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Dismissal of claims against Metro in 2011 shooting death upheld

CARSON CITY — A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court decision dismissing claims against two Las Vegas police officers resulting from the shooting death of a 23-year-old man in 2011.

Officers Christopher Grivas and David Hager were involved in the July 2011 incident that resulted in the death of Rafael Olivas.

Olivas’ mother, Alma Chavez, filed the federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers and the Metropolitan Police Department but the case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks.

Chavez appealed but in an unpublished memorandum issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, the ruling dismissing her case was affirmed.

Chavez, an employee with Clark County’s Department of Family Services, had called 911 and told police that her son was distraught. She had hoped officers could help calm down her son, who was upset over a fight with his girlfriend.

Chavez said publicly after the incident that the officers never gave her son a chance to surrender before they shot him July 14 on Firestone Drive, near Buffalo and Westcliff drives.

“They just killed him, like if he were a dog, with no warning,” Chavez told the Review-Journal in July, 2011.

But the appeals court found otherwise.

“Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Chavez, no clearly established case law would have led all reasonable officers to conclude that using deadly force against Olivas after he threatened to kill the police and had approached the officers wielding a knife constituted excessive force,” the appeals court panel said. “Chavez has not identified any evidence in the record that the officers acted with an improper or malicious motive.”

When police arrived, they said, Olivas ignored their orders to drop his knife 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 Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find @seanw801 on Twitter.

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