LAS VEGAS (CN) – Las Vegas Police shot an unarmed man to death in broad daylight two years ago after U.S. Marshals falsely reported that he was wanted for attempted murder, his family says in a lawsuit against the police and the United States.
Twenty-three-year-old Keith Childress Jr. had nothing in his hand but a cellphone when police shot him five times at about 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, 2015, then sicced a police dog on him as he lay bleeding to death, his family says in their federal lawsuit.
Childress left three young children and his parents. They say: “The policies and customs behind shootings of civilians, such as Keith Childress Jr., are fundamentally unconstitutional and constitute a menace of major proportions to the public.”
After defendant Las Vegas police Officers Robert Bohanon and Blake Walford shot Childress five times, defendant Officer James Ledogar loosed a police dog on him, according to the lengthy lawsuit and contemporary news reports.
The family says Las Vegas Metro Police were acting on false information provided by the U.S. Department of Justice Marshals Service, which claimed Childress was wanted for attempted murder.
In fact, Childress was not wanted for attempted murder, he was not a fugitive, he “was not holding a weapon or anything that looked like a weapon” when they shot him, “even though decedent was unarmed and even though there were residences in the background,” according to the Dec. 30 complaint.
Citing Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, Fox News in Las Vegas reported on Jan. 4, 2015: “A wanted man who Las Vegas police officers shot and killed on New Year’s Eve ignored at least 24 verbal commands to surrender before the gunshots.”
McMahill told reporters that U.S. marshals “were seeking Childress after he skipped out on sentencing in a home invasion case out of the Phoenix-area,” according to the Fox News report. The marshals’ report was false, McMahill told Fox News, whose story, checked Wednesday morning on the internet, was updated on March 14, 2016.
A police body cam video, also checked this morning, shows an officer pointing his gun at Childress and yelling at him at least seven times to “Drop the gun!” and telling other officers more than once, apparently via police radio, “He’s got a gun.”
Childress does not appear aggressive or furtive during the video, nor does he appear to react to any of the officer’s commands. The video ends before the shooting. Las Vegas news outlets reported that the officer with the body cam was Sgt. Bohanon, and that Bohanon fired four shots and Walford five.
Bohanon, then 37, was an 18-year veteran with Las Vegas Metro Police. Walford, then 27, had been on the force for a year.
Childress’s family says in the lawsuit that he “posed no immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury at the time of the shooting and was unarmed at all times.”
After being shot five times, he lay “immobile, bleeding profusely and in obvious need of emergency medical care and treatment,” but Ledogar sicced a police dog on him and no officer provided timely medical care or help, according to the complaint.
The family calls the use of deadly force “excessive and objectively unreasonable under the circumstances,” and say the lack of timely medical care contributed to Childress’s death.
The family, most of whom live in California, seek punitive damages on a slew of charges, including wrongful death, excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure, battery, negligence, supervisory liability, failure to train, and civil rights violations.
Las Vegas Metro Police do not comment on active lawsuits against the department.
The family’s attorney Dale Galipo, of Woodland Hills, Cal., could not be reached by telephone Tuesday evening. The family’s local counsel is Peter Goldstein, in Las Vegas.