February 06, 2011

The Erik Scott Case: Update 10: The First Cracks Appear?

You don’t want to commit a crime in Las Vegas--at least not on TV. On the tube, you’ll be relentlessly pursued by a group of young, beautiful, highly educated and competent crime scene investigators who work in gleaming glass and steel labs surrounded by state of the art equipment that would make MIT green with envy. So ethical and competent are they--and the police force they serve--that if a molecule of evidence exists in the known universe, they’ll find it and brilliantly use it against a suspect to talk them into a tearful confession. Readers who have been following the Scott case updates (this update is linked to all of our other posts relating to the case), know that the reality of Las Vegas is very different, even greater than the usual disparity between TV and reality.

Before we get into the most recent developments in the case, here are links to articles that readers will find interesting:
(1) An article on Metro Police Training, available here.
(2) An article on the arrest of Officer Thomas Mendiola, available here.
(3) An article on the arrest of Mendiola with a PDF link to the criminal complaint, available here.
(4) An article on another Metro shooting, available here.
(5) An article on Metro officers stopped for speeding while on duty--in Arizona--is available here.

DISCLAIMER: As with all of the updates in this series, I am hampered by a substantial lack of confirmed information. I base my analysis and theories on my police experience, knowledge of human nature--particularly of the psychology of police officers, and professional police procedure--and on logic and common sense. In so doing, I may be wrong in ways small and large, and as faithful readers have discovered, am more than willing to prominently correct any inadvertent errors of fact. I continue to invite contact and comment from members of Metro or others who might have information bearing on this case that the public may be informed as accurately and fairly as possible. I’ll keep your confidence. Over many months, I have become more and more convinced that Metro is indeed engaging in a cover-up and is, in many ways, acting contrary to law, common sense, professional police practice and morality. I remain open to being persuaded, by valid evidence, otherwise.


(1) On December 23, 2010, local Las Vegas media, in an article about police basic training, noted in passing that Officer Mendiola had washed out of his first basic training academy, but apparently passed on the second attempt.

(2) On January 10, 2011, Scott family attorney Ross Goodman of Las Vegas announced that Costco and its employees, most notably security officer Shai Lierley, were being dropped from the federal lawsuit filed by the family. Goodman noted that the suit against Costco could be reinstated at any time within the two year statute of limitations.

(3) On January 31, 2011, local media reported that Mendiola had been suspended without pay after being arrested and charged with a felony for allegedly giving a firearm to a convicted felon.

ANALYSIS OF LEGAL TACTICS: One might be initially alarmed by the fact that Goodman dropped Costco from the case, but this is only mildly remarkable. While I have no direct pipeline into the decision making processes of the Goodman Law Firm, there are a variety of rational tactical reasons for this. Goodman may have concluded, considering the federal venue, that it would streamline the overall case, making it easier to deal with discovery issues and reducing side issues that might only serve to confuse a jury. The case is apparently still in the early motions phase, so depositions of witnesses have yet to be done.

There are a variety of other potential reasons, but it will serve no useful purpose to speculate further. Keep in mind that this does not prevent Goodman from refiling the case against Costco and its employees so long as it is done within the two year statute of limitations. It also does not prevent Goodman from compelling Lierley or any other Costco witness to testify, at a deposition or at trial. Therefore, while Goodman obviously believes that there are advantages in what he has done, there are no immediately obvious downsides.

For those not familiar with the civil process, depositions can be very important. In essence, a deposition is an opportunity for attorneys representing both sides in a civil suit to question witnesses, under oath and with a transcript, prior to putting them on the witness stand. This provides the opportunity to ask the kind of questions and to obtain the kind of in-depth information that Metro and those testifying on its behalf so carefully avoided at the Inquest. It also provides the opportunity to question witnesses such as Steve Grodin of the Public Administrator’s Office who assisted Metro in an illegal search of Scott’s condominium after his death. It also gives attorneys the opportunity to assess the believability and attractiveness of witnesses and to plan effectively. There is little doubt that Metro would prefer to avoid having any of its officers provide depositions in this case.

ANALYSIS OF MENDIOLA TRAINING REVELATION: The revelation that Officer Mendiola failed to pass his first basic academy class is interesting for that fact alone. What would be more potentially interesting is knowing why. It would also be interesting to know how long Mendiola was out of the academy after his second try and how long he was out of field training prior to July 10 2010. It’s possible that he had been on his own on the street only a short time before shooting Scott.

If Mendiola failed due to a lack of judgement in shoot/don’t shoot training, it is a far more serious matter than if he could not keep straight specific elements of statutes. Officers can always look up statutes as necessary, but they cannot look up common sense or tactical awareness. As regards the Scott case, it would be far more telling if Mendiola is on record as lacking essential judgement in tactics, situational awareness, or the use of force than for any lack of scholastic aptitude. Generally speaking, recruits who fail a basic academy are fired and not given a second chance, though some agencies do offer a second chance. As the facts are eventually known, the wisdom--or lack thereof--of Metro’s decision to allow Mendiola a second chance will be easier to evaluate. Negligent hiring and/or retention is always a factor in civil cases.

ANALYSIS OF THE MENDIOLA ARREST: However, Mendiola’s arrest certainly tips the scales against the wisdom of a second chance in his case. The facts are relatively simple. Mendiola apparently had a relationship with one Robert Justice (there’s irony), 45, a convicted felon. Mendiola apparently knew that Justice was a convicted felon, yet engaged him to work on his car. Mendiola allegedly gave Justice a .22 caliber Ruger handgun for his work on the vehicle and admitted that he knew that Justice shouldn’t have firearms, even apparently admitting having had a conversation with Justice about it.

Interestingly, Justice is also involved in a case involving an alleged attempt by his co-defendant Ronald Webb to kill Webb’s live-in girlfriend, Las Vegas attorney Nancy Quon. Quon is also reportedly the target of an FBI investigation into allegations of massive fraud involving Las Vegas Valley homeowner’s associations.

