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January 31, 2015

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Judge OKs suit over death of ice cream truck driver shot by police

Family of woman shot by Henderson police allowed to pursue wrongful death lawsuit



Zyber Selimaj reacts to the coroner’s inquest ruling that a Henderson Police officer was justified in shooting and killing his wife, Deshira. Misdemeanor charges against him, including obstructing an officer, have been dropped.

A federal judge has allowed the husband and children of Deshira Selimaj to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Henderson over the incident in which the ice cream truck driver was shot and killed by police who said she threatened them with a knife, rejecting arguments by the city that the allegations are frivolous.

U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks on Feb. 11 ruled Zyber Selimaj, husband of Deshira, and their children could amend and proceed with their lawsuit originally filed in April 2008.

Attorney Peter Angulo, who has been representing the city in the litigation, could not immediately be reached for comment today on the allegations in the amended complaint.

The original suit was aimed at forcing the Henderson Police Department and Clark County to turn over evidence to Zyber Selimaj that he could use in the coroner's inquest into the shooting. His request for access to evidence was rejected. The coroner's jury in April found the Feb. 12, 2008, shooting by officer Luke Morrison to be justified after Morrison and other officers testified Deshira Selimaj threatened them with the knife.

Zyber Selimaj, originally represented by attorneys James Jimmerson and Mario Lovato, later switched attorneys and is now represented by Michael Cristalli and Marc Saggese.

On June 26 the new attorneys sought permission to amend the lawsuit to include wrongful death claims against the city — an effort that city attorneys fought in court on both procedural grounds and on grounds that the wrongful death claims lacked merit.

Hicks' ruling last week said: "Defendants argue that the amended complaint's allegations are frivolous, and therefore amendment would be futile. This argument is without merit. The amended complaint alleges that an officer of the Henderson Police Department shot and killed Deshira Selimaj without justification (raising civil rights claims). These allegations are not frivolous.''

The amended complaint alleges the civil rights of the family were violated when Deshira Selimaj was shot and killed after she came to the aid of her husband, also an ice cream truck driver who had been stopped for a traffic violation.

The complaint alleges negligence, inadequate training and supervision of police offers, that Zyber Selimaj was assaulted and falsely imprisoned by police and that after the shooting the police falsified their accounts of what happened in order to cover up information unfavorable to them.

The suit seeks at least $25 million in damages for its federal claims and at least $20,000 for state claims. Included is a request for punitive damages in order to punish the officers involved in the incident.

"The decedant posed no threat to any officer or anyone else at the time she was shot by police officers. At the time the defendant officers shot Deshira, they had no reasonable basis to believe that there existed any conditions necessary for utilizing deadly force against the decedent,'' the lawsuit claims.

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