Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
My son, Erik Scott, was shot seven times by three Metro Police officers on July 10. He died on the concrete in front of the Summerlin Costco store. The incident stemmed from Erik legally carrying a concealed weapon, which was spotted by a Costco employee.
We, the family and Erik’s friends, have given “the system” a chance to conduct a thorough investigation, interview witnesses, assemble evidence and draw conclusions that might answer the myriad questions that have dogged this city-shocking case for more than two months. A coroner’s inquest hearing that begins Wednesday will be the first time Metro and the district attorney will share any information with us and Las Vegas citizens.
While billed as a “fact-finding” exercise, the Clark County inquest process is structured to guarantee that the three shooters will not be held accountable for killing Erik. Only Metro officials and the district attorney are allowed to present evidence, witnesses and testimony to a seven-person jury. The family’s attorney, Ross Goodman, is not allowed to cross-examine Metro’s witnesses, challenge any Metro-provided evidence, or present any of our approximately 30 witnesses. He can only submit written questions to the presiding officer, Justice Tony Abbatangelo, who may or may not read them aloud in the jury’s presence.
Why would anybody take these proceedings seriously when there’s no real opportunity to rebut any allegations? Consequently, the Clark County coroner’s inquest hearing into Erik Scott’s death will be staged, carefully rehearsed theater — a scripted “reality” TV show. It has nothing to do with fact-finding, truth or justice. Its sole objective is to exonerate Metro officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark and Thomas Mendiola. And it absolutely will not hold them or anybody else accountable. There’s a very high probability that those officers will be back on the street very soon.
This predetermined outcome should scare every person in Clark County. When no police officer has ever been held accountable for killing Erik Scott, Trevon Cole and other victims of officer-involved shootings over three decades, where’s the motivation for a cop to exercise restraint, to defuse a tense situation or opt for nonlethal measures? Clark County history indicates that the coroner’s inquest process virtually guarantees an officer who fires his weapon will never be found at fault.
This bizarre kill-and-walk environment of non-accountability is light years from how professionals operate in my world, the aerospace, aviation and flight-testing communities. If an airline pilot has an aircraft accident that results in a fatality, he’s immediately grounded and given a urine test. An independent federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, dispatches a team of experts to examine the damaged aircraft, its maintenance records, the pilot’s training and every detail of the pilot’s life — medical records, duty time, recent rest periods, financial condition, etc. The pilot is subjected to extremely intense scrutiny, and his flying career is dependent on the outcome of that NTSB investigation.
And please note that aircraft accidents are not investigated by the airline involved. The carrier will make its people available to assist, but the NTSB team conducts its own, independent investigation.
In contrast, Las Vegas Metro conducts its own internal investigation. The homicide unit is doing so for Erik’s case. But Sgt. Russ Shoemaker and his team launched their investigation with a figurative patch over one eye. To my knowledge, the three shooters were not required to submit a urine sample, which would show whether they had consumed illegal drugs or slammed energy drinks before rolling on the Costco call.
And the Costco security-surveillance video data, seized immediately after Erik’s shooting, had already been whisked out of state. A few Metro officers had taken a quick look at the video and decided it was potentially “unusable” due to a “glitch,” according to news reports, so the hard disks were rushed to a Los Angeles forensics lab.
I doubt if any original surveillance video will be shown at Erik’s inquest hearing, because it would show exactly what happened, both inside and outside the Costco store. It would prove that Erik was not “acting erratically” and did not “make a furtive movement” that justified being shot to death.
To protect citizens from uniformed abuse, the U.S. Constitution provides a system of civilian oversight that ensures American military forces cannot operate as they please. When will Clark County officials impose a similar form of impartial civilian oversight that guarantees the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is held equally accountable for its actions?
That time is now. Erik Scott’s slaying was a tipping point for Las Vegas. Citizens are concerned, demanding that Metro clean up its act. I only wish that had been done before my son was killed.
William B. Scott is a retired aerospace journalist, author and father of the late Erik B. Scott.