Friday, September 24, 2010

The Inquest into Erik Scott's Death - Day 3

As in the past two days, you can find a blow-by-blow account of the third day of testimony in the coroner's inquest into the death of Erik Scott here.

My own reactions appear below.

This third day was a non-stop parade of testimony, from both shoppers and Costco Wholesale employees who were present on July 10, 2010. There were inconsistencies in these accounts, but these were minor. Anyone with any experience in dealing with eyewitnesses knows that there are always inconsistencies. And none of the inconsistencies that came to light today seemed significant or highly contradictory.

Indeed, all of the direct witnesses to the shooting agree on this salient fact: Erik Scott did not comply with the police when they confronted him. And Erik Scott pulled his weapon out and held it out towards the police instead of keeping his hands out and clear in a non-threatening gesture of compliance.

Perhaps the most damning testimony came from an eyewitness who is also a holder of a CCW permit. Not only did this witness offer yet another direct account of the shooting of Erik Scott, he also offered a critique of Scott's actions. The gist of this witness's critique of Erik Scott is this: Erik acted contrary to the training given to all CCW permit holders in that he acted in a way that could be construed as threatening while the police had their own weapons trained on him. In other words, reaching for his weapon was exactly the wrong thing to do when Erik was faced with police officers who had their own weapons drawn. And Erik was surely trained to know this.

In addition, the fact that Erik Scott's girlfriend did not appear at the inquest, even though she had been subpoenaed to appear, is deeply troubling. Sure, her initial audio statement to detectives, which was made on the day of Erik Scott's death, was read into the inquest record. But, in the face of volumes of testimony regarding Erik's apparently impaired demeanor, why would the one person with direct, first-hand knowledge of Erik's state-of-mind choose not to appear?

I can't help thinking that this non-appearance occurred at the advice of the Scott family's attorney, in order to deny the District Attorney's office a chance to delve into her knowledge of Erik Scott's actions or state-of-mind. What does Erik's girlfriend have to hide?

Earlier in today's testimony, a membership clerk said that Erik Scott was clearly impaired and that he was unable to fill out the membership application. Instead, his girlfriend had to fill it out for him, and the membership clerk reported the incident to her supervisor. I wonder why that application wasn't made available as evidence, especially since the clerk mentioned that Erik made illegible marks on it when trying to fill it out himself. Perhaps we'll see it in a later legal proceeding.

Also, until today, I was not aware of just how threatening Erik Scott acted towards Vince Lopez, the manager who initially confronted Erik Scott about his concealed weapon. (Full disclosure: I've known Vince for years, and I consider him a personal friend. But Vince had not disclosed all of the details of this incident to me, for obvious reasons.) Certainly, the fact that Erik Scott was not only verbally belligerent, but also physically threatening to Vince puts Erik himself in a very bad light. It also puts to rest any reservations I had about the decision to call the police in the first place.

I still feel that Erik should have been directly told that the police had been called. But I wonder, if I had still been an employee of Costco Wholesale, would I have acted any differently than Vince or Shai? It's a sobering question.

Will tomorrow's testimony bring any surprises to light? I doubt it. So far, the sum total of the evidence presented puts the blame squarely on Erik Scott for his death at the hands of the police on July 10th, 2010. But I am trying to keep an open mind.

Besides, this inquest will hardly be the final word on the death of Erik Scott. I envision at least one future civil suit. The family of Erik Scott will, as is natural, choose to disbelieve all of the testimony offered in this inquest, alleging that the entire proceeding is the product of a massive cover-up.

And Clark County's inquest process itself may undergo dramatic changes in the near future.

We shall see.

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