Federal lawsuit against police likely to be dismissed

A federal wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will likely be dismissed after a judge on Wednesday indicated he did not believe that officers used excessive force in their attempt to subdue Russell Walker in 2005.

“I’ve got to tell you, I don’t see any exhibits of excessive force by those officers,” U. S. District Judge Philip Pro told attorney Robert Flummerfelt, who represents Walker’s family.

One of the officers involved in the case is Jeremy Hendricks, who last month shot and killed a sexual assault suspect as he fled police. Walker’s attorneys claim Hendricks held a handcuffed Walker down as he was zapped with a Taser while strapped to a gurney.

Attorney Nicholas Crosby, who defended the department and the officers involved, said Hendricks was a crisis intervention officer called to the scene in front of the Western Hotel. He said Hendricks was trying to talk to Walker and calm him down.

Based on security footage that recorded the entire episode, Pro said Walker appeared to be “higher than a kite,” and that he caused the situation to escalate.

“Here we have video which virtually shows the entire encounter with Mr. Walker and the conduct of the officers,” Pro said. “This is one of the most benign exhibits I’ve seen of use of excessive force.”

Pro agreed that Hendricks appeared to be attempting to calm Walker as police sought to restrain him and seek medical help. Pro will make his formal ruling in writing.

Walker was inside the casino when he caused a commotion by ripping up money and tossing it into the air. It is alleged that he refused casino security guards’ demands that he leave and police officers were called.

Walker was under the influence of cocaine and was uncooperative with the first arriving officer. When asked to talk to the officer outside the casino, Walker reached into his pocket, Crosby said. The officer believed he might be reaching for a weapon and grabbed his arm. That is when the physical struggle began.

Backup officers arrived and called for medical help. Walker was hit with a Taser twice so that officers could get him to the ground.

“We encourage officers to use a Taser early to gain control of the situation,” Crosby said. “People need to be in control to get help. Mr. Walker was not in control until we had him restrained on the gurney.”

That, however, is when the third Taser was fired, stirring up controversy. At that point, Walker was in handcuffs and strapped to the gurney. His attorneys claim that was the deadly hit and that it was unnecessary.

The officers said they were trying to remove metal handcuffs and strap Walker’s upper body to the gurney so he could receive medical treatment. He continued to struggle.

“The third and final Taser was not used without warning,” Crosby said.

In a separate case, Hendricks shot Paul Hambleton, a “person of interest” in a sexual assault investigation, as he ran from officers attempting to arrest him last month. Police said Hendricks shot once from his Taser, but the hit was ineffective. After a physical altercation, Hendricks shot Hambleton.

A witness of the shooting said she saw no physical altercation and that Hendricks shot Hambleton in the back as he ran. The Clark County coroner’s office confirmed Hambleton was shot in the back. A coroner’s inquest is scheduled for August.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker @reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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