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Day 6 blog — Jury: Officers justified in fatally shooting Erik Scott outside Summerlin Costco

2 officers say Erik Scott posed ‘imminent’ threat

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Steve Marcus

Bill Scott, center, father of Erik Scott, speaks to reporters after a coroner’s inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Tuesday, September 28, 2010. With Bill Scott are his wife Linda and attorney Ross Goodman. The jury found that the shooting of Erik Scott was justified.

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 | 6:11 p.m.

Erik Scott Coroner's Inquest - Day 6

Bill Scott, center, father of Erik Scott, speaks to reporters after a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Tuesday, September 28, 2010. With Bill Scott are his wife Linda and attorney Ross Goodman. The jury found that the shooting of Erik Scott was justified. Launch slideshow »

Erik Scott Coroner's Inquest - Day 5

Metro Police Detective Peter Calos holds a .38 caliber handgun owned by Erik Scott during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Monday, September 27, 2010. The gun was said to be found in Scott's pocket by medical workers in the ambulance. Launch slideshow »

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 »

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  • Unidentified caller from within Costco talking to dispatchers
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  • Shai Lierley on the phone with dispatchers
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  • Metro Police radio traffic during the July 10 officer-involved shooting that left Erik Scott dead
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5:29 p.m. (Updated at 5:42 p.m.)

A coroner’s jury has ruled the police shooting of Erik Scott was justified.

The jury of seven announced the unanimous decision at 5:29 p.m. after deliberating for about an hour and a half.

Scott was fatally shot by Metro officers William Mosher, Thomas Mendiola and Joshua Stark outside the Summerlin Costco store July 10.

Jurors were instructed to determine whether the shooting was justifiable, excusable or criminal. Coroner’s juries do not have to be unanimous in reaching their verdict.

Metro Police announced minutes after the verdict was read that Sheriff Doug Gillespie will meet with the news media at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the Costco shooting and the inquest process.

4:59 p.m.

Jurors have reached a verdict in the Erik Scott coroner's inquest. It was expected to be read at 5:20 p.m.

4:08 p.m.

Three jurors, two women and a man, were picked at random to be the alternates and were dismissed as deliberations began. One of those women had consistently asked many questions during the inquest.

There were four men and three women who were selected for the jury. They began deliberations about 3:30 p.m. Jurors will decide whether the shooting was justified, criminal or excusable.

In earlier testimony, Metro Police Detective Barry Jensen said when he interviewed Scott's girlfriend, he asked if Scott was a Green Beret. She told him he had done some stuff "they don't talk about."

Jensen said he checked out Scott's DD-214 separation papers from the military.

"We found he had no special forces training and wasn't a Green Beret," Jensen said. Jensen said they found Scott was honorably discharged in 1996.

3:34 p.m. (Updated at 3:42 p.m.)

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Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Tuesday, September 28, 2010. Murphy was the last person to testify at the inquest.

Witness testimony for the inquest has ended and the jury of seven has begun deliberations.

More than 1,500 questions were submitted to witnesses over nearly six days of testimony.

Coroner Michael Murphy testified that he met with Erik Scott's family and explained the inquest process to them.

Murphy said the family was told more than once how to provide the names of witnesses to bring to the inquest, but had not done so.

3:30 p.m.

The district attorney’s office played more of the recording of police radio traffic for the jury.

Jensen also showed a diagram of the shooting that Scott’s girlfriend, Samantha Sterner, helped draw.

Jensen, who oversaw the collection of witness testimony, said Metro sent out 113 letters to Costco members who were at the store and got more than 70 responses. He said he also asked the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a list of witnesses interviewed, but didn't receive one.

An interested party asked Jensen why officers would have their guns drawn before they even saw Scott.

“You don’t want to be in a gun-draw contest with somebody,” Jensen said.

He also said the officers had little time to react.

“This situation unfolded, due to Erik Scott’s actions, quickly,” Jensen said.

Officer Mosher fired two shots, one of which hit Scott in the thigh and the other hit him in the chest, Jensen said. That may dicate that Mosher was raising the gun when he fired the first shot, Jensen said.

The bullet that hit Scott’s thigh also struck the Ruger gun that was in his pocket, Jensen said.

The bullets from the other two officers were the same caliber, so Jensen said he couldn't tell where those officers’ shots landed. Mendiola fired four shots and Stark fired once, Jensen said.

The gun was damaged enough that it couldn't function when tested, Jensen said.

The district attorney’s officer has called Coroner Michael Murphy to the stand to testify.

2:37 p.m.

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Metro Police Detective Barry Jensen testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Tuesday, September 28, 2010.

Erik Scott didn't have a permit to carry the gun that was in his pocket when he was shot, a Metro detective testified.

Detective Barry Jensen answered a question that his partner, who testified Monday, could not.

