Skip to comments.Can One Wrong Death Bring Down Corrupt Las Vegas?
Posted on 03/28/2011 10:04:32 AM PDT by Kaslin
A concealed carry killing raises dangerous questions.
You dont want to commit a crime in Las Vegas — at least not on TV. On the tube, youll 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, theyll find it and brilliantly use it against a suspect to talk them into a tearful confession.
In the real world of Las Vegas, life is less attractive. The Erik Scott shooting of July 10, 2010, is like an episode of The Twilight Zone, with multiple, inexplicable plot twists. In the real world of Las Vegas, citizens share one striking fear with contemporary Egyptians: They fear for their lives at the hands of their police force. They may have good reason to do so.
For those who have not been following the Scott case, a visit to the Confederate Yankee archive where all of my articles on the case are stored (here) will be worth your time. The behavior of the police and all related agencies and governmental entities reads like a textbook outlining how not to conduct criminal justice business. Journalists often employ hyperbole, calling the petty and mundane shocking or unbelievable to sell their product. The facts and probabilities youll find in the archives on this case truly are shocking and unbelievable. They sell themselves.
On July 10, 2010, Erik Scott and his girlfriend, Samantha Sterner, were shopping at the Summerlin Costco in Las Vegas. Store employees noticed Scotts concealed handgun when his shirt rode upward as he stooped to inspect merchandise. Alarmed by this, and by what they thought was some unusual behavior, they told him that concealed weapons werent allowed in the store, despite the fact that no signs were posted to notify the public. Scott told them that he was licensed and several employees spoke with him. None actually asked him to leave.
Shai Lierley, store security officer, called 911, and the chain of events leading to Scotts death began. Lierley and the dispatcher to whom he spoke made serial mistakes, escalating the situation in the minds of responding officers far beyond any reasonable response. What should have been handled by a single officer merely approaching and speaking with Scott turned into a massive police response that included a helicopter. Despite having more than sufficient time to employ reasonable, smart tactics — tactics that would be employed by any professional, competent law enforcement agency — the Metropolitan Police behaved as rank neophytes incapable of using common sense or proper tactics.
As the officers rushed to the Costco and milled aimlessly about upon arriving, Lierley was following Scott and Sterner, relaying his observations to the dispatcher who was apparently not relaying timely information to the officers. Rather than identifying and isolating Scott, the police ordered the store evacuated, and Scott and Sterner, like everyone else, calmly walked toward the front doors with the crowd.
Scott walked past several officers posted at the front door and was so unremarkable that they ignored him — ignored him that is, until Lierley hastily pointed him out to Officer William Mosher, 38, who had then been on the force for approximately five years and one month. Despite the fact that Scott and Sterner were essentially in the middle of a crowd of people, Mosher drew his weapon and confronted Scott. Immediately, Officers Thomas Mendiola (23, then with about 1 year and four months on the force) and Joshua Stark (28, then with about one year and 11 months on the force) also drew their weapons and yelled contradictory commands at Scott. According to witnesses, he was very surprised.
Scott had only a few seconds to live. From the moment the officers began screaming their contradictory commands until Mosher fired two rounds (one striking Scott in the chest and one in the thigh), only approximately two seconds elapsed. Despite Metro claims that Scott drew his gun and pointed it at them (still in its holster!), it is highly likely that Scott had no time to do anything, and that the only item in his hand was his BlackBerry, which was found by his body. Caught by surprise — by their own admission, having no idea who had fired — Mendiola fired four rounds into Scotts back and Stark fired one as bystanders within arms reach screamed and dove for cover.
From that point, the story of the case reads like the most egregious bad cop fiction imaginable. Mishandling of evidence. Illegal searches involving other agencies. Illegal seizure of property unrelated to the case. Disappearing video. Incompetent forensic examinations and testimony. Officers and detectives admitting mistakes that would cause them to be fired anywhere else in the nation. Idiotic statements from high-ranking officers that no citizens were ever endangered — despite a panicky barrage of gunfire in the middle of a crowd surrounded by huge pillars that would serve as perfect random ricochet generators. Thuggish harassment of innocent citizens. Add to that a multitude of other actions and omissions that defy professional police practice, reason, and probability: this is the stuff of the Scott case.