Mendiola’s association with Justice is troubling on many levels. It is one thing if Justice was merely an employee of a car dealership where Mendiola had his vehicle repaired, but it seem that Mendiola’s relationship, and his intimate knowledge of Justice’s background, went beyond that. While any officer has professional relationships with criminals, professionals know that they must absolutely keep criminals out of their personal lives. The idea of owing money or favors to criminals is something every officer should, from mere common sense, avoid like the plague. Criminals are often adept at manipulating others. They drag everyone with whom they are involved into their chaotic lives and crimes and disappoint and betray those who are close to them. Police officers should understand this and act accordingly. Mendiola’s mere association with Justice may be indicative of a significant and dangerous lack of judgement, which, considering what is know of his involvement in the Scott case and his failure in his first academy class, may be something of an understatement. His allegedly knowingly giving a convicted felon a firearm might be reasonably thought to remove all doubt.

The mere fact that Mendiola has been charged with a crime--any crime--is surprising. If, as all the known evidence suggests, the Scott shooting was unjustifiable and was followed by a massive and remarkably clumsy cover-up, it would certainly be in the best interests of Metro to immunize Mendiola from wrongdoing, to ensure that he maintains a low profile, keep him within the fold, particularly as the Scott family’s civil suit proceeds. As long as Mendiola keeps his mouth shut, doesn’t do anything stupid, and is willing to hold to the party line on the Scott case, he should be absolutely protected. If he is not, others with potentially damaging knowledge have to wonder if they’ll be abandoned too. This starts a desperate chain of doubt and suspicion that corrupt organizations, organizations with many secrets to hide, fear and usually avoid.

If the theory of the case I’ve developed is correct, the civil suit poses great danger to Metro, not only to the three officers involved, but to other agencies complicit in the cover-up, and to high ranking metro officers, up to and possibly including Sheriff Doug Gillespie. As I’ve suggested, all it will take is one crack in the wall, one person to experience a crisis of conscience, to tell the truth, and the Tower may come crashing down. Metro is, of course, more than aware of this.

Did Metro come to believe that Mendiola was having such a crisis of conscience? Did they think he might crack, and if so, was his arrest a way of gaining absolute control over Mendiola? Mendiola’s alleged crime came to Metro’s attention during an unrelated undercover operation. If Metro chose, it need never have come to light. There is credible evidence to indicate that this kind of wrongdoing by officers and friends of Metro, and worse, is routinely ignored. Why charge this particular officer at this particularly sensitive time unless the gains outweigh the potential risks, unless it furthers Metro’s greater interests?

Thomas Mendiola, at only 24 years of age, is in a very bad place of his own making. If Metro proceeds with the charge, he would--in any professional agency--certainly be dismissed from law enforcement, be unemployable in his chosen career, and would likely end up with a felony record. One might be tempted to believe that since Metro has charged and suspended Mendiola and gone public, it could not possibly fail to press the charge through a trial, but Metro seems to care nothing for public opinion or relations, and the entire Law Vegas area seems to be an enormous memory hole. What’s one more memory?

Another possibility that Officer Mendiola may wish to carefully consider is the time honored and often practiced matter of people simply disappearing, never to be seen again. There is a great deal of desert around Las Vegas and periodically, human bones turn up here and there. Considering the stakes, this is a possibility that Mendiola would be most unwise to discount. This is particularly true if any federal agencies are actively investigating the Scott case--not because Mendiola need fear them, but because Metro may. Following their usual policy, the Feds do not comment on whether they are or are not investigating any criminal matter and the public is notified only when arrests have been made. That said, police officers often have sources of information about such things denied the general public. If Metro does not have such sources, it would be foolish for them to assume that the Feds were not, at least, looking into the case and that their interests would coincide with those of Metro. Mendiola’s best option might well be immediately developing close and personal relationships with various federal agencies that have the power to offer him certain guarantees and protections. Failing that, he could become difficult to locate when the time comes for depositions in the Scott case--and thereafter.

RELATED CASES: Since the Scott shooting eight months ago, there have been a variety of cases of Metro misbehavior known to the public, and doubtless, more that remain unknown. All reflect poorly on the quality of training, supervision and leadership of Metro. All reflect a culture of corruption and absolute disdain for the public and the law so evident in the Scott case. Two of the most recent, and disturbing, cases follow.

THE COP WHO DIDN’T (THANK GOD) SHOOT STRAIGHT: On January 12, 2011, Metro Sgt. Darrin Densley, a 22-year veteran of the force, fired a single shot at 22 year old Leonard Greer. Fortunately, he missed Greer--by no more than two inches--and his bullet struck and penetrated the car door behind which Greer sat, coming to rest in the lower portion of the door.

According to Greer, he was walking from his apartment to his car with his girlfriend and her two cousins. On the way, he passed four uniformed officers standing in a nearby courtyard. Greer was talking on his cellphone and did not hear one of the officers yell “hey” at him as he was entering his car, though his girlfriend did.

Before he could insert his key in the ignition, Sgt. Densley--there is no indication that Greer and Densley had ever met--appeared near his windshield and pointed his handgun at Greer. This is where the story becomes very interesting. Densley ordered Greer and the others out of the car, but Greer--in a remarkable display or either courage or stupidity--refused, telling Densley that he had done nothing wrong and that he lived there.

Densley demanded proof. Greer told Densely that he had a rent receipt in his pocket and would produce it. He kept his left hand on the steering wheel, and retrieving the receipt with his right, replaced his right hand, holding the receipt, on the steering wheel. That was when Densley fired.

Witnesses saw Greer and his girlfriend not only making no threatening moves, but holding their hands up in plain sight. The officers searched Greer’s car and apartment, apparently finding nothing. Greer believes that officers thought that his girlfriend or he had a gun, though they never told him why they believed that. They issued him a misdemeanor summons for obstructing a police officer. Metro later took the door apart and removed the expended bullet and has offered to pay for repairs. Greer plans to hire a lawyer. Good idea.

