LAS VEGAS — A mother has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and two unidentified rangers who shot and killed her 20-year-old son during a chaotic confrontation on a state highway outside Las Vegas.
Attorney Jacob Hafter said his client, Tracy Meadows, filed the suit after getting no answers from the government about the death of D'Andre Berghardt Jr.
"We've been patient and we haven't rushed the way others have in other places," Hafter said Tuesday, referring to high-profile police slayings in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York.
The slaying of Berghardt on State Route 159 near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area drew wide attention after witness cellphone video was posted online showing two officers physically preventing Berghardt from entering two vehicles stopped in traffic. It appeared that about 10 gunshots were fired after Berghardt climbed into an idling Nevada Highway Patrol vehicle.
The BLM released a statement several days later saying Berghardt had threatened to shoot the officers, and they reacted when he tried to reach for a rifle in a rack in the Highway Patrol car.
The rangers were not identified by name, although one was described as having 17 years of law enforcement experience and the other more than nine years.
Hafter blamed the killing of Berghardt on "overly aggressive police with very little experience and very little training taking matters into their own hands."
"We think, at the end of the day, they'll be held accountable for their actions," Hafter said.
Bureau of Land Management spokesman Christopher Rose declined comment about the lawsuit and didn't identify the BLM agents involved. Rose said the incident was still being investigated.
Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy ruled the shooting a homicide — a finding that does not establish fault. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is reviewing the incident and hasn't said whether he believes criminal charges are warranted.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 23, seeks unspecified monetary damages for Meadows and a declaration that the BLM rangers used excessive force and violated Berghardt's civil rights.
It claims the rangers could have gotten medical help for Berghardt when they found him disoriented and confused, walking on a paved shoulder of the highway about 20 miles from downtown Las Vegas.
Authorities said Berghardt had a backpack, bedroll and rolling suitcase with him after failing to meet a relative after Berghardt rode a bus from Los Angeles.
The BLM said several people had complained that Berghardt was walking in and out of traffic, and two passing bicyclists reported being afraid for themselves and others.
Investigators said the rangers confronted Berghardt and used pepper spray, Tasers and a baton before shooting him.
The Nevada state trooper, Lucas Schwarzrock, a five-year department veteran, arrived moments before the fatal gunfire and rushed to aid the two BLM rangers. Schwarzrock didn't fire his weapon.