Woman sues Las Vegas police in shooting death of unarmed son

The mother of Stanley Gibson, the unarmed, disabled veteran shot and killed by a Las Vegas police officer in December, filed a federal lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department on Monday.

Celestine Gibson also named three officers in the lawsuit: Jesus Arevalo, the officer who shot Stanley Gibson, and supervisors Sgt. Michael Hnatuick and Lt. David Dockendorf, who were on the scene of the incident.

The lawsuit alleged that bad Las Vegas police policies - Stanley Gibson, 43, was the 12th person killed by the department last year, a record for the agency - and the use of an AR-15 assault rifle contributed to the death.

Attorney Andre Lagomarsino, who is representing the mother, said police could have done several things to prevent the death.

"They could have called crisis intervention (officers)," he said. "They could have called SWAT. They could have waited him out.

"He just wasn't a threat, and they killed somebody who wasn't a threat."

Stanley Gibson, who was disabled, was probably lost and distraught when police encountered him in a northwest valley apartment complex early Dec. 12. His car became pinned in by two police cars, and he didn't respond to commands to exit his vehicle.

Police hatched a plan to remove him safely from the car: One officer would break out a car window by shooting it with a beanbag shotgun round and another would douse the inside of the car with pepper spray. But when the shotgun round was fired, Arevalo shot seven times into the vehicle with the rifle. Gibson was pronounced dead at the scene.

The high-profile shooting attracted public attention not just because it was captured on video. Las Vegas police had been under scrutiny since unarmed Trevon Cole, 21, was killed in his bathroom the year before, and just days before Gibson's death, the Review-Journal published a series of stories showing that the department was reluctant to learn from, and hold officers accountable for, problem shootings.

Police settled a lawsuit in the Cole case for $1.7 million, a record for a department shooting.

Celestine Gibson is seeking at least $20 million in what could be one of two lawsuits against Las Vegas police for the death.

Stanley Gibson's wife, Rondha, has hired attorney Cal Potter to represent her. Potter said the lawsuit is a couple of months away from being filed. The courts could combine both cases into one.

Lagomarsino said Gibson's mother didn't want to wait for a coroner's inquest, which could be years away.

"We filed because the family wants to proceed in the justice system," Lagomarsino said.

The lawsuit alleges that the agency's "unconstitutional policies, practices and customs" caused his death. It cites as examples:

■ Police weren't required to announce over the radio every time an officer pulls out a rifle, a policy that has since changed.

■ The high number of shootings and some of the statistics the Review-Journal cited in its series.

■ The Cole shooting and the 2003 death of Orlando Barlow, who was unarmed and surrendering to police when he was shot in the back by an officer with an AR-15.

■ Public statements of former police and public officials who expressed concerns over the shooting, including former Sheriff Bill Young, who questioned in a radio interview why an officer had been using a rifle.

Las Vegas police declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Department spokesman Jose Hernandez said the shooting still has not gone before its internal Use of Force Review Board, a panel of civilians and officers who determine whether the shooting violated department policy.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.