ANALYSIS: There are many parallels between this case and the Scott case. It’s not known why the officers were there. The sheer number present, and their apparent determination to find a gun would suggest that it was either a bad neighborhood, they were given some reason to believe that something involving a gun happened, or both. But standing around in a group in the open courtyard of an apartment complex where a gun that might present a clear and present danger might be nearby is not exactly a brilliant tactic.

That Densley approached Greer with his gun drawn would seem to indicate, if Densely was a competent, rational officer, that he had good reason to believe that Greer represented an imminent danger to him or others such that it would have been foolish to approach him in any other way. Yet everything that Densley reportedly did from that moment on would seem to indicate exactly the opposite.

There is nothing in the known facts to indicate that Greer or those with him were doing anything other than walking, in an unremarkable fashion, from Greer’s apartment to his parked car. If Greer’s account is accurate, Densely did not follow the kind of procedure any competent officer would follow if they truly believed the occupants of the vehicle were a deadly threat. In such cases, officers would take covered positions that would allow a clear view of all occupants and would, slowly and clearly, step by step, order the occupants to put their hands where they could be seen at all times. To avoid potentially deadly confusion, a single officer would do all the talking. They would order the driver to throw the keys from the vehicle, and would then order, step by step and very specifically, each occupant in turn to get out of vehicle and to walk, backwards, into the arms of waiting officers--and there were sufficient officers present to do this properly--who would handcuff, search and secure them until everyone had been removed from the vehicle. Only then would officers approach with the greatest care in case anyone was hiding in the vehicle ready to ambush them, and only then would they search the vehicle--if a search was justifiable.

Instead of following proper, safe procedure, when Densely was told that Greer lived there, he asked for proof, which Greer, before being met with gunfire, tried to provide. This alone suggests that Densley did not think himself in imminent danger. The sole photo available indicates that Densely fired from close range, to the side and slightly forward of the center of the driver’s door behind which Greer was sitting. The round struck only two inches below the top sill of the door where the glass begins. Greer is a very fortunate man.

The available information does not indicate whether the officers asked for or received permission to search Greer’s car and apartment, but it seems certain that they did search and that they found no contraband. It should always be kept in mind that citizens do not have the information officers have. There could have been good reasons for Densley to be suspicious of Greer, perhaps even reasons sufficient to allow a search of his vehicle, but I can think of no reason suggested by the known facts that would render reasonable a search of his apartment, an apartment which had no apparent relationship in space or time to the incident.

However, I can certainly think of a reason why the officers would want to conduct both searches: As with the Scott case, the officers knew they screwed up in a big way and were desperate to conduct a fishing expedition in the desperate hope of finding something that they could pin on Greer to lessen the impact of their error. Charging him with obstructing a police officer, but letting him go with only a paper summons likewise indicates the chaotic nature of their thoughts. How could Greer have been obstructing an officer who approached him at gunpoint as he was taking a seat in his parked vehicle in anticipation of immediately leaving? They simply weren’t thinking straight. The fact that the shooter was a supervisor, a 22 year veteran of the force, suggests that the supposedly coolest and most experienced police mind present was incapacitated. Because he was involved in a shooting, Densley should have immediately called a superior officer and had no further involvement in the incident. This fundamental mistake was also made at the scene of the Scott shooting.

There are two kinds of shooters: Those who have had an accidental discharge and those who will admit to having had an accidental discharge. It’s an interesting experience. One second, you’re standing there, happy as a clam with a nice gun in your hand, and the next, your ears are ringing, there seems to be a lot of smoke about, and the only thing going through your mind is “wha? wha? wha?”

There are, however, simple safety steps one can take to minimize the risk of an AD, and to mitigate its effects if one does occur. One should never point a weapon at something they are not willing to shoot. However, even police officers can hold their weapons at ready, pointing downward, which will tend to lessen the damage in case of an AD. Even better, they can keep their trigger fingers “in register,” pointed straight and in contact with the frame of their handgun, absolutely off the trigger until a millisecond before it becomes necessary to fire.

There are two primary possibilities: Densley actually intended to shoot Greer. He believed--apparently without the slightest justification--that he had sufficient cause to fire and did, but either jerked the trigger causing the round to strike low, or was at a sort of ready position when he hastily fired, just missing Greer. The second alternative is that he had his finger actually on the trigger when he didn’t intend to fire, and for some reason--muscle spasm, he tripped, he was nervous, or a variety of other causes--he fired. In either case, it was Greer’s, and Densley’s, lucky day. In either case, in a professional police agency, a fork would be immediately stuck in Densley because he would be done. In professional agencies, officers who make that kind of mistake, who come within two inches of killing an innocent, don't get a second chance to repeat the mistake.

Imagine Densley’s frame of mind. Rather than doing the right thing, the officers may have tried to frame Greer, or at least, tried to muddy the water as much as possible. That they settled for a misdemeanor citation on a charge that the known facts clearly indicate they could not possibly sustain, indicates that everything they did had no foundation and they were desperate to charge Greer with something, anything, foolishly hoping that it would somehow diminish their culpability. In effect, they came within two inches of killing a citizen for no reason and made amends by searching his car and apartment and charging him with a crime he didn't commit. That's not exactly serving or protecting.

What could they have done differently? Simply approached Greer’s car safely, and explaining why they were there, asked enough questions to satisfy their curiosity. But they might have thought Greer had a gun! So what? Any police officer who doesn’t think that anyone with whom they come into contact might be armed should not be on the street. Officers deal with people everyday who are, in fact, armed, and no one is in the least harmed because professional officers approach people politely--when possible--and intelligently, always. In other words, the officers here, and in the Scott case, did not deal with the situation intelligently, screwed up, and then sought to cover their mistakes. That seems to be SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) in Metro. Oh yes, and Metro did not publicly identify Densley until January 28, sixteen days after the shooting. An “oversight,” according to Metro.

BRAD AND JAKE'S EXCELLENT ROAD TRIP: In early January, 2011, two metro officers, Brad Gallup (on the force since 2005) and Jake Grunwald (on the force since 2006), were stopped in Mojave County, Arizona for speeding approximately 20 miles over the posted speed limit. This might be unremarkable except for several interesting factors: They were driving a marked Metro patrol car, were in uniform and were supposed to be on duty in Las Vegas, approximately 80 miles away, at the time. Odd? Apparently where Metro is concerned, not all that much, though they have been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an investigation.

