Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2016

Currently: 98° — Complete forecast

erik scott coroner’s inquest:

Day 4 blog: Witnesses recall fatal police shooting at Costco

Inquest adjourns, set to resume at 10 a.m. Monday

Image

Sam Morris

Will Nelson testifies during a coroner’s inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Updated Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 | 5:35 p.m.

Erik Scott Coroner's Inquest - Day 4

Costco customer Karen Passarelli-Krause wipes away a tear while testifying during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Erik Scott Coroner's Inquest - Day 3

Costco shopper Barbara Fee demonstrates how she saw Erik Scott raise his right arm toward a Metro Police officer as she testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Friday, September 24, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Erik Scott Coroner's Inquest - Day 2

Metro Police Officer William Mosher testifies about shooting Erik Scott during a coroner's inquest at the Regional Justice Center Thursday, September 23, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Erik Scott Coroner's Inquest - Day 1

Bill Scott, Erik Scott's father, listens to testimony during a coroner's inquest at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, September 22, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Audio Clip

  • Unidentified caller from within Costco talking to dispatchers
  • You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Audio Clip

  • Shai Lierley on the phone with dispatchers
  • You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Audio Clip

  • Metro Police radio traffic during the July 10 officer-involved shooting that left Erik Scott dead
  • You need to upgrade your Flash Player

5:35 p.m.

Andrew Muller, a Costco salesman, was helping to evacuate people from the store when he encountered a woman who turned out to be Scott’s girlfriend.

He said most people were cooperating with the evacuation, but this woman was more upset and asked if it was a joke.

Eventually she started to leave and he continued moving through the store, he said.

When he got outside the store, he saw the woman talking to a police officer with Scott by her side, Muller said. The woman was agitated, he said.

The officer then told Scott at least twice to get on the ground, but he didn't, and reached for his sides instead, Muller testified.

Muller said he was watching the officer and not Scott when the officer fired his gun.

Muller said he then dropped to the ground and began crawling around a corner to get out of the line of fire.

The inquest is adjourned for the day. Proceedings are set to resume at 10 a.m. Monday.

5:16 p.m.

Costco cashier Denis Sulc also saw parts of the shooting from behind a pillar outside the store.

He heard a police officer giving commands to someone to get down.

Sulc said he was behind a pillar when he heard two shots fired. He looked out and saw Scott on his knees, reaching for something at his side.

Then a woman near him fell out of a wheelchair, so he went to help her.

In his initial statement to police, Sulc wrote that he saw Scott run out of the store and reach for a "sidearm" when he was shot, but on the stand, Sulc said he couldn't recall if Scott was just reaching for his side or reaching for a weapon.

5:02 p.m.

Steve Albright was also shopping at Costco with his wife and two children when they were told to evacuate.

Albright saw someone point Scott out to a police officer, who then said “police” to Scott. Scott turned to face the officer and the officer said, “Get down, get down.”

He said Scott's right hand reached toward his back-right pocket.

"Muscle memory tells me what that means," he said, referencing the motion Scott made. Albright has a concealed weapon permit and said he has drawn a gun thousands of times.

Scott reached toward his pocket deliberately; "It was definitely an intentional, smooth move," he said.

There was something in Scott’s hands, but he didn’t wait to see what it was, Albright said. He said he turned to get his family and get away before hearing shots fired.

"I didn't see him aiming a gun at anyone specifically,” he said, but he heard someone yell "gun" so he and his family ran back inside the store.

“When police have their guns pointed at you, you don’t reach and pull out anything whatsoever,” he said.

In response to an interested party question as to whether Scott was a threat, Albright said it wasn't up to him to decide what the police thought, but it felt like enough of a threat to him that he was leaving with his 2-year-old and 1-year-old child.

4:39 p.m.

The husband of the previous witness, who Coroner Mike Murphy also said couldn't be identified because of his wife's ties to law enforcement, testified that he saw Scott holding a pistol by the handle, ready to shoot.

He said the officer clearly yelled instructions to Scott.

“I never heard the command 'put it down,' I clearly heard 'get on the ground' three times,” he said.

He said Scott held the gun in his hand, which was down at his side. He also saw the officer pointing his gun directly at Scott.

The man said he then moved behind a pillar with his wife so he wouldn't be in the line of fire. He heard one shot, then three more.

After a few moments, he looked around the pillar and saw Scott lying on the ground, already handcuffed.

The witness identified the gun shown in a photograph as the one Scott held.

4:20 p.m.

The next witness was a woman who works in a sensitive law enforcement position who couldn't be photographed or named in the news media, Coroner Mike Murphy said.

The woman testified that she was at the store shopping with her husband when they were told to evacuate.

As they were leaving, she saw a police officer with his gun drawn, but pointing toward the ground, she said.

