In Update 20, I explained the basics of ethical interviewing of witnesses and pointed out, in general, how Metro detectives repeatedly and routinely failed to behave ethically and professionally. In this update, I’ll explain, in greater detail and much more specifically, issues that would set off flashing red lights and sirens for any competent investigator. Even for the layman, the omissions, tricks, and contradictions will be obvious.
This will be the second in a continuing series of updates relating to witness statements, which will follow on successive Mondays. As I’ve had the time to finally read all of Metro’s evidence, my amazement at the sheer incompetence involved, and the blatantly obvious cover up, has grown exponentially. That anyone could possibly have gotten away with this is utterly stunning—and deadly dangerous for the citizens of Las Vegas.
Witnesses to the killing of Erik Scott generally fall into three categories:
(1) Witnesses who were detained in the tire area of Costco following the shooting and who gave written statements to deputies, followed several hours later by taped and transcribed interviews;
(2) Witnesses who gave only taped interviews;
(3) Witnesses who contacted Metro themselves—in many cases after being told to go away shortly after the shooting—and essentially wouldn’t go away. These witnesses were all taped.
In Update 20 I explained an unethical technique a great number of witnesses—likely all–testified Metro used on them:
It works like this: a detective sits down with a witness and conducts an interview, an interview they tell the witness is being recorded for later transcription. But when the interview is over, the detective says: “oh no! That darned tape recorder didn’t work again! I’m sorry, but we’ll have to do the interview over.”
Why would a detective do this? It allows them the opportunity to hear, off the record, everything the witness knows. During the second interview, they are prepared to shape the interview by failing to ask certain questions, by failing to bring up certain topics, by cutting off certain answers, and by channeling the questions and answers to fit their narrative rather than gathering all the facts. If a witness is silly enough to try to bring up things the Detective doesn’t want on the record, he’ll interrupt, confuse and obfuscate the conversation, and will certainly fail to ask the kind of rational and necessary follow up questions the statements of the witness would provoke in any competent investigator truly interested in the truth. And of course, that darned tape recorder can fail–again–without warning.
In this update, you’ll see precisely how Metro used the technique–and others–to further the narrative rather than to discover and record the truth.
Metro’s Best Shot: The Statement That Proves Its Case—Without Details
One witness stands out above all others in this case in fulfilling the Metro narrative: Ronald Montgomery. His written statement apparently was taken sometime after the shooting, but there is no date, time or place, nor is there an ending time for the interview—all violations of proper police procedure. Montgomery lists his occupation on the form as “Fed. Law Enfc.,” but there is no information about his background beyond that. No one else was nearly as emphatic as Montgomery at putting a gun in Erik Scott’s hand. He wrote:
I heard someone yelling ‘drop the gun’ several times, I turned and looked to the south ‘front entrance’. I saw a male subject with a firearm in a holster being raised from his waist upward. The male subject had a full handgrip on the weapon. Once the weapon was horizontal and none [sic] compliance to the commands to ‘drop the weapon,’ I heard the gun fire and the subject bent over and still had the weapon in his hand, several shots later I saw the subject on the ground face down and the weapon a couple feet away.
In his taped statement at Costco at 1632 later that day, Montgomery thought Scott was wearing shorts (he was actually wearing blue jeans), he was gripping a weapon in a holster “below waist level”—a change from his written statement–and said Scott was shot and bent over from the waist, and there were more commands to ‘drop the gun,’ which led to another volley of gunfire which caused Scott to fall to his face on the ground. Montgomery said:
…and then I saw later amongst the commotion the weapon approximately two feet, two or three feet away from the subject.
Analysis: The facts—taken primarily from Metro’s own evidence—I outlined in Update 19 and Update 20, make Montgomery’s account impossible. We know that from the moment Officer Mosher began yelling commands at Scott until the first bullet struck him—a bullet immediately followed in no more than another two seconds by another from Mosher and five from Mendiola and Stark–only two seconds elapsed. In other words, from the first shouted, contradictory command to the final bullet, fired into Scott’s back as he already lay, facedown on the pavement, approximately four seconds elapsed.
We also know that Scott could not possibly have reacted in time to draw his weapon, particularly because Mosher did not repeatedly say “drop the gun,” and certainly not in two separate commands separated by some time and two volleys of gunfire. We know this because Mosher’s sole, panicky set of contradictory commands, said and completed in less than two seconds, were:
Put your hands where I can see them now; drop it, get on the ground; get on the ground.
There was no time for Scott to comply with anything. Considering where he was carrying his weapon and the nature of the holster, it was physically impossible for him to draw that weapon—in its holster—in the time we know was available. In addition, every command given in fractions of a second contradicted the command that preceded it. And why would a police officer that believed someone was pointing a gun at him at close range, suddenly decide to tell them to get on the ground, rather than continue to tell them to drop the gun?
