Las Vegas Sun

March 4, 2015

Currently: 51° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Metro Police sued over July fatal shooting of armed man


Jackie Valley

Metro Police investigate after officers fatally shot 23-year-old Rafael Alonso Olivas on July 14, 2011, in the western Las Vegas Valley.


Las Vegas police were sued today over what an attorney calls the "wrongful death" of a knife-wielding man shot and killed by officers July 14.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at the time said officers fatally shot Rafael Alonso Olivas, 23, after they responded to a domestic disturbance, were threatened by Olivas after they found him carrying a butcher knife and walking down a street, and had tried to subdue him with four non-lethal rounds.

The incident happened on Firestone Drive, in western Las Vegas near Buffalo Drive and the Summerlin Parkway interchange.

Today’s lawsuit was filed by Las Vegas attorney E. Brent Bryson on behalf of Alma Chavez, mother of Olivas.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, charges Olivas’s civil rights were violated when officers used excessive force against him and then failed to secure and render immediate medical attention for the man.

The suit claims that early on July 14 Chavez called 911 "to get help for her son" as he had been arguing with her and a female friend.

The suit says Olivas had an ulcer that "acted up" when he became stressed or upset and that Chavez wanted assistance from Metro’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), which assists with people in emotional distress, to calm Olivas down so his ulcer did not act up.

Olivas heard his mother call police, became upset and grabbed a kitchen knife and went outside – facts all relayed to dispatchers, the lawsuit says.

Instead of the CIT team responding, regular Metro officers arrived and had been on the scene for less than two minutes before shooting Olivas, the suit claims.

"Alma did not hear any warnings or any attempt to have Rafael surrender himself prior to the officers’ shooting and killing her son," the suit charges.

The suit claims Metro has failed to train officers in dealing with persons having seizures and complains that since 2009 there have been 55-60 officer-related shootings locally, "a higher number of shootings in Las Vegas than in other cities of like kind and size."

Metro hasn’t yet responded to the lawsuit and its policy is to not comment on such suits.

In the shooting of Olivas, a police commander has said the officers resorted to lethal force because they feared for their lives. The officers told supervisors that the armed Olivas continued to approach them even after they commanded him to stop.

Today’s suit demands more than $9 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 9 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. what a crock. Walking down the street with a butcher knife is not a human right. Acting like a spoiled brat because your belly hurts is not a human right.

    4 bean bag shots is a warning to drop the weapon you are carrying, dumb@ss.

  2. Dash cams would probably help in a lot of cases.

    This instance has always been murky, and no matter the truth is, it is another brick in the wall being built between citizens and Metro.

    One possible solution would be to start paying awards from the PA retirement fund and let taxpayers off the hook. Officers might want to be sure they are truly justified if they know that it will hit them directly in the pocket book even if the inquest helps mitigate the damages from civil suits.

  3. Here we go again.

  4. Give me a break. Choices the loser had his, (wrong choice). Metro had the (right choice). Providing this lawsuit goes in the Metro's favor. The LVPD should sue the ones that sued them. This might STOP or slow down these types of lawsuits

  5. "Walking down the street with a butcher knife is not a human right. Acting like a spoiled brat because your belly hurts is not a human right."

    cwcommish -- exactly which part of "all men ... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" do you need explained to you?

    " matter [what?] the truth is, it is another brick in the wall being built between citizens and Metro."

    boftx -- "You! Yes you under the grandstands! Stand still laddy!"

    "The LVPD should sue the ones that sued them."

    Aaronboy -- all law enforcement officers swear an oath to support and defend the Constitutions. Our state Constitution specifically, and unusually, refers to the federal Constitution as "the Supreme Law of the land." That includes the 14th Amendment's promise no state will deprive any person of life or liberty without due process of law. So in your opinion how exactly did these officers give Olivas due process before taking his life?

    "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." -- Abraham Lincoln, first inaugural address, 1861

  6. Wonder if the mother was contated by the attorney who is looking for a big payday. Hope the city does not settle out of court to make this go away. BS like this is the reason why more good people don't become police officers.

  7. "such a vague statement he always hides behind...what about my right to walk down the street without a guy holding a butcher knife that is mentally unstable...the founding fathers had no idea about what kinds a mental illnesses that would develop many many years after their lives...get back to reality KillerB...we dont live in those times sick of hearing your constitutional statements."

    notfromhere06 -- ignorance like yours is so rampant here. That bit I "always hides behind" is from the Declaration of Independence, a keystone of this country's legitimacy and foundation of all our laws. That you have a problem with that only shows you have no clue what it is to be a citizen. If you choose to moo on with the rest of the herd, it no longer concerns me.

    "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac H Tiffany (1819)

  8. -- exactly which part of "all men ... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" do you need explained to you?

    The part where it says "these men shall be pissed off and armed with kitchen knifes and they shall ignore police with guns pointed at them".

    Youre a dopebee

  9. This is all about money. The plaintiff and her lawyer are looking for a payday. Take it all the way to court. Bet they don't even show up. Make sure to file your own counter suit before 2 years of the incident is up. Defamation of Character should be ok, plus all court/legal fees. This town is un-freakin'-believable when it comes to law suits. It is not by coincidence so many politicians are lawyers. Ain't it the truth!!!