While they waited outside the store, she heard an officer yelling at someone to get on the ground.

She said she could see the back of Scott, but only the left half of him because of a wall that was blocking her view.

She did have a clear view of the officer who ordered Scott down, then shot him. Another officer then approached and shot as well, she said.

Her husband told her the man had a gun, but she couldn't see it, she said.

After the shooting, officers brought out crime scene tape and told everyone to go home, so they did, she said.

4:05 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

John Cooper testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Costco customer John Cooper said he didn’t see police when he first left the store, but later saw an officer with a firearm in his hands.

Then he noticed Erik Scott facing the officer.

“He was not in a defensive manner,” Cooper said. “He was just standing there, almost in a relaxed position initially.”

Cooper said Scott appeared to be having a conversation with the officers, but he didn't know what anyone said.

Scott raised his hand to his waist, but he didn't see a gun, Cooper said. Cooper then turned to leave the area, heard someone yell that there was a gun and instantly heard gunshots.

After Scott was shot, Cooper said he turned back and saw a woman waving a paper and yelling, but he doesn't know what she was saying, he said.

He also saw an officer with his knee on Scott’s back restraining his hands, he said.

Cooper said he was concerned that no one was helping Scott after he was shot, and he felt guilty for not doing so himself.

3:40 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Evelyn Eckels testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Another Costco shopper, Evelyn Eckels, testified that Scott looked angry “in the eyes.”

"He looked very angry, and he looked directly at the police," she said.

She said she suddenly noticed Scott was holding a gun in front of himself; “It looked like it was pointed to the officers.”

She covered her eyes with her hands and shouted, “Oh my God, he’s got a gun,” she said. “I was like a kid trying to hide, I guess.”

She then heard shots fired, she said, then heard a woman yell.

An interested party asked if Scott could have had a confused look instead of an angry one.

“No,” she said. “I feel as if he was just mad about the whole situation.”

She called police to give a statement after seeing media reports that some people claimed Scott didn't have a gun, because he did have a gun, she said.

3:07 p.m.

Judge Tony Abbatangelo dismissed a juror who is feeling ill. Four alternates were available, leaving three alternates left. Abbatangelo said he didn't want to delay the proceedings or get other jurors sick.

2:54 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Will Nelson testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Will Nelson, the husband of the previous witness, also saw part of the shooting, but he was standing in a different direction and didn't see the whole thing, he said.

Nelson heard an officer yelling at someone to get down; when he looked over, all he saw was Scott’s hand, which was holding something brown and was extended in front of him.

He heard a gunshot, the object dropped out of Scott’s hand and Nelson recognized it as a holster.

Scott didn’t look like he was handing the holster to the officer -- it was more like he was displaying it to them -- but he wasn't holding it as if he was going to shoot it, Nelson said.

Scott didn’t seem to be a threat, but he also didn’t comply with the officer’s orders, Nelson said.

It would have been better for the officers to confront Scott in the parking lot rather than near the store entrance where there were more people around, Nelson said.

2:35 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Eileen Nelson testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010. Nelson was describing how after Scott was shot, "he was stumbling back, with his hands up, empty," she said, with her elbows bent and her palms up, demonstrating what she saw.

Pahrump resident Eileen Nelson was just about to check out at Costco when she was told to evacuate.

While walking out of the store, she noticed Scott and his girlfriend talking. They seemed calm, walking like everyone else, she said.

While Nelson was waiting outside, she saw officers with their guns drawn, ordering someone to get down on the ground.

She saw Scott raise his right hand toward the officer with something in it, she said.

An officer then shot Scott, and the item dropped out of his hand. It was then that she saw it was a gun holster, she said.

After Scott was shot, "he was stumbling back, with his hands up, empty," she said, with her elbows bent and her palms up, demonstrating what she saw.

Her voice cracked. "His hands were empty" when he was shot by the other officers, she said.

After Scott fell, Nelson noticed a cell phone on the ground, but the phone is not what fell out of Scott’s hand, she said. Scott was holding a holster, not a cell phone, when he was shot, she said.

Nelson said she saw the whole scene unfold. She said she watched, after Scott fell to the ground, as he became motionless.

"I could see his left eye, open and glassy," she said with a small sob. "He took his last breath, and then he didn't move anymore."

She also said she saw Scott’s girlfriend trying to stop one of the officers, but he pushed her back.

After the shooting, Nelson stood up and said she saw the whole thing and asked what to do. An officer told her to get in her car and go home, which she did.

2:02 p.m.

Back from lunch, another Costco shopper, Pahrump resident Eileen Nelson, is testifying.

12:49 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco shopper Dain Szafranski demonstrates how he saw Erik Scott jump back make a quick movement towards his waistband during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Another witness says Erik Scott looked combative, was talking to police officers and made a shooting stance before he was shot.

