employee had called police to the store because Scott, a 38-year-old medical device salesman, was acting erratically and would not leave the store when told his gun was not allowed. Scott's post-mortem blood test showed high levels of the painkiller morphine and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
Scott's family spent Sunday on a sailboat off the coast of California, spreading his ashes over the Pacific Ocean, Mayo-DeRiso said.
The inquest into the fatal shooting of Benjamin Hunter Bowman had been scheduled to start Tuesday. Officers Phillip Zaragoza, Michael Franco and Peter Kruse shot Bowman as he held a knife to the throat of a bartender at a PT's Pub in November.
Backed by their union, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the officers challenged the constitutionality of the new process last month and asked a judge to order the coroner, justice of the peace and prosecutors not to go forward.
The case was initially filed in state District Court, but was moved to federal court because it involves a constitutional question.
The union contends the new rules transformed the inquest from a fact-finding process into an adversarial process where the officers would be treated like criminals on trial. The change at the heart of the dispute was the introduction of an ombudsman who can directly question witnesses on behalf of the deceased's family.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at email@example.com or 702-383-0285.