A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for allegedly using excessive force and shooting a 23-year-old man without warning.
The complaint was filed by the family of Rafael Olivas, who was shot 14 times by Las Vegas police on July 14 after his mother, plaintiff Alma Chavez, called police to help her with him because he was distraught.
According to allegations raised in the complaint, Olivas suffered from a severe gastrointestinal condition and Chavez hoped the officers would be able to help calm him down after a fight with his girlfriend.
While Chavez acknowledges that Olivas had a knife in his hands when the officers arrived, she maintains that he had his hands at his side as he walked toward the police. She also claims that the officers fatally shot her son without any warning to stop or drop the knife.
Police dispute that version of the story, indicating that Olivas was approaching them and waving the knife in a threatening manner and ignored their order to drop the knife.
According to a report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, attorneys representing Olivas’ family say there is a video that shows the officers shooting Olivas without warning. However, the video has not been released in an effort to minimize the number of times Chavez and the rest of the family have to watch Olivas be shot to death.
The police brutality claim seeks $9 million in damages and names the Metropolitan Police Department, Sheriff Doug Gillespie, and officers Christopher Grivas and David Hager as defendants.
The lawsuit claims that the shooting of Olivas was an inappropriate use of force and that shootings are a systemic problem in the police department, which has been involved in about 60 officer-involved shootings over the last several years.
Inappropriate use of force defines any situation where police use force out of proportion or inappropriate to the situation at hand and the threat posed by another person. It can also occur when the police officer is negligent in the use of force. Some examples include brutality and excessive force; injuring or killing a person through the unjustified use of a firearm; and arresting and imprisoning someone without reasonable suspicion or probably cause.