It was a foregone conclusion that a coroner’s inquest in Las Vegas would find three Metro police officers justified in gunning down Erik Scott in a hail of bullets outside of a crowded Costco on July 10, even though five of the seven bullets hit him from behind, and at least one appeared to have been fired while Scott lay prone, dead or dying on the ground.
Police were called to the store after an employee described Scott as both armed and acting as if he were under the influence of narcotics. As Scott and his girlfriend emerged from the store along with dozens of other shoppers, he was confronted by a trio of officers with weapons already drawn. Scott was identified by a Costco employee, and seconds later, Scott lay dead on the ground. These are the facts of the case that are not in dispute.
What is very much in dispute is whether or not Costco employees unnecessarily escalated the threat, whether the store chain’s unclear policies on customers carrying weapons and their employee training contributed to the events that led to Scott’s death, and whether or not police officers violated Erik Scott’s civil rights when they killed him in a confrontation that some argue was little more than an ambush or assassination.
Erik Scott’s family is expected to file a civil case against Costco, the Metro police, and the individual officers over his death, but that isn’t the only action being called for because of this incident. Metro has raised the ire of the the Long Gray Line — Erik Scott’s fellow graduates of the United States Military Academy.
Sources have provided PJM with copies of communications between members of the group. Alumni in the threaded discussion seem almost universally suspect of the coroner’s inquest process used in Las Vegas, where prosecutors and law enforcement control the witnesses called and the questions asked, and disallow cross-examination. Since 1976, law enforcement officers have been in front of the coroner’s inquest more than 200 times, and none has resulted in criminal charges being filed against an officer for even the most controversial shootings.
One alum wrote to the president of one of the larger West Point Society chapters:
I don’t know if you are aware of the tragic shooting of Eric Scott ‘94 in Las Vegas not long ago. It looks more and more like a police screw up and cover up on top of that. We are trying to bring as much political pressure to bear, as possible, to make sure the “truth” comes out.
Another suggested that members bring the Scott case to the attention of West Point and Naval Academy graduates in Congress: Rep. John Shimkus, Rep. Joe Sestak, Rep. Geoff Davis, Rep. Brett Guthrie, Senator Jack Reed, Senator John McCain, and Senator Jim Webb, and well as Nevada’s Congressional delegation, plus Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Chairman of the House Judicial Committee John Conyers. (Interestingly enough, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s name was never mentioned.)
One of the strongest comments openly suggested that the Metropolitan Police Department should be considered as an adversary:
I think that we, as a society, need to take a more active stance. This needs to go to the AOG. Remember the words of “The Corps.” We all took the same oath the Erik Scott did many years ago, on the Plain “to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic.” The abuse of due process, not only for Erik, but all of the others who didn’t have a voice is an attack on the Constitution.
There were at least three of us at the vigil last night. I think that we need to have a much more visible presence to show our support of a member of The Long Gray Line.
Another graduate called Metro PD an “out of control police force,” a characterization that seems to match up with the analysis of the shooting conducted by Mike McDaniel, a former police officer and SWAT operator (also my co-blogger at Confederate Yankee) who recently analyzed the audio of the 911 call and the police radio transcripts. Troubling bursts of static in the Metro radio traffic at key points indicate that these communications need to be examined, and the lack of in-car camera footage from the multiple police cars is also odd — to put it mildly. This is on top of the fact that Costco’s cameras seemingly malfunctioned in the days before the shooting, meaning that none of the four cameras pointed at the scene of the shooting recorded the event according to Metro and Costco — the two entities that have the most to lose from disclosure of such evidence.
A letter composed by one of the officers has been submitted to Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, outlining “an on-going pattern of police misconduct” by authorities in Las Vegas and citing 63 officer-involved shootings since 2005.
Eric Scott’s death may have been ruled justifiable during the coroner’s inquest, but the pending civil trial to be filed by his family, and the specter of a federal civil rights case being filed against the department, means that the spotlight on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and its leadership will only get brighter.