The Mojave County Deputy who stopped them without incident was not only concerned with speeding, but with the possibility that the car might have been stolen. It seems that marked Metro cars are relatively rare in those parts. Gallup and Grunwald apparently told the deputy that they were scouting locations for a K-9 photo shoot. The deputy had his dispatcher check with Metro, and learning the officers actually worked there, let them go without a citation. Metro has said only that the officers checked out for court prior to leaving the state.

Here’s how it works in non-corrupt, professional police agencies: Because police agencies are always, always understaffed, officers are assigned to specific patrol districts within their communities. All agencies have maps of these districts, drawn based on geographic size and anticipated call volume. Districts smaller in area tend to have higher call volume than larger districts. Officers are expected to remain within the boundaries of those districts so that they can respond promptly to calls. They are normally allowed to travel into adjoining districts for good, duty related reasons such as backing other officers on potentially dangerous calls, or taking calls when other officers are too busy, but are generally expected to keep to their own districts and direct their attention there. This is one of the fundamental facts and understandings of patrol officers everywhere.

No rational officer would even think of leaving their district without a good reason, and then, only for as long as reasonably necessary. To do otherwise is to abandon their post, to neglect their duty, a matter taken very seriously in the military and in police work. Professional officers don’t relish the idea of explaining why they couldn’t promptly answer a call for help where a citizen was harmed because they wanted to drop in on their girlfriend across town. The idea of leaving their actual city, their jurisdiction, wouldn’t occur to most officers and would be done only with the prior knowledge and permission of their supervisor. To leave the state?! Again, only with the prior knowledge and permission of their supervisor, who would give such permission to patrol officers only for such things as traveling to another jurisdiction to participate in training or something similar. Generally speaking, patrol officers patrol their districts and little else. There are good reasons for this.

There are three primary possibilities: The officers were doing this entirely on their own. They simply decided to call out for court and take a joy ride of some three or more hours into Arizona. With this possibility, there are two primary related possibilities: These officers were either so incredibly dumb that no one should allow them to handle sharp objects, let alone firearms, or they had reason to believe that their road trip would be acceptable. Perhaps they knew of others who had done the same thing, and perhaps such excursions were so common as to be essentially unremarkable, or to draw no more than a mild rebuke in Metro. Perhaps they had personal business in Arizona, business that could not wait until they were off duty, business worth the risk to their careers. But there is yet another possibility, the third of the primary possibilities with which I began this paragraph.

The officers may have been on a mission authorized by either their superiors, or by someone with sufficient influence or power to ensure that they’d take no heat if caught. Perhaps their immediate superiors knew nothing about it. Perhaps they were acting with the authorization of a higher ranking officer, doing someone a “favor” of some kind, a favor unexpectedly exposed by a competent, alert Arizona deputy. Maggie McLetchie of the Nevada ACLU opined that Metro patrol officers might need tighter supervision. No kidding.

It is, of course, impossible to know with certainly which of the primary possibilities is in play in this situation. As with the Scott case, it suggests a lack of discipline and supervision and invokes an appearance of corruption that should horrify the civilian overseers of Metro, but which apparently, to any meaningful degree, does not. Those citizens of Las Vegas who fear for their lives at the hands of their own police force would appear to have good and sufficient cause.

We’ll continue to update the case as more information becomes available.

Posted by MikeM at February 6, 2011 02:40 AM
Imagine Densley’s frame of mind. Rather than doing the right thing, the officers may have tried to frame Greer, or at least, tried to muddy the water as much as possible.

Imagine also the climate that causes someone to think that way. No one in a competent, professional department thinks that way. The consequences of being discovered in the coverup are worse than the consequences of simply admitting to the failure, and a competent, professional department will certainly discover the coverup.

The only way that an officer starts thinking this way is if the coverup of a failure is not only known and acknowledged generally, but is in fact ubiquitous. I'm honestly starting to wonder if the show Reno 911! was actually intended to be called Vegas 911!, but the producers decided calling it that would be too dangerous.

The Arizona Adventure is truly troubling. I have to wonder if the time off with pay isn't as much quid pro quo as "punishment". Don't tell anyone why you were really in Arizona, and we'll give you a few weeks paid vacation.

Posted by: Phelps at February 6, 2011 03:47 PM

First cracks? Nothing probative regarding the Scott case at all.

What you might have is an indictment of affirmative action for recycling Mendiola.

You got a minor administrative infraction and an unrelated criminal act.

You are desperate and reaching. This issue has long been dropped by anyone with intelligence, such as Vin Suprynowicz, just as the Scotts have dropped Costco from the lawsuit, as there is no there there. Costco reported a crime and are not and cannot be held liable for that report.

Similarly you got no there there. You are riding this hobby horse to irrelevance. Clearly you thought you would make your bones with the Scott case and step up a notch in the blogging world, but it does not appear likely that you will reach the HuffPo level and sell your site for millions.

Posted by: Federale at February 7, 2011 12:59 PM

Ouch Federale, that's gonna leave a mark!

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 7, 2011 05:15 PM

At least his bones have alot of FACTS behind them, instead of your tiresome drival.

I hope Mike M keeps on writing intelligent pieces.

Posted by: Jvh at February 8, 2011 03:36 AM


Ah, the old "At least". Contemptible desperation for sure. One way to keep the whimsical saga animated, I guess.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 8, 2011 06:38 PM


What is contemptible, is describing the inexcusable death of a man as whimsical.

Posted by: Jvh at February 8, 2011 07:46 PM

What facts that support his crazed conspiracy between Costco, the U.S. Secret Service, a video company, LVM Fire and the LVMPD? There are none.

Well, the Scott family has concluded that there is no conspiracy between Costco and the LVMPD, which blows the whole case out of the water.

And you also refuse to address the facts that the witnesses testified to, such as Scott's girlfriend, who said he had a gun in his hand when he was shot. How about that fact?

