Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2015

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NHP troopers move to block coroner’s inquest into stun-gun death

Five Nevada Highway Patrol officers asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to block a Clark County coroner's inquest planned for May 3-4.

At issue is an inquest into the August 2010 death of Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez of Henderson.

He died after being tased by police after what police called a road-rage incident on U.S. 95 near Charleston Boulevard in Las Vegas.

His family has already hit the state with a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations in his death — charges denied by the state.

At issue now is whether the first inquest in Clark County's revamped coroner's inquest process will move forward. Inquests examine police actions resulting in a death.

After criticism that the old system always favored police, the Clark County Commission changed it in December 2010.

Under the changes, an ombudsman is appointed to represent the family of the person killed by police, and key evidence and investigative files will be released.

The local police union has complained the new system is no longer aimed at determining the facts, but instead is an adversarial system pitting officers against the families of those killed.

In a case involving Metro Police, a federal judge has already ruled the new system doesn't violate the rights of the officers whose actions are examined.

That ruling by U.S. District Judge Philip Pro is now on appeal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and there's no way to say when it will rule.

And now, attorneys for the Highway Patrol troopers in the tasing case want the inquest involving them stopped.

They insisted in a plea to the Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday that the new investigative process "performs an accusative function because it is designed to find specifically identified police officers responsible for crimes and to publicize their alleged wrongdoing.''

The Supreme Court hasn't yet indicated when it will rule on the motion that next week's inquest be halted until the issues about the new inquest process are fully litigated.

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