Hoplophobia Kills

No justice for Erik Scott – gunned down for legally carrying a gun.

           Erik Scott was a West Point graduate with an MBA from Duke.  He served honorably in the Army and establish a lucrative career in real estate and as a sales rep for a medical device company.  He was 38 years old when he was gunned down in the portico of a Las Vegas area Costco store by officers from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.  While it was 7 bullets from the only people we’re supposed to trust with guns that snuffed out Erik Scott’s life, what really killed him was an irrational fear of firearms – hoplophobia.

Scott and his girlfriend were shopping in the Costco when he was challenged by a store manager after Scott’s lawfully carried handgun was spotted as he squatted down to examine some merchandise.  He argued briefly with the manager about the store’s “No Guns” policy after identifying himself as a lawful Nevada concealed weapons permit holder.  Witnesses said Scott did raise his voice in obvious frustration over the policy, but that it didn’t seem like a big deal.  They saw nothing particularly threatening about the incident or the clean-cut, good looking young man.   The store manager seemed satisfied by Scott’s reassurances and was OK with him finishing his shopping.  But another store employee was already on the line with police, reporting an armed “Green Beret” acting erratically in the store.

That report, based on irrational fear, along with a store policy based on irrational fear, turned into tragedy when the irrational fear factor kept going up a notch each time the report was relayed.  Las Vegas MPD issued a city-wide alert, cordoned off the area, and deployed a helicopter and two Mobile Command Centers.  Someone decided to evacuate the store and Scott and his girlfriend fell in with other patrons flowing out of the exit door.  Three MPD officers were waiting just outside with guns drawn.  Someone identified Scott and the lead officer began yelling “Stop!  Don’t move!  Drop the gun!  Get on the ground!  Get on the ground!”

He fired these conflicting commands in quick succession giving Scott no opportunity to comply with any of them and then fired two rounds at Scott’s chest.  The other officers opened up a moment later as Scott fell to the ground, firing 5 additional rounds into his back.  The entire encounter – from the officer’s first shout to the last shot – lasted no more than 5 or 6 seconds.  The first round struck Erik Scott in the heart, the second hit his right thigh. 

Numerous witnesses reported that they saw Scott turn and say something about a permit before he was shot.  Many said they could see both of his hands and that he made no threatening move.  All agreed that the only gun they saw was the one still in Scott’s waistband on his right hip.  EMTs reported that they removed Scott’s gun and holster in the ambulance, but the gun, still in the holster, later appeared in crime-scene photos on the ground near where Scott had fallen.  After police broke into Scott’s apartment and confiscated the firearms there, the story came out that Scott was carrying two guns that day, and that the second gun, a Ruger LCP in his front pocket, was the one EMTs reported.  They claimed Scott pointed his Kimber .45 at them.  The store’s video surveillance system inexplicably malfunctioned for the several seconds of the shooting.

A coroner’s inquest concluded that the shooting was justified.  Similar inquests have concluded that LVMPD officer involved shootings were justified in 199 out of 200 incidents.  That process has since been changed slightly – thanks to efforts of the Scott family – but the new procedures have been blocked by suits from the police union.  The family recently dropped a federal wrongful death suit after they were convinced that they had no hope of winning with the system stacked against them.

Scott’s father, Bill Scott, a former Air Force flight test engineer and writer for the prestigious aerospace magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology, has painted a sympathetic, fictionalized portrait of Erik and the events of that day as part of a new novel he is offering in serialized form at http://thePermit.blogspot.com.  He hopes to maintain awareness of Erik’s tragic death, the flawed system that caused it, and the corrupt system that covered it up.

The police have a difficult job.  They are put in positions and asked to do things that most of us would run away from, but authority and power must be tempered with responsibility and accountability.  It is critical that these public servants be protected from frivolous suits and baseless harassment, but they must be held accountable for their actions, and investigations into their activities must be beyond reproach.  That is not the case currently.

When one person’s irrational fear of a peacefully armed man can result in that man being gunned down by police – with no consequences for anyone except the victim and his friends and family – something is terribly, terribly wrong.  Hoplophobia killed Erik Scott and a corrupt system allowed his accusers and executioners to get away with it.

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Copyright © 2012 Neal Knox Associates – The most trusted name in the rights movement.