Tuesday, May 3, 2011 | 3:35 p.m.
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A Las Vegas mother is suing Metro Police and the officer who shot and killed her 15-year-old son in 2009.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas by attorney Brent Bryson for Evie Oquendo, the mother of Tanner Chamberlain, who was killed by Metro Officer Derek Colling in September 2009.
The suit seeks more than $5 million in damages and alleges Colling violated Chamberlain’s civil rights and caused his wrongful death. The suit also claims Metro was negligent in training and supervising Colling.
Chamberlain was shot in the head at a Las Vegas apartment complex after police were told there was a mentally ill person with a knife. Police said they found Chamberlain holding a knife to his mother’s neck when they arrived.
Oquendo told police that Chamberlain was bipolar and had refused to take his medication.
At a coroner’s inquest into the shooting, officers testified they told Chamberlain repeatedly to drop the knife, but he refused to comply with their orders.
Colling testified he thought Oquendo’s life was in danger. “I did what had to be done,” he said.
The coroner’s jury found Colling’s actions justifiable. But the lawsuit calls the death “unreasonable” and “unjustified.”
The lawsuit says police were called to the scene because Chamberlain had taken his mother’s medication instead of his own, not because Oquendo felt she was in danger, and Chamberlain was trying to hide behind his mother and did not intend to harm her. Testimony at the coroner's inquest indicated Chamberlain had damaged items in their apartment before police arrived.
The suit also alleges it is the custom of Metro to “tolerate and ratify the use of excessive, unreasonable and deadly force by its officers,” and claims Metro was negligent in hiring, training and supervising employees.
In addition, the suit claims Oquendo was “dragged away” from the scene after Chamberlin was shot, then detained for 3 ½ hours in a small space without being told her son was dead.
Metro recently suspended Colling after a recent, unrelated incident in which he is accused of hitting a man who was videotaping officers.
A Metro spokesperson wasn't immediately available to comment, but the department generally doesn't comment on pending litigation.