The problem is that you and this site are in denial. Inconvinient fact appears, you just deny it. The magic gun is a case in point. Why create this? Because you don't like the fact that Scott had a gun in his hand when he was shot.

You all are as reality challenged as the crazed shooter in Arizona. You see conspiracies everywhere.

You won't even acknowldege the fact that Scott was hopped up on all sorts of illegally obtained prescription pain killers. You ignore the testimony of Costco employees he was was literally falling down stoned.

Facts, you have only supposition, correlation, theory and a religious like belief in Saint Eric, clearly a flawed martyr.

The Second Amendment stands on its own, there is no need for it to be saved or justified by invoking the Eric Scott shooting. And you certainly have no evidence of any police misconduct.

Posted by: Federale at February 9, 2011 02:10 PM

Dear “Federale”:

I don’t usually respond to those commenting, particularly those doing so primarily through ad hominem attacks, or those obviously motivated by the bad will you have so obviously displayed in your most recent comments. I choose not to do this because our readers are more than sufficiently intelligent and discerning to appreciate fact, logic and reason and to disregard arguments derived from bias and poor manners. Our readers virtually always comment in the spirit of good will and honest, informed debate. But for the benefit of those readers, I’ll respond--just this once.

My interest in this case derives from my many years as a police officer, including postings as a patrol officer, shift supervisor, division commander, detective, field training officer and SWAT operator. In short, I know how professional, non-corrupt police agencies work, and I understand police officers, and their internal and public relationships, very well. When I first became aware of the Erik Scott case, it caught my attention because of the great many unusual and irregular actions on the part of the police, and particularly because of the many bizarre and apparently illegal actions taken after the shooting. I have no doubt that any competent police officer would be likewise interested. I won’t go into specifics here as I’ve covered these issues in the updates in great detail, explaining what should have been done, what was done, and why that indicates incompetence and/or corruption. I have no connection with any of the parties involved in this case and have no inside knowledge of Metro or of the governmental agencies of Las Vegas. As a police veteran, I know that competence and honesty are essential in police work. As a citizen, I demand those qualities. As I have the opportunity to expose wrongdoing, and to encourage improvement, I have been gratified to contribute what I can to the body of public knowledge.

As to using this case to somehow gain attention in the blogging world, those familiar with that world would recognize that this type of story is hardly a rocket to fame and fortune. As in the work that puts food on my table (not blogging), I’ve always believed that the quality of that work should speak for itself, and so I believe regarding my writing. If it’s worthy, I need not try to call attention to it. If it’s not, no amount of calling attention to it will help. I’m confident in letting our readers make that decision.

In Update 10, I spoke of a Police shooting with some similarities to the Scott case and of the bizarre behavior of two Metro officers that reflects the kind of institutional culture that made the Scott shooting not only possible but likely. Surely you can see the connection? In this continuing series, I have, in fact, rarely mentioned the incredible number of examples of police and local government corruption and incompetence exposed virtually daily in Las Vegas. That Las Vegas is a poster child for criminally corrupt bad government is well known. That I have chosen to draw parallels with only a few select cases of this corruption in the entires series is indicative of a careful, non-hyperbolic approach to the Scott case, not “desperation and reaching” as you insinuate. Surely any reasonable person would agree that the revelations that one of the officers who shot Scott failed his basic training and has been arrested for a felony have significant bearing on his credibility as a police officer and witness, hence, they have a significant bearing on this case?

The foundation of your argument appears to be that because Erik Scott had prescription painkillers in his system when he was shot (which I did, in fact, explore in great detail in the updates), and because of your consistent mischaracterization of Samantha Sterner’s initial statement to Metro police, taken only minutes after she saw Scott shot to death at her side, the officers--and Costco--are blameless, therefore any evidence to the contrary, and all of the illegal and plainly incompetent and bizarre actions of Metro and other governmental agencies after the shooting are likewise irrelevant. I have also exhaustively addressed the contention by some Costco employees that Scott was, as you dramatically put it “literally falling down stoned.”

However, this, and your other assertions suggest a clear misunderstanding of police procedure, criminal and civil law, legal strategy and logic. I’ve pointed out the realities of eyewitness testimony and many related issues in the updates. Suffice it to say that eyewitness statements are often at odds, and such is the case here. You appear to be making one of the mistakes of poor investigators: Considering only the evidence that supports your preconceptions and disregarding all other evidence. Likewise, your dismissal of many important elements in the case, also clearly supported in the updates, is indicative not of authority, but of ignorance of the involved issues and procedures, and perhaps of a vested interest in seeing the case belittled and ignored. I suspect our readers would be interested in knowing any details of your connection to this case and/or to Metro or anyone involved with Metro or Las Vegas government. No doubt they’d also like to know the details of your background which might lend authority to what you assert.

As to the existence of a “crazed conspiracy,” I’ve been very cautious about making such pronouncements, choosing instead to point out proper and usual policies and behaviors, and exposing where a variety of agencies have deviated from those policies and behaviors. I’ve raised questions, many of which remain unanswered, and I have indeed posed a theory, a plausible theory based on what is known, a theory I’ve repeatedly noted may be incorrect in ways small and large. I am also more than willing to make immediate and prominent corrections when new information comes to light, and have done so.

As to the suggestion that I see Erik Scott as a “saint,” please understand that I never met him, and apart from the public information I’ve been able to obtain, know nothing of him. His background and service to our country are clearly worthy of respect, but even if, as you represent as fact (the evidence does not), he was impaired by prescription drugs to the point of derangement at the time he was killed, that’s irrelevant. What matters, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, is what the three Metro officers could have known and observed in the very few seconds that elapsed between their first setting eyes on him and shooting him. The evidence does not support your point of view. Again, I refer you and interested readers to the updates where I’ve covered these issues in exhaustive detail, and where they will find the known facts to be other than you have suggested.

