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Family sues Las Vegas police, Costco

Erik Scott’s family has followed through with its promise to sue the Metropolitan Police Department and Costco Wholesale Corp. because of actions their employees took the day the medical device salesman was shot and killed by three police officers.

In a federal lawsuit filed late Thursday, Scott’s parents and brother claim officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark and Thomas Mendiola used excessive force when they shot him July 10 outside the Summerlin Costco store. They also claim Shai Lierley, the store’s loss-prevention supervisor, "created a hazardous condition" that resulted in Scott’s death.

A coroner’s jury heard testimony from dozens of witnesses in September before deciding that the three officers acted justifiably when they shot the 38-year-old man, who was armed. Scott family attorney Ross Goodman called the coroner’s inquest a "one-sided process" and said the civil rights lawsuit will "balance out the limited and selected information the prosecutors wanted the public to hear."

Controversy surrounding two divisive cases, including the Scott shooting, led to the recent formation of a nine-member panel to review the inquest process. Under the current system, assistant district attorneys decide which witnesses to present and then question them without traditional cross-examination.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who sits on the panel reviewing the inquest process, is a defendant in the Scott lawsuit. Through a spokeswoman he declined comment.

Costco representatives could not be reached for comment Friday.

The family is seeking unspecified damages, but Scott’s father, Bill, said his family didn’t file the lawsuit for money. Rather, the family wants those responsible for Scott’s death to be held accountable.

"How else do you hold them accountable?" he said. "We have no other recourse."

He said the family also wants to prevent police from killing another innocent Las Vegas resident.

In court documents , the family alleges that in "numerous prior incidents" Las Vegas police "engaged in unreasonable seizures and the use of excessive, including lethal, force." Further, Gillespie and his department "were aware of such prior incidents and with deliberate indifference have failed to adequately train, supervise or discipline officers. …"

According to the lawsuit, Scott was shopping in the Summerlin store on July 10 and "did not engage in any disorderly conduct or any conduct which would indicate he posed a threat to the safety of any person or persons."

The document contends Lierley "falsely reported that Erik did pose a threat to the safety of other persons" and then directed an evacuation of the store.

Lierley, who testified at the inquest, said he saw Scott opening packages and mumbling to himself in the camping equipment aisle.

The employee testified that after a peaceful interaction between Scott and manager Vince Lopez, he saw Scott tearing merchandise tags from multiple coolers and packages of water bottles. Lierley said he then noticed a handgun in Scott’s waistband and told Lopez, who informed Scott that guns are not allowed.

Lierley said most people in that situation leave the store, but Scott got defensive and argued. The employees backed off, and Lierley called 911.

He was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher as he followed Scott and his girlfriend out of the store, with other shoppers.

"There’s a strong possibility that Erik was doing nothing to warrant that 911 call," Bill Scott said. "Nobody ever asked him to leave."

At the exit, Lierley pointed Scott out to police. He said he watched as Scott pulled the gun and raised it toward an officer, and distinctly heard someone order Scott to "drop the firearm."

But Scott did not. With his left hand in the air, Scott pulled at his gun with his right hand, he said.

"The weird part is he just keeps on grabbing at the gun on his hip, and he keeps on yanking at it," Lierley said. "The officer starts yelling, and the next thing you know a round goes off when Mr. Scott’s hands come up."

Lierley testified that he remembered the first shot striking Scott in the chest as Scott was raising his gun. He can be heard on the 911 tape telling the dispatcher, "He pulled a firearm," after the sounds of gunfire.

Police recovered Scott’s .45-caliber handgun, in its holster, from the ground near where he fell.

Scott was carrying two handguns at the time of the shooting. He had a concealed-weapons permit.

The medical examiner who autopsied Scott said he had potentially fatal levels of the painkiller morphine and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in his system.

According to the Scott family’s lawsuit, Lierley defamed Scott "by falsely stating to others that he had committed a crime and/or that he was acting in a dangerous manner."

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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