The mother of a man who was shot and killed by two federal rangers near Red Rock Canyon in February has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
D’Andre Berghardt Jr., 20, was shot and killed Feb. 14 during a confrontation with two BLM rangers while walking along state Route 159 near Calico Basin. The confrontation and subsequent shooting were caught on an onlooker’s cellphone video and showed Berghardt being pepper sprayed and kicked by the rangers before he climbed into a Nevada Highway Patrol vehicle and was shot.
Tracy Meadows, Berghardt’s mother, filed the lawsuit through Las Vegas lawyer Jacob Hafter on Dec. 23. The complaint alleges that BLM rangers violated Berghardt Jr.’s constitutional rights.
The suit seeks compensation “for the full value” of Berghardt Jr.’s life, for the physical pain and suffering he endured before his death and for funeral expenses, the court documents said.
Berghardt was disoriented and had tried to stop bicyclists riding by for help. Multiple 911 calls were made seeking help for him, documents said.
The BLM rangers, when judged by objective standards, should have realized Berghardt Jr.’s behavior was abnormal and indicative of a mental health emergency. Berghardt Jr. was unarmed and was not a danger to anyone at the time. Furthermore, a reasonable police officer should have known that more than two officers would be required to restrain Berghardt Jr., and engaging him would be unsafe for everyone involved, documents said.
The complaint said Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Lucas Schwarzrock, who arrived several minutes into the confrontation, did not see a justification for lethal force, but the rangers attacked Berghardt Jr. in a brutal, prolonged manner.
The BLM has refused to identify either ranger, who are listed as BLM Doe officers 1 and 2 in the federal lawsuit, but the agency has said both rangers fired after Berghardt Jr. reached for Schwarzrock’s AR-15 rifle, which was secured in a locked gun rack in his patrol car. Only one ranger can be seen firing in the video, but both rangers fired at Berghardt Jr.
BLM officials have said one ranger has 17 years of law enforcement experience and the other is a nine-year veteran.
Berghardt Jr. was not trying to get a rifle. He was just trying to escape the attack by the rangers, documents say.
The BLM rangers violated Berghardt Jr.’s rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which require law enforcement to act reasonably, give appropriate attention to a person’s medical needs and avoid cruel and unusual punishment.
Hafter declined comment on the suit Wednesday due to the newspaper’s coverage of his judicial campaign, which he felt was unfavorable.
“We will always take our interviews to every other news outlet but the Review-Journal.” Hafter said.
Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638. Find him on Twitter: @ColtonLochhead.