Mom Of War Vet Killed By Vegas Police Files Suit

The mother of a troubled Gulf War veteran who was shot dead in his car during a standoff with Las Vegas police is seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages in a lawsuit claiming a lack of departmental training and “shockingly excessive” use of force in her son’s death.

Celestine Gibson, 65, of Las Vegas, alleges multiple constitutional rights violations by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the officer who shot Stanley LaVon Gibson, and two police supervisors.

Stanley Gibson, 43, was unarmed when he died behind the wheel of his car early Dec. 12 amid a cloud of wheel-spinning blue smoke in a northwest Las Vegas apartment complex parking lot.

Las Vegas police Officer Laura Meltzer declined to comment Wednesday on the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nevada. She said the department does not comment on litigation.

Celestine Gibson’s lawyer, Andre Lagomarsino, listed in the lawsuit several other Las Vegas police shootings dating to November 2001.

In an interview, he cited what he called a “systematic lack of accountability” for officers involved in fatal, on-the-job encounters.

“It has been a policy, practice and custom at Metro to slant all investigations of officer-involved shootings in favor of the shooting officer,” Lagomarsino said in the lawsuit. “As a result, Metro officers feel empowered to shoot harmless citizens, knowing that Metro will offer `cover’ after the fact.”

The lawsuit adds another layer to calls from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Las Vegas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for reform of Las Vegas police use-of-force policies.

The ACLU and NAACP pointed earlier this year to findings by the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Las Vegas-area police had killed 142 people in 378 officer-involved shootings since 1990.

Meanwhile, a system of Clark County coroner fact-finding reviews of Las Vegas police slayings has been stalled since October 2010 amid court challenges by police officers to revisions to the process that they say would subject them to unconstitutional questioning.

The ACLU and NAACP have called for a U.S. Department of Justice probe, while federal officials have responded with an alternate review overseen by the federal Community Oriented Policing Services program.

Family members say Stanley Gibson suffered post-traumatic anxiety and had several surgeries for throat cancer that he blamed on his exposure to depleted uranium used in armor-piercing military shells. He served in the U.S. Army from June 1989 to June 1992 and had been honorably discharged.

Witnesses said Stanley Gibson was driving his Cadillac slowly through an unfamiliar apartment complex with his emergency flashers on like he was lost before police arrived and pinned his vehicle between patrol cruisers.

An hour-long standoff ensued before an officer fired a shotgun beanbag projectile to break a rear window of Stanley Gibson’s car in a bid to use tear gas to get him to surrender. Another officer opened fire seconds later, firing seven shots with an assault rifle.

Stanley Gibson was not accused of any crime related to the shooting. However, he had several encounters with police on drug, weapon and domestic violence charges in recent years, and had been jailed two days before his death on a resisting-an-officer charge. His widow, Rondha Gibson, said he screamed at passing cars and accused her of conspiring against him. Rondha Gibson said Stanley Gibson arrived back home hours before the fatal police confrontation, saying he remembered taking out the trash but not going to jail.

Rondha Gibson has said she believes her husband was confused and trying to find his way to their new home at a nearby apartment complex when police arrived.