Deaths pose concern about NHP use of force
The untimely deaths of two young Hispanic men are raising questions about the Nevada Highway Patrol's use of force. Both cases involve Tasers, and are still under investigation. Video by ktnv.comvideo
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The untimely deaths of two young Hispanic men are raising questions about the Nevada Highway Patrol's use of force. Both cases involve Tasers, and are still under investigation.
Alejandro Sanchez-Escoto, 29, fell to his death off an overpass on the 215 beltway at Decatur Boulevard.
It happened around 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 7. Sanchez-Escoto allegedly ran from a NHP trooper, who stopped to question him. The trooper fired his Taser but the Clark County Coroner says it appears the Taser never made contact with Alejandro.
"Certainly, chasing someone over an 18-30 foot bridge with no guard rails is problematic," says Attorney Matthew Callister. "Maybe the trooper felt he needed to chase Sanchez-Escoto, to tackle him, and bring him down. But Lord knows, once he got up on the edge or near the edge of the bridge, the trooper should have stopped advancing and should not have pulled out his Taser."
Callister is considering a lawsuit against NHP on behalf of Alejandro's family. He believes state troopers need better training when it comes to Tasers and use of force.
Callister says NHP raised the possibility that Sanchez-Escoto was suicidal.
"The troopers at the hospital asked me if Alejandro had been depressed or had issues," says Alejandro's brother, Raul Morales-Escoto. "I told them Alejandro would have never purposefully jumped to his death. His young son and his mother were his world. He would never leave them. He also just got a new job working as a cook at a casino on the strip. He had too much to live for."
Sanchez-Escoto's family does admit that Alejandro was afraid of being deported.
Callister says there are still more questions than answers in this case. He's now looking for anyone who witnessed Sanchez-Escoto's death or was in the area at the time.
Callister already has a civil lawsuit in the works against NHP for an in-custody Taser death dating back to August 25, 2010.
Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez, 21, was tased 19 times by NHP troopers. Before his death, Eduardo was allegedly involved in a car crash on U.S. Highway 95. It led to a fight, with three other men, who reportedly beat Eduardo.
The lawsuit claims Eduardo approached responding NHP troopers for help but somehow got into a confrontation with them. He was tased and went into cardiac arrest while in handcuffs.
In April, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson declined to press criminal charges against the troopers involved. The coroner's Inquest process has been long delayed.
"I just want justice," says Eduardo's girlfriend, Amelia Vasquez. "I want them to admit how they handled it was wrong."
Vaszquez was pregnant with Eduardo's daughter, Adela, when he died. Adela is now almost two-years-old and looks just like her father.
"My daughter will never know her dad," Vasquez says. "That breaks my heart."
"These families are devastated," Callister says. "This is not something any amount of money is going to fix. There needs to be procedural, systemic changes when it comes to the use of force, especially Tasers."
According to the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Tasers should not be used on individuals who are handcuffed or restrained. Tasers should also be avoided in instances that might result in collateral injury, such as a fall or other accident.
Both NHP and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department are looking into both cases, and refuse to comment while the investigations are ongoing.