So one-sided and clearly corrupt was the police and coroner testimony at the inquest, so outrageous was the police behavior, that the public outcry was too much for even a system as corrupt as that in Las Vegas, and the Clark County Commission was forced to revamp their rules for coroners inquests. My article on that process reveals their efforts, however well intentioned, to be window dressing. Despite the changes, the coroners inquest is still little more than a police controlled rubber stamp for Metro. Amazingly, Metro officers, through their union, have announced that they will not cooperate with investigations, will not honor subpoenas, and will not testify, implying that they will simply take the 5th at best if they decide to bother to show up. And they mean this to apply not only to officers who are actually involved in a shooting, but officers who are merely witnesses. It is hard to imagine a more obvious indicator of corruption than police officers refusing to testify about their official, on-duty actions in court — unless it is that Metro management has apparently done nothing about these threats, despite the fact that Nevada law makes refusing to cooperate in investigations a crime for those officers who refuse.
In any other competent, professional American law enforcement agency, no officer would imagine that they could get away with refusing to cooperate with investigations, refusing to honor subpoenas, refusing to testify, or threatening to take the 5th, particularly if they were merely witnesses to a police shooting. They would understand that such actions are so far out of the acceptable mainstream of police thought and practice that they would not only receive no support from fellow officers, but would be absolutely slammed by their superiors. They would expect to have even less understanding and support from the public. That Metro officers would believe the unthinkable proper is a danger sign of immense proportions.
So deeply ingrained is Metros corruption and incompetence that they reportedly remain amazed at the uproar the Scott case caused and continues to cause. Scott’s was only the most recent of some 200 police shootings of citizens in about a decade, and in only one case had an officer been found culpable. For Metro, the coroners inquest, set up to favor the police and to eliminate any adversarial questioning, was a memory hole, a hole into which all evidence of police misconduct would inevitably disappear. Needless to say, the prosecutors office has always been complicit, accepting without question inquest findings and, with a single exception, never pursuing charges. And another thing: in all police shootings, Metro investigates itself, never involving outside agencies, as is common in many other police agencies, without an organizational interest in the outcome.
In shooting Erik Scott, Metro made a mistake beyond imagining. Mosher, Mendiola, and Stark killed the wrong man. Scott was not a petty criminal engaging in a crime, but a West Point graduate who served honorably as an officer of armor. A sales representative for a prominent maker of medical devices, Scott was also licensed by Nevada to carry concealed weapons. His family is a proud military family — people who run toward, not away from the sound of gunfire. His his father is a retired Air Force test pilot and journalist. This case was not allowed to fall down the coroners memory hole, and the family has offered a substantial reward for video of the shooting, has actively pursued the case, and has filed a civil suit.
Arriving at the present, new information on one of the officers involved has emerged. Thomas Mendiola, the officer who fired four rounds into Scotts back, has been arrested, suspended, and charged with giving a handgun to a convicted felon, Robert Justice. The warrant indicates that Mendiola gave the gun to Justice (Mendiola knew him to be a convicted felon legally unable to possess firearms) as payment for work Justice did for Mendiola. It was also recently revealed that Mendiola initially failed to graduate from the Metro basic police academy and had to take the course twice. The reasons for his failure remain unknown.
But wait, as they say on the late-night commercials. Theres more. Justice is also involved in a case involving an alleged attempt by his co-defendant Ronald Webb to kill his 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 homeowners associations.
As with everything involving the Scott case, far more questions than answers continue to appear, and every question and answer points to corruption and incompetence in Metro from the lowest to highest ranks.
Recruits failing a basic academy throughout the nation are routinely fired. The inability to successfully complete a basic academy is commonly considered to indicate a lack of the most rudimentary abilities necessary to successfully function as a police officer. Yet Mendiola was apparently allowed to try again. Why? A recruit who shows no common sense or judgment in shoot/dont shoot training is a far greater problem than one who fails a test on the specifics of burglary statutes. Officers can always look up statutes. They cannot Google the common sense necessary to keep them from wrongfully shooting people.
