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Security company sued in Las Vegas over 2 deaths involving guards

The Las Vegas branch of a national security company is facing two wrongful death lawsuits after two Nevadans died at the hands of guards employed by the company.

Defendant Securitas Security Services USA Inc. bills itself as “the leader in protective services,” according to its website.

The first lawsuit was filed in July 2018, and the second was filed in April. The local office declined to comment, and a national spokeswoman did not respond.

The later lawsuit stems from the previously unreported death of Jonathan Blackstone on Feb. 10, 2018. The 36-year-old died after a group of security guards tackled him in front of Showcase Mall on the Strip, then sat on him and restricted his airway, the complaint alleges.

At the time, Metropolitan Police Department officers investigated the matter and submitted the case to the Clark County district attorney’s office for review, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned. But because of “insufficient evidence,” the office declined to prosecute, District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Monday.

“They didn’t commit a crime,” Wolfson said of the security guards.

Blackstone, who had schizophrenia, was “acting erratically” when the guards took action, according to attorneys representing the man’s sister.

“Rather than call the police, rather than monitor the situation, the guards took it into their own hands and dog-piled him,” attorney Benjamin Cloward said.

Blackstone was pronounced dead at Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center, according to the Clark County coroner’s office. He died of “traumatic asphyxia due to (being) restrained by multiple individuals.”

His schizophrenia was listed as a contributing factor, the coroner’s office said, along with cocaine and methamphetamine intoxication and obesity.

Erratic behavior

While discussing the case Monday, Wolfson read from a police narrative, which noted that security was first requested the day Blackstone died because he had been “loitering” and “acting erratically” in front of the Ross Dress for Less at Showcase Mall, which also houses M&M’s World.

According to the police narrative, Blackstone had been making “peculiar comments.” He also grabbed two employees by the arm and snatched a keyboard off a nearby podium inside the store, which employees quickly retrieved.

When the guards arrived, “Blackstone put his arms out and then his hands behind his head and continued to act erratically,” Wolfson read aloud Monday.

As one guard tried to pull Blackstone back by the neckline of his shirt, “Blackstone pulled away and then took off running,” Wolfson continued.

In a nearby store, Blackstone said nothing but continued to act erratically, according to the narrative. He took off his shoes and placed his hands behind his head multiple times. Then he jumped over a counter, ripped a keyboard from a cash register and used it to hit a hole into a wall, Wolfson said.

“As he came around the counter after dropping the keyboard, security officers went hands-on and wrestled him to the ground,” Wolfson read aloud.

Once Blackstone was down, one guard held his knee across the back of Blackstone’s neck and head. Two others sat on his body, and a fourth held down his legs, according to the police narrative.

“Blackstone continued to struggle for over a minute and a half, and then LVMPD officers arrived,” Wolfson said, referring to Metro. “The security officers stood up and told the officers Blackstone had been extremely combative.”

A Metro officer who determined Blackstone wasn’t breathing performed CPR to no avail.

On Monday, Wolfson said his office took “everything” into account during its review, including Blackstone’s schizophrenia and surveillance footage of the incident. He reiterated that “there’s no crime here.”

In explaining the decision not to prosecute, he said: “Think about what it would be like if they failed to do something and this man were to kill an innocent patron.”

No individual guards were named in the lawsuit. Securitas, however, was listed as a defendant along with other unidentified security companies. That’s because the four guards involved worked for different companies, Cloward said.

‘Sad accident’

The other lawsuit against Securitas stems from the January 2017 death of Kimberlee Ann Kincaid-Hill. The 57-year-old was working at a Henderson jewelry store when a security guard opened fire on an attempted robber but missed, instead striking Kincaid-Hill in the chest, police said.

Kincaid-Hill was taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where she died, and the coroner’s office ruled her death a homicide. The would-be thief ran away empty-handed.

Henderson police at the time described the shooting as an accident and did not seek charges against the guard, whom they refused to name.

But court records identify the shooter as Michael Deshawn Lyons. Securitas hired him in 2015, according to records from the Nevada Private Investigators Board. He has been licensed since 2007.

“We are taking a close look at the training of the officer that shot and killed — by mistake — Kimberlee,” said Todd Moody, an attorney who represents her estate. “There is absolutely no allegation at all that this was intentional. It was a sad accident. But what we’re focused on is did Securitas properly train him, had he carried a gun, was he familiar with the gun he used when he shot her.”

Lyons is still a licensed security guard, and state records still list him as a Securitas employee. But he is no longer qualified to carry a firearm.

Kevin Ingram, the executive director of the Nevada Private Investigators Board, noted that the change was not a result of disciplinary action because there is none in his file. Instead, it appears that for unknown reasons, his firearm certification lapsed and he did not requalify.

Lyons could not be reached for comment, and an attorney representing both Lyons and Securitas did not respond to requests for comment.

No defendants have responded to the Blackstone complaint. The Kincaid-Hill case is tentatively scheduled to go to trial in 2020. Both cases were filed in Clark County District Court.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801.

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