Lawyer shot by police in 2009 runs for Clark County district attorney

A Pahrump lawyer who was shot by Las Vegas police five years ago during a traffic stop is running to be Clark County’s top prosecutor.

Raymond James “Jim” Duensing, a Libertarian and one time unsuccessful U.S. congressional candidate, filed to run for district attorney on Friday noting that he would stop prosecuting nonviolent crimes, including traffic tickets, if elected.

About a week before election day in November, Duensing is set to stand trial for three felonies — resisting a police officer, unlawful possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon — related to his being shot three times on Oct. 29, 2009.

The case is being prosecuted by the current Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who is running to keep his office.

Duensing, who remains free on $3,000 bail pending an Oct. 28 trial, said his candidacy does not create a conflict that would bar the district attorney’s office from prosecuting him.

Wolfson did not immediately respond when asked for comment about his lone challenger.

Duensing said he plans on running a grass-roots campaign. He would not say how much money he has in his campaign coffers, but added, “It’s not a lot.”

But in a two-way race, anything could happen, Duensing said.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the way the office is being run,” specifically the handling of officer-involved shootings, he said.

“No matter what they (police) do on duty, they will be backed up by their department and the DA and that means there will be zero accountability,” Duensing said.

One of Duensing’s biggest complaint seems to be traffic stops. Duensing was involved in a 2009 traffic stop that ended with him being shot.

His law practice revolves around fixing traffic tickets.

Duensing said traffic tickets and other nonviolent misdemeanor citations are state run “revenue enhancement” and he will put an end to prosecuting those crimes if elected.

According to Duensing’s campaign website, “If you drink a beer on Fremont Street, I will not have the resources available to prosecute you. I am willing to let jaywalkers, seat-belt offenders, motorcyclists without helmets, and a host of other non-violent people go free because it will allow me to try every violent offender in front of a fully informed jury of their peers.”

Duensing was shot Oct. 29, 2009, near Cheyenne Avenue and Jones Boulevard, when he was pulled over after he drove through an intersection in a right-turn only lane.

Police said officer David Gilbert fired his gun after Duensing was asked to get out of his rental car because a record check showed he had a warrant for his arrest.

Police said Duensing was shot with a Taser after his vehicle was stopped. They said he was shot after he reached toward his front right pocket for a .45-caliber handgun. Police also said Duensing reached for a folding knife.

Duensing, who three times unsuccessfully ran for Congress on the Libertarian ticket against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, has repeatedly denied he ever reached for a weapon while fleeing from police.

In April 2010, a panel of Metro personnel and civilians concluded Gilbert was justified in shooting Duensing.

Duensing’s take is different. “What should have happened is the DA’s office should have prosecuted the police officer.”

Federal court records show Duensing filed a lawsuit against Metro, Gilbert and Taser International, but it was dismissed Feb. 4 after he failed to attend a court-ordered conference.

Duensing, who represented himself in the federal lawsuit, said he had stopped following the case, but would not say why. “At a certain point I gave up on that avenue,” he said.

Court records show he owes the other parties at least $2,000 in fees.

Meanwhile, despite living in neighboring Nye County, Duensing is allowed to run for Clark County district attorney. State law allows for someone to run for district attorney in any county, as long as that person is “a bona fide resident of the State of Nevada.”

It’s been five years since the shooting and his criminal case has been mired in discovery motions — Duensing blames the delay on prosecutors for not handing over evidence.

If convicted of all three charges he could face 1- to 12-years in prison.

But Duensing was unfazed by the potential prison sentence. “It’s no more harsh than what they tried to do. They already tried to kill me. What else can they do?”

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