Dain Szafranski was at Costco with his mother and 2-year-old son when they saw officers outside the store with their guns drawn.

He heard one officer command Scott to “get on the ground” three times; the instructions were very loud and clear, he said.

Szafranski said Scott was standing with his arms to his side, raised between his waist and his shoulders, and was talking, but Szafranski couldn't hear what he was saying.

Scott looked combative, like he was mad and arguing with the officers, when he suddenly “snapped,” moving his leg back to take a shooting stance and quickly moving his arm to his waist as if to draw a gun, Szafranski said.

“It looked like two people were going to have a gun fight,” he said.

Szafranski, who was holding his son, turned to run away and immediately heard gunshots, he said.

But he didn't see Scott with a gun or see officers shoot because he turned to run, he said.

After getting his mother and son a safe distance away, he returned to help others and noticed a gun lying on the ground near Scott, he said.

The inquest has adjourned for an hour lunch break.

Interested parties have submitted more than 1,000 questions to witnesses in the 3 1/2 days of the inquest.

12:16 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco shopper Dr. Humberto Rodriguez Jr. testifies about the slow movement of Erik Scott during a coroner's inquest for Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Humberto Rodriguez Jr. was just feet away from Metro Police officers before Scott was shot, but he says he doesn’t know why they fired.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “It seems to me there was plenty of time for the police officers to tase this fellow rather than to shoot and kill him."

Rodriguez was with his wife and mother-in-law at Costco. He saw three officers outside the store.

One officer was shouting: “get down, get down, get on your knees, put the gun down,” Rodriguez said.

At first, he couldn't see who they were yelling at. The officer "kept insisting that someone put the gun down and get on their knees," he said.

He then saw Scott, a “man who was frozen in time,” like a deer in the headlights, he said.

He heard a woman say Scott was a military officer, had a concealed weapon permit and had a right to carry a gun, Rodriguez said.

He saw Scott with his hand at his waist, and at the same time heard two shots.

Scott began to convulse and struggle for breath, said Rodriguez, who is also a doctor.

He said he didn't understand the shooting because Scott didn't appear to be threatening; “I saw a man that was not crazy, who was not insane,” he said.

Rodriquez said he didn't see Scott with a gun.

11:32 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco shopper JoAnn Rodriguez testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

JoAnn Rodriguez was at Costco with her husband and her 93-year-old mother, who was in a wheelchair, when they were told to evacuate.

She was waiting outside the store when she heard yelling and saw police officers giving what she thought were instructions to people, so she went toward them.

She then noticed that other people were moving away, but saw Scott, “frozen,” near the officers.

Rodriguez saw an officer pull up and fire a weapon, which she thought was a Taser.

She looked back at Scott and saw him stumble and noticed a red spot in the middle of his chest, she said.

Scott then fell to his knees and was convulsing, then was shot again, Rodriguez said.

She noticed her mother’s wheelchair, but her mother was not in it.

Her mother had fallen out of her chair when she tried to duck after hearing someone yell “duck” or “get down.”

They were able to help her mother, who had cuts from the fall.

11:24 a.m.

The inquest proceedings have resumed. Judge Tony Abbatangelo referred to an incident that apparently occurred outside the courtroom during the break.

The details of the incident weren't mentioned.

Outside the presence of the jury, Abbatangelo said decorum needs to apply throughout the courthouse or he might have to close the courtroom.

"I don't want to go down that road," he said. "There are a lot of actions that could be misinterpeted, or tempers could flare."

10:34 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco shopper Robert Connolly uses a tissue box to describe the way Erik Scott presented his gun to a Metro officer during a coroner's inquest for Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Robert Connolly, the husband of Rand, the previous witness, testified that Scott was handing the gun to the officer before he was shot.

Connolly said he saw an officer tap Scott on the shoulder and tell him to get down. He heard a woman tell police that the man had a permit.

Scott reached to his back, pulled out a gun in the holster, and pulled it to the front toward the officer, Connolly said.

But he was holding the handle of the gun and the side of the holster; “He didn’t point it at the officer,” he said.

The officer then shot Scott, who fell to his knees and was shot again, he said.

Connolly identified a photo of a gun in a holster shown to him as the one Scott was holding, but he said he didn't see it fall to the ground.

He didn't hear the officer tell Scott to hand him the gun, only to get down, Connolly said.

After Connolly's testimony the judge called a 10-minute break.

10:09 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco shopper Dolly Rand testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Shopper Dolly Rand was also near the Costco entrance at the time of the shooting.

She saw a man point out Scott to a police officer, who told Scott to get on the ground, she said.

She heard a woman yelling hysterically, but she didn't hear Scott say anything, Rand said.

