Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2015

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Vigil marks anniversary of fatal Erik Scott shooting


Jackie Valley

Friends and supporters mark the one-year anniversary of Erik Scott’s death outside the Summerlin Costco, where he was fatally shot by Metro Police officers.

Click to enlarge photo

At a candlelight vigil Sunday evening to mark the one-year anniversary of Erik Scott's death, friends and supporters vowed to continue seeking justice. Scott was shot by Metro Police on July 10, 2010, at the Summerlin Costco after authorities say he pointed a gun at an officer. A coroner's jury ruled the fatal shooting justified.

To mark the one-year anniversary of Erik Scott’s death after he was fatally shot by Metro Police, his family laid his ashes to rest in the Pacific Ocean.

In Las Vegas, his friends and supporters made sure that wasn’t the last chapter to his story. Instead, they gathered outside Costco on Sunday evening to remember him with a moment of silence and vows to continue seeking justice.

“Erik’s death was not in vain,” the Scott family wrote in a statement read at the vigil. “It was a turning point for Las Vegas, a singular event that galvanized this community.”

The 38-year-old West Point graduate was killed by police July 10, 2010, after authorities say he pointed a gun at an officer, prompting them to shoot.

In September, a six-day coroner's inquest found the three Metro officers involved — William Mosher, Joshua Stark and Thomas Mendiola — justified in the shooting.

The seven-member panel came to the decision following 90 minutes of deliberations.

At the time, the Scott family responded by saying the inquest "failed miserably" and followed by filing a lawsuit Oct. 28 in U.S. District Court for Nevada against Metro, Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, the three officers involved as well as Costco Wholesale Corp. The family later dropped Costco from the lawsuit.

The uproar surrounding the shooting and subsequent inquest triggered a quest to make changes to the coroner's inquest system. Clark County commissioners approved changes in December that would include the establishment of an ombudsman to represent victims' families, the release of key investigative files and the restructuring of meetings before the inquest hearing.

The changes, however, remain a contentious issue with the police union, which calls them unconstitutional. The Las Vegas Police Protective Association filed legal action in June to halt the changes before the first scheduled inquest occurred using the new guidelines.

County officials announced Friday that inquests would be postponed pending the court proceedings.

The couple dozen people who attended the candlelight vigil Sunday evening came for a variety of reasons — friendship, solidarity, hope — but they all want to see Scott’s death spur more accountability on behalf of police.

“I hope something good comes out of it all,” said Dustin Deguevara, a friend of Erik’s brother who drove in from California. “As an outsider looking in on the community, it really boggles the mind.”

Deguevara said changes to the coroner’s inquest system satisfied the Scott family, but their overarching goal is “fixing the corruption in Vegas.”

The family’s statement echoed that sentiment, which used fiery language against police to describe what they called a “murder in cold blood.”

“Soon those responsible for Erik’s murder will be held accountable,” the family wrote.

It’s a challenge Heather Spaniol plans to continue supporting. She befriended Scott’s family and friends after his death.

“I came to his vigil last year because I was sick of seeing Metro shootings,” she said.

She went on to attend his coroner’s inquest and the County Commission meetings about the inquest changes.

“We will not stop,” she told the vigil attendees. “We will keep fighting until the coroner changes are through and fair.”

Click to enlarge photo

Metro crime scene investigators, officers and detectives mill about the entrance of the Costco store in Summerlin after the shooting July 10, 2010.

Andrew Martin-Smith attended the anniversary vigil for similar reasons. He never met Scott.

As a former British police officer and California reserve officer, he’s lobbying for changes to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings and how they are investigated afterward.

“People are starting to be aware that it’s time for Las Vegas and surrounding areas to move into the 21st Century,” said Martin-Smith, a member of the Las Vegas Liberty Club. “Some of the ways of operation here are way out of date and need to be reformed.”

Marianne Bonifazio, who had been friends with Scott for eight years, said the most difficult aspect of the past year has been hearing attacks on his character.

“Erik was the kind of guy you wanted to know,” she said. “He was a good friend … He was disciplined. He was a guy who had his act together.”

Even so, Bonifazio said it’s unlikely everyone will agree about what actually happened one year ago.

“It’s a heated thing,” she said. “It has been and I think it will continue to be.”

Metro's policy is not to comment on cases involving litigation.

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