Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, May 6, 2011 | 12:46 p.m.
- County commission finalizes changes to coroner’s inquest process (1-3-2011)
- Officers refuse to answer questions in death of man shot with Taser (12-31-2010)
- Commissioners discuss appointment of coroner’s inquest ombudspersons (12-22-2010)
- County Commission OKs changes to coroner’s inquest process (12-7-2010)
- Commissioners outline concerns of proposed inquest changes (11-16-2010)
- County commission to hear board’s suggestions for inquest changes (11-16-2010)
- Coroner’s inquest review panel proposes changes (11-8-2010)
- Coroner’s inquest review panel weighs scrapping jury, verdict (11-2-2010)
- Inquest panel considers removing verdict from process (10-25-2010)
- Public critical of inquest process at review panel’s first meeting (10-19-2010)
- Group to propose changes to coroner’s inquest process (10-5-2010)
A pre-coroner’s inquest meeting will be held next week, the first under new rules established by Clark County that allow families of someone shot and killed by law enforcement to have an ombudsman present early in the inquest process.
The meeting will be related to the shooting death of Benjamin Hunter Bowman, who died of multiple gunshot wounds Nov. 15 at a PT’s Pub near Nellis Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.
Police said Bowman took a female bartender hostage with a knife during a failed robbery attempt. When the woman broke free, police said Bowman tried to stab her and they shot him.
That same day, Metro officers also killed another man holding a “sharpened cane.” Police shot and killed Anthony Brenes, 32, near a Speedee Mart, 3011 E. Desert Inn Road, after he was said to have swung his cane at them “in a chopping motion.”
Last year, 26 people died at the hands of Metro officers, most of them shot to death. This year through April 19, Metro officers have shot and killed seven people. North Las Vegas police killed one.
All of those deaths still must go through the coroner’s inquest process, which was overhauled by the Clark County Commission earlier this year. After months of waiting for the changes to be codified and the system to be established, the Bowman death will be the first one to proceed.
With the inquest reforms approved in January, families now have a legal representative at inquests, investigative information is disclosed beforehand and jury verdicts are eliminated.
The police union and the county’s own district attorney, David Roger, tried to scuttle the reforms in April, arguing in favor of a bill that would have killed the coroner’s inquest. They argued it would be too expensive, time consuming and would lead to officers refusing to participate. Instead of an inquest, the district attorney would simply review the cases to see if criminal charges were warranted. That bill died in committee.
Reforms came about because of decades of complaints that the inquest was stacked against the families of the deceased.
Two controversial killings in 2010, both ruled justified by an inquest jury, brought the matter to a head. One was the killing of Erik Scott, 38, at a Costco in Summerlin. The other was the killing of Trevon Cole, 21, shot and killed while unarmed in his apartment.
After those deaths, Commissioner Steve Sisolak set up a panel to come up with reforms.
At the May 9 pre-inquest hearing, a “final” pre-inquest will be scheduled over the next 30 days. Then the coroner’s inquest date will be set.