One year ago, in August of 2015, two officers from the LVMPD shot Abel Correa, who was hiding in a closet inside his mother’s house after a neighbor had called police to report that he had been damaging property outside the home. Correa was suffering from mental illness, along with other medical issues, and according to the family Officer Glenn Taylor and Officer Eli Prunchak were aware of that from having interacted with him in the past.
In a body cam video (included in this post) released later, those two officers can be seen opening the door to the small coat closet Correa was hiding in and then shooting him five times. Although he was not armed with any sort of actual weapon, they claimed that he had “lunged at them with a sharp object.”That “sharp object” was subsequently identified as a screwdriver that they say he was holding along with a wrench.
Although the placement of the LVMPD’s body cams (conveniently) allows the hands of the officer wearing it to obscure much of the view of the people they shoot, what can be seen on the video doesn’t quite match up with that story. Also, since wearing a body cam is voluntary for Las Vegas police, only one of the cops was recording video that day.
As stated, Correa’s own hands are not visible in the video. So, it’s not clear what, if anything, he is holding. However, it is quite clear that he is not in any way lunging forward or extending his hands. In fact, he’s both moving slowly and standing straight up at the time he is shot. Regardless of what might have been in his hands when they opened the door, he is not the one acting aggressively at the point when he is shot.
The mother and three brothers of Correa have now filed a $13.2 million federal lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department claiming that Officers Taylor and Prunchak used excessive force and were not properly trained to de-escalate the situation when dealing with mentally ill people, as well as violations of Abel Correa’s civil rights.
Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:
Police arrived at Correa’s mother’s home in the 6900 block of Berkshire Place, near the intersection of Rainbow Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, between 6 and 10 a.m. that morning after a neighbor reported the man was breaking a window to enter the house.
Officers Glenn Taylor and Eli Prunchak arrived about two hours after the neighbor’s call, searched the home and found Correa, a methamphetamine addict with a documented history of mental illness, in a small closet by the front door. The officers shot Correa five times after they said they opened the closet door and Correa lunged at them with a screwdriver and wrench in his hands.
Metro acknowledged days after the shooting that Correa “was in dire need of mental health services.” At the fact-finding review, Correa’s family argued that Taylor knew about the man’s mental illness and didn’t know how to de-escalate the situation.
In a civil complaint filed Thursday, Correa’s mother and three brothers claimed the officers were not trained properly and used excessive deadly force.
Maria, Ricardo, Gilberto and Moises Correa accused the police department and Sheriff Joe Lombardo of violating Abel Correa’s civil rights through policies, procedures and training.
The lawsuit claims Lombardo had “knowledge that Defendants Taylor and Prunchak lacked sufficient knowledge and training in the Departments of Use of Force Policy” and “should have known officers were not aware of the policy regarding passive resistance.”
According to the lawsuit, Taylor and Prunchak knew Abel Correa suffered from mental health issues, knew he had been placed on mental health hold and knew he had never used violence toward anyone, including police.
“Abel Correa posed no threat of harm to the defendant officers and/or to anyone else at the scene of the shooting, as Abel was hiding in a closet with the door closed and no means of escape,” the lawsuit reads.
One of the officers told Correa to raise his arms and, when he complied, they discharged their weapons at least five times, killing him, the complaint reads.
The lawsuit claims Lombardo, the police department, Prunchak and Taylor are responsible for Correa’s survival action — the injuries and pain Correa suffered immediately before his death, wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.