The mere fact that Mendiola has been charged with a 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 normally be in the best interests of Metro to essentially immunize Mendiola from wrongdoing — to keep him on the reservation, within the fold, particularly as the Scott familys civil suit proceeds. If my theory of the case is correct, the civil suit poses a 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. 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.
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 re-exerting control over him? And, of course, what was a police officer doing associating with a convicted felon off duty? Mendiolas alleged crime came to Metros attention during an unrelated undercover operation. If Metro chose, it would never have come to light. There is more than ample evidence to indicate that this kind of wrongdoing, and worse, is routinely ignored. Why charge this particular officer at this particularly sensitive time unless it furthered Metros greater interests?
Every week, more of the kinds of malfeasance and incompetence that would horrify the officers of any professional, competent agency are exposed in Las Vegas. Metro seems to care not at all about public relations — in itself a very dangerous sign for the safety of the public. A police agency that considers itself outside the law and above it is a menace, not just to the rights of citizens, but, as the Scott and other cases reveal, to their very lives.
President Obama once suggested that citizens should not waste their money in Las Vegas. The Clark County commissioners may wish to consider the reasonable safety concerns of visitors, and the residents of Egypt and Las Vegas may have more in common than they imagine.
Metro covered up the Scott killing. I’d like to see a crack in the blue shield that would expose the fraud.
This could work either way for the Scott family. It could be the crack that opens the entire crooked dam up or it could be leverage to see that he keeps his rookie mouth shut.
Time will tell. Whatever happens this was such a blatantly bad shoot that the LV Metro PD is going to pay a huge civil judgement.
Are the store security tapes still ‘lost’?
“The last witness to testify at the coroners inquest was Barbara Fee, who was waiting in line with her granddaughter when they were told to evacuate the store.
Her granddaughter pointed out that there was an officer with a gun by the door.
Fee said she heard the officer yelling at Scott to get down, but he didn’t.
She saw Scott reach for something on his side and then bring his right hand up and point something directly at the officer.
Fee said she couldnt tell what was in Scotts hand, but his hand was pointed, directly at the cop.
The officer fired, and she looked away while pushing her granddaughter behind her, Fee said.
When she looked back, she saw Scott face-down on the ground and a black object on the ground.
Fee said she was worried Scott was going to shoot the officer.
I was hoping he wasnt going to shoot the cop, but with a gesture like that I thought somebody was going to get shot, she said.
She told police after the shooting that she didnt think the officer had any option to shoot Scott.
Thank God the officer was faster, she said in her statement to police.”
This woman, and all the costco people who said he was acting erratic, and throwing things around off the shelves, ripping open boxes,,,
Oh, and his girlfriend who accompanied him didnt bother to come testify.
Supporting CCW does not mean that he was some harmless guy. An otherwise nice guy can have some episode causing mental confusion, erratic behavior etc. The FR cop hating brigade aside,, a lot of non cop people in that store were freaked out fightened of him. That happens for a reason. And vegas is not like Manhattan where everyone faints dead away at the sight of a gun.
This case isn’t the “cause” that some people wish it was. Being a wonderful honorable soldier once, doesn’t mean that person remains decent, sane, or in other good health forever.
You sir or madame, are a jerk.
For some reason the crack firm they were sent to had problems recovering the images. Go figure.
Bump for Bootlickers.
Why should Nevada public employee unions have to worry about behaving ethically? They own the leader of the US Senate.
May justice for the Scott family finally be served in this case, and may everyone involved in the killing of an innocent man in the end receive exactly what they deserve.
Imagine, most cops go their entire careers without discharging their weapons once.
And you, sir, are wilfully blind if you don't acknowledge the existence of "the FR cop hating brigade."
It sounds like Las Vegas cops rival New Orleans cops in the corruption/incompetence arena.
There is a cop hating brigade on FR, no question about it.
I know there are bad cops, but, I know there are good ones, too.
What bothers me about this is the missing tapes. Why? I think they are hiding something. It smells.
If the tapes were provided I’d feel more comfortable that justice was being served.
