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May 29, 2015

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Metro Police sued over July fatal shooting of armed man

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Jackie Valley

Metro Police investigate after officers fatally shot 23-year-old Rafael Alonso Olivas on July 14, 2011, in the western Las Vegas Valley.

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Las Vegas police were sued today over what an attorney calls the "wrongful death" of a knife-wielding man shot and killed by officers July 14.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at the time said officers fatally shot Rafael Alonso Olivas, 23, after they responded to a domestic disturbance, were threatened by Olivas after they found him carrying a butcher knife and walking down a street, and had tried to subdue him with four non-lethal rounds.

The incident happened on Firestone Drive, in western Las Vegas near Buffalo Drive and the Summerlin Parkway interchange.

Today’s lawsuit was filed by Las Vegas attorney E. Brent Bryson on behalf of Alma Chavez, mother of Olivas.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, charges Olivas’s civil rights were violated when officers used excessive force against him and then failed to secure and render immediate medical attention for the man.

The suit claims that early on July 14 Chavez called 911 "to get help for her son" as he had been arguing with her and a female friend.

The suit says Olivas had an ulcer that "acted up" when he became stressed or upset and that Chavez wanted assistance from Metro’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), which assists with people in emotional distress, to calm Olivas down so his ulcer did not act up.

Olivas heard his mother call police, became upset and grabbed a kitchen knife and went outside – facts all relayed to dispatchers, the lawsuit says.

Instead of the CIT team responding, regular Metro officers arrived and had been on the scene for less than two minutes before shooting Olivas, the suit claims.

"Alma did not hear any warnings or any attempt to have Rafael surrender himself prior to the officers’ shooting and killing her son," the suit charges.

The suit claims Metro has failed to train officers in dealing with persons having seizures and complains that since 2009 there have been 55-60 officer-related shootings locally, "a higher number of shootings in Las Vegas than in other cities of like kind and size."

Metro hasn’t yet responded to the lawsuit and its policy is to not comment on such suits.

In the shooting of Olivas, a police commander has said the officers resorted to lethal force because they feared for their lives. The officers told supervisors that the armed Olivas continued to approach them even after they commanded him to stop.

Today’s suit demands more than $9 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

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