Scott carried a Ruger .380 semi-automatic handgun and a .45-caliber Kimber single action pistol. The Kimber was found in its holster not far from where Scott’s body landed after he was shot. The Ruger was found in Scott’s clothing as he was being taken to the hospital.

Scott had a concealed carry permit and seven gun registrations in is wallet, but the permit didn't include the Ruger.

“That’s a felony crime in Nevada,” Jensen said.

The permit did list a .380 Kel Tec, which is similar.

2:22 p.m.

Metro announced that Sheriff Doug Gillespie will hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss the inquest. He will not comment on the case today if a verdict is reached, but Metro officials said they plan to send out a news release to the media once a verdict is announced.

2:18 p.m.

After a slightly longer-than-expected lunch break, the coroner’s inquest has resumed.

Detective Barry Jensen, who is expected to be the final witness of the inquest, has taken the stand. The judge again said he expected the inquest to end today.

1:22 p.m.

Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo indicated that the Erik Scott coroner's inquest, now in its sixth day, might be handed over to the jury this afternoon.

Detective Barry Jensen is expected to be the final witness to testify.

After Metro Officer Thomas Mendiola finished his testimony, Abbatangelo said there would be a 45-minute lunch break.

The judge looked at the clock and indicated he wanted to give the jury "time to deliberate" this afternoon.

1:12 p.m.

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Metro Police Officer Thomas Mendiola testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center on Sept. 28, 2010. Scott was shot and killed by Metro officers at the Summerlin Costco store July 10.

Thomas Mendiola, the third officer who shot Erik Scott outside the Summerlin Costco, also testified today that he thought people were in danger before he fired.

Mendiola heard the call come from Costco and asked to be sent to the scene since he knew he was the closest officer to the store.

He was told not to use his lights or sirens on the way so he wouldn't spook anyone or make the situation worse, he said.

Mendiola was the first to arrive. His sergeant told him over the radio to stay outside the store and instruct employees to begin an evacuation.

He had been told that Scott had a gun, was acting erratically, throwing things off shelves and may have been on drugs. He was also told that Scott may have been a Green Beret.

While Mendiola was working with store employees, Officer William Mosher arrived and went to the store exit. Mendiola stayed near the entrance, he said.

People were coming out of the store, but it was orderly and there was no running or yelling, Mendiola said.

Officer Joshua Stark then came up and stayed with Mendiola at the entrance, he said.

An employee with access to store surveillance told Mendiola that Scott was in the center of the store, but shortly after he heard Mosher giving orders to someone, Mendiola said.

Mosher yelled, “Hands, let me see your hand,” Mendiola said.

But Scott, who matched the description they were given from Costco, reached both hands under his shirt and pulled out a gun, which Scott pointed directly at Mosher, he said.

"I immediately went to center mass, took aim and discharged my weapon," Mendiola said.

Scott was a threat, Mendiola said. "I felt that my fellow officer was in immediate and imminent danger.”

Mendiola said he remembered shooting three times, but was later told he fired four times.

“I just fired until I felt that the suspect wasn't a threat. I perceived him as a threat every time I fired,” he said.

Asked why he didn't try to shoot the gun out of his hand, Mendiola said his "training was to shoot at center mass, sir."

Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent asked Mendiola would have done anything differently in retrospect.

“Absolutely not,” Mendiola said. “We don’t pick what’s going to happen, we react to the situation and that’s what the situation presented at that time.”

An interested party asked what Mendiola thought when he found out Scott’s gun was in a holster the whole time.

“It was still a threat whether it was holstered or not. I did what I had to do,” Mendiola said.

Interested parties have submitted more than 1,400 questions during the six days of testimony. Not all have been asked of witnesses; Judge Tony Abbatangelo asks the questions unless they are not appropriate or have already been answered.

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Bill Scott, father of Erik Scott, listens to testimony during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Tuesday, September 28, 2010.

12:10 p.m.

The inquest has returned from a short break. Officer Thomas Mendiola, the third officer who shot Scott, is taking the stand.

12:08 p.m.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens asked Stark more about why he didn’t use a Taser.

Stark said Tasers don't always work properly and are only used when a suspect doesn't present deadly force.

“So when somebody presence a gun, you have to use a gun because they present an imminent threat of death,” Stark said.

He said if he had used a Taser, he could have gotten in trouble with his supervisors and Metro's Use of Force Board.

Officers also carry a baton, pepper spray and can use their hands as non-deadly weapons, Stark said.

He said a Taser might be used if a subject was fighting with an officer with his hands, or if the subject put a knife to his own throat.

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Metro Police Officer Joshua Stark gestures toward the jury as he testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. Stark was one of three officers who shot Scott.

11:55 a.m.

Joshua Stark, a Metro Police officer who fired at Scott, testified he felt people were in “threat of imminent death” from Scott before he was shot.