The officer took a step forward, pointed to the ground and again ordered Scott to the ground, she said.

Scott reached behind his back like he was pulling something out of his waistband, then he brought his hand forward, with something black in his hand, she said.

“It was going up straight towards the police officer,” Rand said.

The officer fired at Scott, then two other officers fired, she said.

Rand said she couldn't tell what Scott was holding, but after Scott was shot, the object fell to the ground and came toward her, she said.

She described it as a square leather object, saying she wasn't sure if it was a gun or a cell phone.

"I don't know if it was a gun or not," she said.

9:46 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco shopper Dr. Edward Fishman testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Edward Fishman, who was also shopping at Costco the day of the shooting, testified that he heard a police officer order Scott to “drop it” -- not to get on the ground as other witnesses have testified.

Fishman was checking out of the store when he was told to leave his things and evacuate.

When he got outside, he saw a police officer with his gun drawn. He walked around a post, then came back and saw Scott at the entrance. He heard the officer tell Scott to “drop it,” even though he couldn’t see anything in Scott’s hands, he said.

He saw Scott reach toward his side and his shirt came up, then he was shot, Fishman said.

He didn't see Scott point anything at the officer or take an aggressive stance at the officer, he said. Fishman also said he didn't hear Scott say anything.

After he was shot, he saw Scott’s hands above his head before he fell to his knees and then fell face-down on the ground, Fishman said.

Fishman, a physician, said he was concerned that no one went to help Scott or check a pulse, but an officer did handcuff Scott after he was on the ground, he said.

He was so shocked and surprised that he was afraid to approach and offer assistance, he said.

He said he didn't see anything drop from Scott’s hands or anything laying on the ground near him.

Fishman said he gave a statement to police the day of the shooting and also gave a statement to a private investigator hired by the Scott family.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent asked if the investigator or anyone from the Scott family told Fishman about the inquest or told him to come testify.

Fishman said they did not, but he received a subpoena from the district attorney’s office to appear and testify.

Fishman was accompanied by two foreign exchange students, Lisa Holzgruber and Caroline Lagerholm, whose recorded descriptions of the event were played for the jury Friday.

9:14 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco customer Karen Passarelli-Krause wipes away a tear while testifying during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Another Costco customer, Karen Passarelli-Krause, also testified that she saw Scott shot by police officers.

Passarelli-Krause was emotional on the stand and said the event had traumatized her; “I’ll never forget it,” she said.

While shopping, she was told to evacuate the store. When she got to the front entrance she saw Scott, who was four or five feet away, and a police officer, who was right next to her.

"I saw Scott's shirt fly up and the gun come out," she said.

"To me, it looked like it (the gun) was pointed at me,” she said. “I just kept staring, in disbelief that this was happening."

The officer then pulled his gun out and shot Scott, she said.

Passarelli-Krause said she ran back inside the store, pushing other people back and yelling that people were shooting.

She said she heard shouting, but isn’t sure what was being said. “All I was paying attention to was the guns,” she said.

A question from an interested party asked if Scott could have had a cell phone, not a gun in his hand.

“I wouldn’t be afraid of a cell phone, I thought it was a gun,” she said.

8:54 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Costco customer Wendy Wolkenstein testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Wendy Wolkenstein, another Costco customer, testified that she saw a police officer and Scott outside the store when she was evacuated.

She saw the officer with his gun out, she said, and he was yelling at Scott, whose back was facing her, to get down on the ground.

"I didn't see Mr. Scott getting to the ground, or attempting to get to the ground, unfortunately," she said.

She herded her children behind a pillar when she saw Scott’s elbow move back toward his waist or pocket, she said.

She then heard gunshots: “I have never heard a gunshot before and I actually thought it was a Taser,” she said.

When she looked back briefly after the shots, she saw Scott with his hands in the air, possibly as a reaction from the shot, she said.

She then focused her attention back on her children, she said.

Click to enlarge photo

Members of Erik Scott's family, father Bill, mother Linda, and younger brother Kevin stand at the start of a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Wolkenstein testified that she heard the officer yelling orders at Scott, but she didn't hear Scott say anything.

When interviewed by police, Wolkenstein said she hoped the shooting wasn't Scott's fault, but she doesn’t understand why he didn’t go to the ground.

“I just wish Erik would have gotten to the ground; it’s upsetting,” she said.

8:34 a.m.

Day Four of the coroner’s inquest into the shooting death of Erik Scott has begun at the Regional Justice Center.

Wendy Wolkenstein, another Costco customer who saw the shooting, is testifying.

The court didn't open an overflow room for the media and the public this morning as had been done during the other days of the inquest Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

One change mentioned this morning was that the inquest is expected to continue Monday. The judge earlier in the week had said that if extra time was needed, it would likely resume on Tuesday.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy