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Judge drops Clark County from wrongful death suit over Costco shooting

Summerlin Costco Shooting

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

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

Updated Thursday, June 9, 2011 | 7:36 p.m.

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A federal judge today dropped Clark County as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Costco shooting victim Erik Scott, but kept Metro Police as a defendant.

U.S. District Judge Edward Reed Jr. also retained Sheriff Doug Gillespie as a defendant in his "individual capacity" but dropped him from the lawsuit in his "official capacity" because his role in the latter duplicates the claims the family is making against Metro.

Reed also handed Scott's parents, William and Linda Scott, another victory by upholding their right to sue the defendants for alleged negligent hiring, training and supervision of police officers.

In dismissing Clark County from the lawsuit, Reed agreed with its argument that the county is not legally liable for the conduct of Metro or its employees.

At a press conference on Thursday, the family's attorney, Ross Goodman, said the ruling "basically left the entire complaint intact against Metro, Sheriff Gillespie individually and the officers."

"Basically, the whole point of naming Clark County was to hold them also accountable because we believe that, unlike other legal precedent that we raised for the first time, a novel argument suggests that the county has more responsibility, because of their involvement with the fiscal affairs committee, in the police review committee and the coroner's inquest, and that they have separate policies that exist and they should also be held accountable,” he said.

Scott, a 38-year-old medical device salesman, was shot and killed by police outside the Costco store in Summerlin last July. Police reportedly responded to a 911 call of a man with a gun destroying merchandise inside the store.

A coroner's inquest sided with police that the shooting by officers was justified, but the family disputed those findings and criticized the inquest process.

Scott's brother, Kevin Scott, initially was a plaintiff in the lawsuit but Goodman told the judge they would voluntarily dismiss him from the case. The judge agreed, noting that Kevin Scott didn't have legal standing to be a party in the lawsuit.

The family also had dropped Costco and one of its security officers, Shai Lierly, as defendants but reserved the right to sue them in state court.

"We wanted to focus on those claims in a federal court first and then, based on the investigation during discovery, will lead us to the appropriate time to refile a case involving state claims against Costco," Goodman said. "Costco is jointly to blame and will be held accountable at the right time. In state court, we will sue Costco and Shai Lierly and whoever else we deem to be responsible in the discovery."

Sun reporter Nikki Villoria contributed to this report.

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