They're not missing. They were sent to a forensic recovery firm paid by LV Metro PD. That firm says they're 'unrecoverable'. Mighty convenient that.
Both menace the public.
Yes, that’s what makes me suspicious about this apparent murder. I tend to favor police but I am not naive and I know that there are some bad cops.
On March 14 that same year he pulled a gun on a woman and her husband because their lab barked at him. “she was upset because (Scott) had pulled a gun on her dog and her husband.” The officer advised her to file a police report and then quarantined her chocolate lab when she could not provide proof of rabies vaccination or a license.
The next day, the dog owner told police that Scott had pointed a gun at him and said, “Your (sic) lucky I didn’t (expletive) kill your dog.”
A police officer wrote up a report, but no charges were ever filed against Scott. The dog owner could not be reached for comment for this article.
Two short marriages produced two written allegations of domestic violence,,,, BEFORE this happened.
In October 1999, Scott’s first wife, Violet, filed a report with the Arapahoe County, Colo., sheriff’s office and alleged that Scott cupped her face in his hands and slammed her head into the ground. The incident left her dizzy, seeing stars and black spots, she wrote. He also threatened, “I want to kill you, (expletive)!”
Colorado authorities issued an arrest warrant for Scott, but he apparently was unaware of it for several months.
Those issues continued in his second marriage, to Lydia Gorzoch. When contacted by the Review-Journal after his death in July, she e-mailed a curt response: “I divorced Erik Scott because he was an angry and violent man with erratic behavior who abused steroids and acquired a serious addiction to pain killers. I’m not the least bit surprised about what happened; He was on an extremely destructive path when I left him and I never expected Erik to live to see 40.”
And no, im not a jerk. And i’m not insulting his character. But it’s extremely easy to look and see numerous non-cop people who knew him *and liked or loved him*, quoted by several different papers as saying that say he was on pain pills following an accident, and that he was a bodybuilder that used steroids. (according to his father who testified that he used human grown hormone under a doctor’s supervision) I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt,,, i think his meds and steroids, combined with a mind bendingly hot day in Las Vegas, to somehow make him unstable and erratic. Even dehydration comes to mind considering his behaviors,,
Sad outcome,, but that’s all, only sad. Despite his condition, whatever it was,,,, mentally erratic people will never get much latitude with a gun in a busy store. For all i know, in his confused state, he pulled out the gun to give to the officer. Anyone in their right mind would know to never touch a gun when confronted by officers. Thats another reason i vote that he was off the rails mentally that day,,, Glad no bystanders got hurt.
And im not insulting his character
No, you tossed out a barb at fellow Freepers. That's why I said what I did.
Have a nice day.
Jensen testified that Scott didnt have a permit to carry the gun that was in his pocket when he was shot.
Scott carried a Ruger .380 semi-automatic handgun and a .45-caliber Kimber single-action pistol. The Kimber was found in its holster not far from where Scotts body landed after he was shot. The Ruger was found in Scotts clothing as he was being taken to the hospital.
Scott had a concealed carry permit and seven gun registrations in his wallet, but the permit didnt include the Ruger.
Thats a felony crime in Nevada, Jensen said.
The permit did list a .380 Kel Tec, which is similar.
Jensen also testified that Scott was not a Green Beret and had not served overseas in the military.
Costco employee Shai Lierley previously testified that Scott said he was a Green Beret when he was told his gun was not allowed in the store.
Jensen said when he interviewed Scotts girlfriend, he asked if Scott was a Green Beret. She told him he had done some stuff they dont talk about.
Jensen said he checked out Scotts DD-214 separation papers from the military.
We found he had no special forces training and wasnt a Green Beret, Jensen said. Jensen said they also found Scott was honorably discharged in 1996.
The final witness Tuesday was Coroner Mike Murphy, who testified that the family was told more than once how to provide the names of witnesses to bring to the inquest but had not done so.
Goodman previously indicated that the family was withholding its witnesses until there was a fair hearing into the shooting. More than 60 witnesses testified during the six days of the inquest.
Goodman indicated that the family would be seeking punitive damages in the federal lawsuit.