Reading into the Goodman dismissal of Costco from the Federal civil suit that Costco and its employees have no potential liability suggests that you know little or nothing about the law or legal tactics, or again, have a vested interest in trying to deny them and in misleading the public. As I pointed out in Update 10, there are a great many sound tactical reasons for doing this--a few minutes of conversation with any competent lawyer will confirm this--it is not prima facie evidence that Costco or its employees are blameless, it does not immunize Costco employees from having to testify, and they may be again included in the suit at any time within the two year limitation period.

You frequently state as fact things that are not fact, such as the suggestion that Scott had a gun in his hand when he was shot. This is one of the central controversies in this case and is far from a settled fact. What I have done is to present a variety of reasons why it should not be so regarded. And as to the “magic gun,” one need only read the updates to see for themselves why this is another significant issue in this case, why the theory I’ve proposed is not only reasonable by likely, and why this issue has the potential to cause great anxiety for Metro and Las Vegas government.

Where the Erik Scott case is involved, time--and testimony--will tell. I’ll keep reporting and analyzing the case as it unfolds over the next year or two. You’re welcome to continue to comment, but I’d appreciate it if you’d confine your comments to thoughtful analysis of relevant issues rather than vitriolic sniping. Your most recent comments are quite close to the line of allowable, adult debate. Bad manners are never in good taste and certainly cannot substitute for reasoned communication. I’ll trust in our readers, as always, to know reason and truth when they see it, and to know that when something looks, acts, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If they appreciate this series, they’ll continue to read. Their responses thus far indicate that they do appreciate it as much as I appreciate them.

Posted by: mikemc at February 9, 2011 06:44 PM

Mr. Mike,

I have read your posts on the Eric Scott case with great interest and am always checking for updates. Reading your posts, I thought you had to have a police background, now I have confirmation.

This case has caught my attention and I don't know why. It's heartbreaking. I'm glad to have a place to go to read about it. Don't stop reporting on it. Thanksl.

Posted by: Jypsea at February 9, 2011 11:31 PM


No, what's contemptible is the continuing crusade of carping on an issue that has been resolved by the NV criminal justice system.

Erik caused his own demise that day. However, if you still have a necessity to slur, start with the family & 'friends' who refused to acknowledge his addiction. Then continue on to his employer, who sanction the access to his fetish. Of course, let us not forget to blame the medical profession for failure to treat his demons (real or not).

The list is endless, I'm sure. Anything to avoid holding Erik responsible for his choices and lack of self-control.


Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 11, 2011 03:10 PM


With your last statement, it's obvious your lack of knowledge outside what the Police,and DA want you to know. The shooting scene photograph alone proves the object dropped IMMEDIATELY when he was shot, as confirmed by almost every witness was a cellphone. This has matter has never been through a criminal justce proceeding, the inquest is not a trial or a court sanctioned process. He who casts stones should not live in a glass house.

Posted by: Jvh at February 11, 2011 04:58 PM


"Court sanctioned"??

NV's Coroner Inquest is much like my state's Grand Jury, where 12 citizens review the evidence and decide if the case should go to trial. In this incident they returned a 'No True Bill'. It's an important part of the criminal justice system, even if you disagree with the results (this time).

Erik's girlfriend testified he had a gun in his hand when he was shot. (why would she lie?) That was good enough for the Inquest's jury, good enough for me and will be good enough for a civil jury. However, I speculate civil action will never see a courtroom as an out-of-court monetary settlement will occur, with the lawyers making most of the trifling money offered. I'm sure LV is self-insured with limited financial immunity, which means taxpayers will pay - as usual.

The cake is a lie!

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 11, 2011 06:02 PM

Dear "Buck Turgidson:"

Aside For Readers: "Buck Turgidson" is a character in the classic Stanley Kubrick film "Dr. Strangelove." Played brilliantly by a young George C. Scott, Turgidson is a war-mongering, slightly demented General. Make of this what you will.

Just a few simple points:

(1) A Coroner's Inquest is not remotely like a Grand Jury, a preliminary hearing, or a criminal or civil trial. I have covered the specific purpose of an inquest in the Updates, but as a quick review for readers, a grand jury is a means--outside the normal decision-making process--of charging specific people for specific crimes and nothing else. A criminal trial determines the innocence or guilt of a given individual on specific criminal charges. A civil trial settles torts, determining fault and assigning compensatory and punitive damages in non-criminal matters. A coroner's inquest determines the manner of death of a given individual (in virtually every state), whether that death was criminal or not (in virtually every state) and if a crime has been committed, who committed it (in some states, Nevada being one). An inquest does not decide guilt or innocence, and is entirely separate from the the entire decision-making and charging process by which a prosecutor charges an individual with crimes. The outcome of an inquest--and this is true in Nevada--is not the final word and does not in any way constrain a prosecutor from charging anyone with a crime, nor does it obligate them to make charges. In fact, the presentation of "evidence" in the Scott Inquest was so incomplete and biased that it served to so outrage the citizenry of Las Vegas that substantial changes were forced on the system. I've covered that in the updates. But anyone suggesting that an inquest decision is the same as an exoneration, or that it in any way, legally or ethically, settles a given criminal or civil case, is mistaken or dissembling.

(2) As I noted in my response to "Federale," the issue of what Eric Scott had in his hand is one of the primary controversies of the case and is not at all a settled matter. Your saying that it is does not make it so. Continuing to misrepresent Samantha Sterner's testimony, none of which has ever been given under oath in a legal proceeding, likewise does not make it conform to your wishes. If you've been carefully reading the updates, surely you recall that at the inquest, several witnesses testified that they did not see a gun, forcing the prosecutor to savage his own witnesses, a bizarre spectacle to be sure.

While I have no intimate knowledge of the Scott family, what I do know of them, particularly of William Scott's background as a warrior and test pilot, suggests that a financial settlement is the last thing on their mind. This is what, I'm sure, worries Metro. They should be worried.

Posted by: mikemc at February 11, 2011 07:16 PM


The NV Coroner's Inquest is a fact finding process that allows three verdicts, one of them being justified. The District Attorney's Office can choose to ignore the jury's verdict, but DID NOT. The District Attorney's Office could also direct file, but DID NOT.