Stark was on a lunch break when he heard a call from Costco over the police radio, he assigned himself to the call and went to the Costco store, which he is familiar with from shopping there, as well as responding to other calls, he said.

He heard over the radio that a man was in the store throwing merchandise and acting erratically, he said. They were told Scott might be under the influence of drugs and had a gun.

When he arrived at the store Officer William Mosher was by the store's exit and Officer Thomas Mendiola was near the entrance.

Stark said he thought Scott was refusing to come out of the store and that the officers would finish evacuating customers and then go into the store to confront Scott.

Stark went to Mendiola for an update and was near the store's entrance when he heard Mosher giving loud commands to someone else, he said.

Mosher’s orders included the word “ground,” but Stark said he didn't understand the exact commands. “The suspect is not complying at all,” he said.

Scott’s arm then reached behind him, exactly to where Costco security had told the officers Scott had a gun, Stark said. Scott struggled to get something out before bringing his hand forward and pointing it at Mosher, Stark testified.

“He pulls out the gun and it comes forward,” Stark said, then shots were fired.

“I wasn’t sure who had been shot, I just knew shots had been fired,” Stark said, explaining that he was focused on Scott’s hands.

"I fired my handgun because I thought my partner Officer Mosher and everybody behind him was in the threat of imminent death," he said.

Stark fired once, then said he stopped to reassess and noticed that Scott had dropped the gun and was starting to fall, “so he was no longer a threat” and Stark didn't fire again, he said.

He continued to keep his gun aimed at Scott while Mosher handcuffed him, he said.

He then noticed the gun laying 5 or 6 feet away from Scott’s feet, in its holster, Stark said.

Asked why he didn't use his Taser, Stark said, “Deadly force is always met with deadly force.”

After other officers arrived, Stark was put into a patrol car so he couldn't talk to anyone about what happened and then met with homicide detectives, he said.

Stark said he didn't know Scott’s gun was in the holster when he shot, but even if he had, he knows it is possible to shoot through a holster, especially a soft one.

He also said every other concealed weapon permit holder he has dealt with has put his hands up in the air when confronted by officers.

Stark said he knew medical officials were staged nearby at the time of the shooting, so he helped clear the crowd to get them to Scott rather than trying to help Scott himself. He isn't trained to give medical help, he said.

Judge Tony Abbatangelo is still asking Stark questions submitted by interested parties.

11:08 a.m.

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Metro Police Officer Dustin Bundy testifies during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010.

Metro Police Officer Dustin Bundy testified he was at Costco and heard the shooting, but didn't see what happened because he was behind a pillar.

Bundy, who has been with the department for less than a year and half, responded to a call he heard on the radio of a man with a gun inside the store, he said.

Over the radio, the officers were told the man was acting erratically, had a gun and was throwing merchandise, he said.

When he arrived he saw another police officer near the door, but Bundy was helping to move the crowd of people away from the building when he heard someone yell “gun.”

He then heard three or four gunshots within a second, Bundy said, but he never saw a gun or saw Scott because of his location.

He said into his radio that shots had been fired, then heard Officer William Mosher say the same thing.

When Bundy came around the pillar, he saw Scott lying face-down on the ground with three officers with their guns “drawn down” on Scott, he said.

He also aimed his shotgun on Scott, but when he saw Scott wasn't moving he began to look around and noticed a handgun in its holster about 3 feet from Scott’s feet, Bundy said. He said he didn't see a cell phone on the ground.

He saw Mosher handcuff Scott, then he moved his attention to a woman who had become hysterical and was yelling, he said.

Bundy then helped to move the crowd back and put up crime scene tape, he said. He didn't see Scott again.

When asked why he didn't give CPR or try to save Scott, Bundy said he is not trained in emergency medicine or CPR.

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Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo speaks to the jury during a coroner's inquest for Erik Scott at the Regional Justice Center Tuesday, September 28, 2010. Scott was shot and killed by Metro Police Officers at the Summerlin Costco store on July 10.

Officer Josh Stark, one of the three officers who fired at Scott is now taking the stand.

10:39 a.m.

Dustin Bundy, another Metro Police officer present during the shooting, is the first witness of the day.

10:32 a.m.

The coroner’s inquest into the shooting death of Erik Scott resumed this morning at the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas.

This is the sixth day of testimony in the inquest, which originally was scheduled to last three days. The proceedings were to begin at 10 a.m., but jurors entered the courtroom at about 10:30 a.m.

Police responded to the Summerlin Costco on July 10 when an employee called 911 to report a man acting erratically, possibly on drugs, damaging merchandise and carrying a pistol in his waistband.

Shortly after police arrived, Scott was shot to death outside the door by three officers.

Officer William Mosher, the first of three officers who fired shots at Scott and the first to pull his trigger, testified Thursday and Friday. The other two officers, Joshua Stark and Thomas Mendiola, are expected on the stand today.

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