Grieving family sues Henderson police

Haunted by the fatal shooting of his wife by Henderson police, ice cream truck driver Zyber Selimaj is seeking $25 million in damages from those he holds responsible for his loss.

Attorney Marc Saggese, who Thursday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on the family’s behalf against the Henderson Police Department and the officers involved, said his client’s life has been "wrecked."

"He can’t work. He can’t do anything," Saggese said. "Essentially, he’s saying his life is falling apart. I’m trying to keep him going."

Deshira Selimaj was shot to death on Feb. 12, 2008, after she drove to Sunridge Heights and Pecos Ridge parkways to help a patrol officer communicate with her Armenian-born husband. He had been pulled over for minor traffic violations. When she arrived, two of the couple’s three children were with her.

Police reported that the 42-year-old raised a knife in the direction of another officer before she was shot by officer Luke Morrison, an act a coroner’s inquest jury later ruled was justifiable.

The lawsuit contests that version of events and accuses police of trying to "cover up the unlawful killing of the Decedent." It also alleges civil rights violations, assault and false imprisonment.

A message left with the police department’s public information office was not returned Thursday.

"This tragedy has been very bad for my family," Zyber Selimaj said, referring to his sons who range in age from 7 to 12. "My wife was in the home. She took care of me and took care of the kids. Sometimes the kids cry, ‘Mom! Mom!’"

Saggese called the shooting "extreme and outrageous."

"Let’s be honest. This all stems from him slowing down at a stop sign in the middle of a neighborhood in the middle of the day," Saggese said. "It’s absurd. The cop has to execute her on the street. The craziness of it is making it so difficult for my client to go on."

According to the lawsuit, a patrol officer was having difficulty being understood by Zyber Selimaj after the traffic stop. The officer called Selimaj’s wife for help. When she arrived, she parked "neatly" against the curb about 50 feet ahead of her husband’s vehicle and the patrol car, the lawsuit states.

Sometime after she exited her vehicle, police fired at her, according to the lawsuit, which does not mention the knife police said she wielded.

The lawsuit also said Zyber Selimaj had signed the traffic citation, something police reported he refused to do. He was sitting on a street curb when he witnessed the shooting.

Other witnesses said Deshira Selimaj was either on her knees or sitting when she was shot, according to the lawsuit.

The bullet traveled through her forearm before striking her torso.

Officers then forced the bystanders away and prohibited news helicopters from flying above the scene.

Zyber Selimaj was booked into jail for the traffic violations and for obstruction after police said he became combative. Those charges were eventually dismissed.

According to the lawsuit, Henderson police issued a news release and later corrected "false statements" made in the report.

Then-Henderson Police Chief Richard Perkins said the incorrect statements were made because officers are "from the human race. They make a mistake once in awhile," the lawsuit states.

Perkins later acknowledged that failing to allow news media to fly over the scene was an error.

Saggese, who added that his client claims to have been ticketed 50 times in the past year, said the contradictory reports of what transpired should be resolved during depositions prior to the jury trial.

"As we go through the case file, we’ll find out the answers to those questions," he said.

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

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