So, where does the crusade go from here? Unless you have knowledge of a Title investigation in the works, only civil litigation is left. And, why would the Officers not receive qualified immunity ('reasonableness')??

It will go nowhere, mike, and the time for honoring yourself will pass.

That is all.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 11, 2011 10:23 PM


To call the Inquest FACT finding is absolutely laughable. The only facts presented were those of the police. All of the questions asked, by the decedent’s attorney, whom is not allowed to participate, are submitted in writing. 75% of those questions were deemed by the presiding justice to be of discovery nature. Excuse me for being dense but don’t you need to discover the facts to present them?? It was the worst dog and pony show I have ever seen. There was no cross examination of ANYONE with exception of those that did not see a gun, then the DA proceeded to tear their own witness apart. NO witnesses for the decedent can be called.

The jury instructions said, if the Officers did not pre-meditate the shooting of Erik Scott then you must rule justified. I have never said these Officers went there to kill. But they screwed up in the worst way and should not be allowed to continue to patrol my streets.

In 204 Coroners Inquests 1 criminal decision has been handed down. For a drunk police officer who killed a man by doing a drive by shooting. Such is the standard for a unjustified ruling.

There have been 7 UNARMED people shot to death in the last couple years.
2 in the surrender position on their knees with their hands above their heads. 1armed with a deadly basketball, and another searched, handcuffed and shot in the back while trying to run. 1 who was wielding a deadly cane.

Samantha Sterner never TESTIFIED about anything. She said when she told Eric that she thought the evacuation was for him, he said he would just give the police the gun. She thought that is what he was doing. Simple as that.

You seem to be the only one honoring themselves here. Everyone else is pitiful, contemptible, and desperate, trying to perpetuate a pathetic saga. Well I have news for you. This will go to trial, and when it is proved that Erik did not threaten the police, your reasonability goes out the window. Qualified Immunity (I thought I was right, so that makes it right) is the biggest bucket of bull manure ever shoveled down the American public’s throat. Let a citizen try that, see how far it gets them, all the way to prison.

Posted by: Jvh at February 12, 2011 01:52 PM


Of the 204 C.I. 'justified' findings, how many were 'overruled' by the District Attorney and how many others did they just 'direct file' and bypass the C.I.?

The defense of 'qualified immunity' was created by the U.S. Supreme Court over 40 years ago. It's unfortunate you disagree with the SCOTUS ruling and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. But then again, it's another way for the crusade to continue, right? (don't like the outcome, just change the rules)

BTW, I do find your annoyance in the lack of 'criminal' findings against Police Officers, truly telling!

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 12, 2011 07:58 PM

Dear "Buck Turgidson":

You may wish to consider the following corrections of your misstatements of fact and inaccurate insinuations:

(1) One of the primary problems in Las Vegas, one that caused its citizens to force the Clark County Commission to make changes to the Inquest process as a direct result of the Scott inquest, was the fact that the prosecutor's office has, for many years, used its all but predetermined findings as political cover to avoid filing charges against police officers in all but one of 200 cases (and that one was so egregious that there was no political cover to be had). Jvh is not engaging in anti-police bias, but is implying (I have made this explicit argument in the updates) that this outcome defies the laws of probability. One might believe the Metro police to be so utterly professional and incapable of error that this record seems statistically reasonable, but those of us who have actual, significant police experience know better.

(2) "Qualified immunity" is not a blanket prohibition against suing police officers, and does not and will not cause the Scott case to be dismissed. For example, in Harlow v. Fitzgerald (457 US 800, 1982), the Supreme Court held that QI was designed to protect government officials only "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Any reasonable police officer is, by training and experience, well aware of the statutory and constitutional rights of citizens, therefore this general doctrine does not, in fact, provide blanket immunity against civil liability to police officers as you have suggested. The rules have not changed, nor have I, Jvh, or anyone else changed or misstated them, but you have certainly mischaracterized them.

(3) 42 USC 1983 is commonly known as the "Klan" Law because it was intended to allow public officials, acting under "color of law" to be sued in federal court for depriving citizens of their constitutional rights, particularly where local officials, for reasons of prejudice or corruption, would not act. Chief among them is, of course, the right to life. You seem to suggest that this statue would immunize the officers who shot Erik Scott. It does just the opposite, establishing a federal venue apart from the state judicial system of Nevada where, if the Goodman law firm can prove its case (this is the standard in all civil cases and is not unusual), they may be held accountable.

No one, not me, not Jvh nor any of the other readers commenting here, nor the Scott family or their attorney are carrying on a "crusade." The Scott family are merely availing themselves of their rights and legal options under our system of justice, and I am reporting on the process and attempting to provide insight born of experience. There is nothing untoward or unusual in any of this; it happens everyday, all around the nation. The Metro Police are not being abused, as they know--every officer--that this is part of the system and that they could at any time find themselves involved in it as a consequence of their daily duties.

As I said earlier--and as you ignored--in this case, as in all similar cases, time and testimony will tell. As to your suggestion that I am somehow honoring myself, again, you ignore what I earlier wrote. If there is any honor to be found in this tale of corruption and tragedy, it may only belong to the Scott family, and potentially, to Metro, if this case forces its leaders to run a uniformly professional, honorable law enforcement agency.

Posted by: mikemc at February 12, 2011 10:45 PM

Telling of what, that I think lives are not disposable.

That someone entrusted to enforce the Law can take a life without justification and have an entirely different set of rules than the rest of the citizen's of this country just because they have a badge. I am not talking about just Erik Scott.

Because I believe in Due Process for everyone.

Because I believe Law enforcement should not have immunities from wrong doing.

If someone shoots at an Officer then by all means empty all your clips into them. But make certain the threat is real, or suffer the consequences. The words “Furtive Movement” doesn’t cut it.

Our soldiers in combat zones have to watch enemy soldiers with weapons, until they are fired upon. If not, they get court marshaled and go to prison, or are dishonorably discharged. Why should a Law Enforcement Officer have any less consequence?

