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July 30, 2014

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I was scared; I was panicking’: Unarmed shooting victim sues Metro

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L.E. Baskow

Antoine Hodges holds his wife Annette’s hand as he speaks during a news conference at his attorney’s office Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. Hodges was mistaken as homicide suspect and shot by a Metro Police officer Oct. 21, 2013.

Updated Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 | 7:21 p.m.

Antoine Hodges Files Lawsuit Against Metro Police

Antoine Hodges, shot by a Metro Police officer while getting gas at a convenience store Oct. 21, talks about filing a federal lawsuit against the department during a news conference at his attorney's office Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. Launch slideshow »

The trip to the local 7-Eleven was supposed to be short.

Antoine Hodges, 30, needed to fill his Chevy Tahoe with gas before his wife left for work. He parked the vehicle and went inside to pay.

At home, his wife, Annette Hodges, waited. Time elapsed and still no Antoine, triggering a worry in her gut.

“Something told me to walk out,” she said.

At the gas station, she saw police, paramedics and news vans. She soon would learn from a family friend that her husband lay in a University Medical Center hospital bed, injured from a bullet that sliced through his upper abdomen and exited the right side of his body.

The bullet was the result of an officer-involved shooting. A Metro Police officer fired after feeling threatened when Hodges — whom he mistakenly believed was a double-homicide suspect — retreated and moved his right hand behind his back.

Hodges was unarmed and not a suspect in any crime.

Today, Hodges and his wife filed a civil rights lawsuit in Nevada’s U.S. District Court against Metro, Sheriff Doug Gillespie and Officer Jason Evans, who fired the shot.

The federal lawsuit alleges the department violated Hodges’ constitutional rights protecting him from unreasonable seizure and use of unlawful deadly force. It also accuses the defendants of acting negligently, committing assault and battery, and falsely arresting and imprisoning him, according to the complaint.

Hodges, a line cook at Hash House A Go Go, disputes police’s claim that he ignored commands to show both his hands.

“I was scared; I was panicking,” Hodges said, explaining why he backed away from Evans.

The officer-involved shooting unfolded shortly after 10:30 p.m. Oct. 21. The convenience store and gas station is at the northwest corner of Nellis Boulevard and Stewart Avenue.

Police leaders said Evans saw Hodges go into the 7-Eleven and believed he matched the description of a suspect in a double homicide the previous night. Evans entered the store with his gun drawn and ordered Hodges to show his hands.

Hodges, however, retreated away from the officer, ultimately backing into a merchandise rack and ice-cream freezer. At that point, Hodges’ right arm disappeared behind his back.

Feeling threatened, Evans fired one round and struck Hodges.

Police on Thursday released surveillance footage of the shooting and emphasized that Hodges’ failure to comply with police demands led to the shooting.

Hodges said he was trying to put change in his pocket — not ignore police commands.

“From the start to the end, he had his gun out,” Hodges said of the officer. “It was never an approach of ‘Excuse me. Let me talk to you.’ Nothing like that. It was strictly gun aimed at me.”

Attorneys Cal Potter and Joseph Reiff are representing Hodges and his wife. Potter, who has built a reputation for suing Metro, said the shooting is another example of officers escalating a situation and not calling for backup.

“This is not a good shooting,” Potter said. “This is not a valid shooting and, clearly, the officer did not follow the training Metro has said they have now instituted to de-escalate these situations.”

The suspect in the double homicide was described as having shoulder-length, braided hair; Hodges has shoulder-length dreadlocks.

Hodges and his attorneys contend the mix-up is evidence of racial profiling on behalf of Las Vegas police.

“They’re trained to understand and know the different hairstyles of African-Americans,” Hodges said. “… I really feel he played a racial card.”

Hodges acknowledged having previous troubles with the law, but he declined to elaborate except for saying that he always has followed officers’ commands, including when an officer drew a gun in a separate incident. The officer put the gun down and “we talked,” Hodges said.

Metro could not immediately verify whether Las Vegas police have previously arrested Hodges.

Hodges and his wife are seeking damages for excessive force, civil rights violations, as well as current and future medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering, according to the lawsuit.

Hodges, the father of three children ages 17, 12 and 1, said he suffers from shortness of breath, pain spasms and anxiety.

“I constantly have flashbacks,” he said. “It’s hard to sleep at night.”

Metro does not comment on pending litigation. The department released the surveillance video after it had been determined that it did not “compromise the officer’s due process,” Metro spokesman Jose Hernandez said.

“Every case has to be looked at very differently to see, if in fact, (video) can be released,” Hernandez said.

Evans, a five-year veteran of the department assigned to the Northeast Area Command, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a case review by the District Attorney’s Office and an internal investigation. Evans opted to speak with homicide detectives about the shooting and did so Monday, Undersheriff Jim Dixon said Thursday.

Hodges’ lawsuit comes on the heels of Metro settling another lawsuit related to an officer-involved shooting. The department on Monday agreed to a $1.5 million settlement for Rondha Gibson, the wife of a Gulf War veteran fatally shot by a Metro officer in December 2011.

Potter also represented Gibson in that federal civil rights lawsuit.

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