The cops in Las Vegas got away with murder — again. At least that's how local author and former Air Force flight test engineer Bill Scott sees the death of his son, Erik, who was gunned down by police in 2010 as he left a Costco store.
The case led to changes in inquest procedures and influenced a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative series last year about Vegas police's excessive use of force.
But one step in Scott's search for justice ended last month when he and his wife, Linda, dropped their federal wrongful death lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Sheriff Douglas Gillespie and involved officers.
The family asked for dismissal after the defendants asserted "qualified immunity," shielding government officials from liability. (Interestingly, one of the officers, Thomas Mendiola, had already been fired after being charged in January with providing a handgun to a two-time felon.)
"I firmly believe that Erik was murdered, the crime scene was corrupted, critical evidence was destroyed, and fake evidence was manufactured and introduced," Scott says, "and it was all done to protect an elaborate system that can only be described as a cartel of corruption."
Erik Scott, 38, a 1994 U.S. Military Academy grad with an MBA from Duke University, was shopping when a Costco employee noticed a handgun in his waistband and called a supervisor. Erik, a medical device salesman, explained the gun was registered and he had a concealed carry permit, but the employee said Costco's policy forbids firearms, although it posts no signs at entrances.
The employee told a manager who notified a private security guard who called police, saying a customer was acting erratically. As Erik walked to the exit, more than a dozen police cruisers rolled up. Officers jumped out, yelled conflicting commands at Erik — "Get on the ground!" "Drop your weapon!" "Keep your hands up!" — and then shot him multiple times within two seconds of issuing those commands, his father says, citing dispatch recordings.
"Everyone who testified [at the coroner's inquest] said he was unremarkable and didn't pose a threat," Scott says.
But evidence at the inquest showed Erik had been taking painkillers — for a back injury, his doctor testified — leading authorities to depict him as a drug abuser, Scott says. The shooting was ruled justified.
Later, the Review-Journal found that since 1990, Clark County cops had racked up 378 shootings, killing 142 people. Las Vegas officers were responsible for 81 percent of the deaths.
In comparison, the Colorado Springs Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff's Office logged a total seven officer-involved shootings from 2010 through 2011. Springs police killed two people, as did sheriff's deputies.
Scott, who's written two books on space warfare — he'll be signing those books Thursday at Colorado Springs' annual Space Symposium — based on nearly two dozen years as an aviation writer, is penning a fictionalized account of his son's death called The Permit, to be published in coming months.
"It was never about the money," Scott says. "It was about justice and helping the people of Las Vegas root out this cartel of corruption."
Scott won't disclose his next strategy but says it includes New York, California and Washington, D.C.
"I have no constraints on me now," he says. "We like to think we can do more good and eventually attain justice of some sort."