I also believe all murderers should be put to death, and not languish in prison on my dime. That criminals should go to prison, and plea bargains are a waste of taxpayer’s money, because the criminals get out sooner than they should.

Before you start in with your where you do your time BS,save your breath. I have never done time I’m a Law abiding, taxpaying, red blooded American citizen. I expect honor and honesty from the people I pay to enforce the Law. I don’t believe they have to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us, but exactly the same, period.

I also believe your posts are telling. I think you might be a LEO, and if you are that truly saddens me, and it’s attitudes like yours that makes bad LEO’s. But the bright spot is you aren’t one in my State. Thank God for small mercies.

Posted by: Jvh at February 12, 2011 11:51 PM


Speaking of inaccurate insinuations and misstatements, no one said anything about "blanket protection". I merely asked you why they would not received 'qualified immunity' and you did not answer, preferring to tell me about actual, significant and know better.

So, mike, tell us which court(s) will determine that the use of force was unreasonable and that they will NOT be entitled to 'qualified immunity'. Tell us why the latitude of 'Graham' (perceptions at the time of the incident) as in Anderson v. Russell, {247 F.3d 125 4th Cir. 2001} is not "objectively reasonable". Remember, no second-guessing allowed and no 20/20 hindsight privileges for Jvh.

I can if fact, understand one's aversion to a Coroner's Inquest or in other states a sitting Grand Jury, but NV has venues to challenge the jury's verdict and THIS WAS NOT DONE! Other than collusion between LV police and District Attorney's Office (over so many years involving so many different players, that it "defies the laws of probability"), could it be the DAO simply saw the verdict as credible?

So, mike, were back to 'if you don't like the outcome, just change the rules' which the NAPSO is now recommending Officers should not participate in Coroner's Inquests???

Thank you for the parley.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 13, 2011 12:22 PM


["Our soldiers in combat zones have to watch enemy soldiers with weapons, until they are fired upon."]

Seen a lot of military combat, have we Jvh? Then you evidently know ROEs do vary in different military missions, but generally, waiting to be shot first in civilian law enforcement does not seem to be very tactful, IMO. Hard to believe anyone would sign-up for that duty. Maybe Mr. Significant Experience, could help us with that enigma.

I actually agree with most of your post, especially plea bargaining (such as Alaska eliminated it), and I do believe we must hold our protectors responsible for their actions AND failures to act. However in Scott's case, I see no criminal action on the Officers part. I simply do not see this going anywhere, except maybe civil litigation because that's all that remains - MONEY., mike, the guy who claims a policeman dropped him on his head when he was a child, can continue to obsess over this involution.

No one is in charge of your happiness but you, Jvh.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 13, 2011 01:49 PM


Your right, there dead too bad, so sad. The Officer made a judgment call, so get over it. All Officers have impeccable, infallible, judgment. “They weren’t armed, oh well; they should have listened to my commands. They probably had it coming anyway.”

We shouldn’t let a trivial little thing like a Constitutional right to Life, Liberty and Due Process get in the way of enforcing the LAW. Just think of all the money we save in jailing and court costs.

My DD 214 is not up for discussion with you. I stand fast on my description of ROE’s when not involved in an Offensive Operation. Soldiers cannot go around killing people without justification; it is not tolerated on any level, and should not be in LE.

I never said an Officer had to take a bullet before shooting. I said be sure the threat is real, but be ready for the consequences when it’s not. By comparison a soldier must take the first incoming rounds.

I thank you for your concern on my happiness, and it is doing very nicely.

By the way, there was another police force that didn’t about have to worry about due process. What was the name?? Oh yeah, GESTAPO.

Posted by: Jvh at February 13, 2011 07:43 PM


WOW! Juxtaposing LVMPD with the Nazi secret police? I'm in wonderment that you have capitulated to such a dishonorable and ignoble behavior. For sure, a 'Louis Renault' moment.

You do realize I must now report you for violating 'Godwin's Law'. Nothing personal.

BTW, I was surprised to learn your evil Sheriff was re-elected. Does not the rest of LV know of the evil LVMPD?

Sie nicht handle der Wahrheit! -

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 14, 2011 02:32 PM


Good one,

I must admit, I walked face first into that one. My inner child got the best of me.

My poorly stated point was. Far too many people have died at the hands of my police force, with no justification. Officers caught in out and out lies, on the Inquest stand by other Officers testimony and the Coroner too. But the finding was still justified. Not once but many times.

Contrary to what you think of my postings, I don't have a hard on for LEO's. I have an absolute unwavering hard on for justice for all.

If you can explain to me why, with good reason,when the evidence overwhelmingly warrants unjustified, or a certain conviction in Criminal Proceedings, it is found justified. Immunity does not hold water with me, not until everyone has the same Immunities.

I will digress to we must agree, to disagree.

Posted by: Jvh at February 14, 2011 04:19 PM


Agreed brother.

For sure I don't have all the answers, and way too many opinions! That being said, throughout America our police kill 350 people every year, the overwhelming of them being justified or excusable. The few that are criminal, we fire and jail them and place their heads on a stick. However, medical Doctors kill 100,000 people every year, and it's called negligence, sometimes reckless indifference. But, when's the last time you heard of a Doctor put in jail for a 'mistake', and they don't even do split-second as usually it's a walk to the PDR. To me, it does not matter if it's a bullet, m/v or scalpel, wrong is wrong and dead is dead.

THAT, I find hypocritical at least - if not immoral.

BTW, the 'qualified immunity' applies only to civil action and only if the government official actions were deemed 'reasonable'.

Strength & Honor

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at February 14, 2011 09:01 PM


Agreed, wrong is never right,anytime,anywhere.

There just seems to be a few, empty, well deserving sticks about my city.

If you ever find those answers, I hope you share. I have the same lack of them you speak of, and I do attempt to understand the questions, to the best of my ability.(no dig intended). Because my opinion cup runeth over also, and I am afflicted with the hard to keep them to myself syndrome. I wonder if there is a twelve step for that??

Take care.

Death Before Dishonor

Posted by: Jvh at February 15, 2011 03:20 AM