There are several other interesting factors in Montgomery’s written and taped statements. Notice the cop talk: “none compliance,” “the subject,” etc. But what is most interesting is what is missing. The detective—C. Bunn—was interested only in Montgomery’s statement about seeing the gun. There were no follow up questions about the gun or a holster, no identification, not even a color—nor did Montgomery offer that information—and the rest of the interview—which lasted only eight minutes—was taken up with trivia such as Montgomery talking about the uniforms the officers wore. No one has doubted the officers that shot Scott were in Metro uniforms.
The complete lack of interest in details about the weapon and holster is significant, for if a very specific Kimber .45 in a very specific Blackhawk inside-the-waistband holster was not removed from Scott’s waistband and dropped near his body, and a very specific Ruger LCP pistol in a specific Blackhawk inside-the waistband holster—with a spare magazine—was not in his right front pocket and damaged by Mosher’s bullet, everything Metro has said and written about this case is a lie, and arguably, a criminal conspiracy.
Why would a federal law enforcement officer say nothing at all to describe the weapon and holster? This makes no sense; it is utterly un-cop-like. Who better to positively identify the weapon and holster than the man absolutely sure he saw them—in Scott’s hand and on the ground by his body—and who better qualified than a federal cop?
Another item of significance is that Montgomery did not say when he saw a gun on the ground, and of course, Bunn did not bother to ask. This particular critically important matter was omitted throughout the statements.
Why would the detective interviewing Montgomery ask nothing about the weapons? Why would he fail to establish a clear time frame—an absolutely basic, elementary part of any competent interview? This too makes no sense, unless one is merely trying to check the boxes of the narrative, and unless the detective did not want that information on tape, likely because the narrative was not yet fully formed. Failing to ask such basic questions should make any detective supervisor doubt a detective’s fitness to do his job, unless failing to ask those questions was the detective’s job. Metro would not have Scott’s Ruger—taken in an illegal search of his home—for at least three more hours. They didn’t want details about weapons and holsters—and time frames–because they couldn’t be sure which would best fit the narrative or how.
No other witness would confirm Montgomery’s statement of multiple volleys of gunfire and multiple sets of police commands, or of Scott’s supposed actions after first being shot.
The Statement From An Alternate Reality:
The interview of Reverend Albert Scott—no relation to Erik Scott—done by Metro Detective Jensen on 07-22-10 is an example of why investigators must be extremely careful with witness statements. Rev. Scott apparently did not provide a written statement, or if he did, it is not in the Metro case file. According to his statement, he called Metro and more or less demanded to tell his story, and quite a story it is.
Rev. Scott said that when he arrived at the Costco, “everybody’s trying to get out,” and someone told him not to enter because there was a man with a gun inside, a man he said was “about 15, 20 feet inside.” Rev. Scott said:
Well he was, he was taking his gun and wrapping [sic] it on the counter like this and messing up. I guess that’s the reason the people called the police ’cause he was, you know.
Rev. Scott described the gun as “metallic,” definitely not a black or blued gun (Scott’s Kimber was all black). He continued:
But he come out of the door I know with the gun in his hand. So I don’t care what people say and witness this or that, he had a gun in his hand. Otherwise the police would of not saying put your hands on your head. They wouldn’t say put the gun down.
Suffice it to say Rev. Scott’s account is not remotely like those of any of the other witnesses–not even the officers that shot Erik Scott–nor does it match any of the known facts. However, such off-base accounts are not at all uncommon.
Husband and Wife Statements and 180° Handwriting:
The written statement of Renee Seidlitz is interesting. Like most witnesses, she saw Metro officers with their guns already drawn before approaching Scott. However, she believed Mosher yelled “Get down on the ground” three times, which caused Erik Scott to make eye contact with her, and only then did he turn around to face Mosher who immediately started shooting him. Seidlitz was allowed to squeeze in two lines outside and below the text bloc on the statement form, an absolutely abysmal lapse of proper police procedure. If more space is needed, another blank form should be used. Those lines—which might have been written by Seidlitz, have a left-handed slant pattern while the rest of the statement is clearly written by a right-handed person. The last several sentences are odd indeed:
I said to my husband to move around the corner to your right because a herd of officers were now…
The remainder of the text was written outside the text box:
…showing up. The guy was (shot) who was on the ground on his back and a small black gun was to his right hand on the ground.
Scott was face down on the ground and his Kimber was nearly a full sized 1911 variant pistol, supposedly in a holster. Like most other statements, the lines to be completed when the statement were completed were left blank, and no officer signed as having witnessed the statement, all violations of proper procedure that could easily render any such statement inadmissible.
In her taped statement done at the Costco at about 1628 on 07-10-2010 by a Detective Bunting, Seidlitz said she saw “a little black gun” near Scott’s hand, and some distance from that, “a cell phone or something.” This interview is remarkable because Det. Bunting spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to put words in Seidlitz’s mouth, frequently interrupting her, and cutting her off. Like other detectives, he did not get into a description of the gun Seidlitz believed she saw. Again, there were no follow up questions on that topic, yet this statement was nearly twice as long as that of Off. Mosher.
Renee’s husband, David also gave a written statement, which like Renee’s was not witnessed by an officer and had no ending time information. David believed that after Scott turned toward Mosher, Mosher immediately shot him twice, paused briefly, then fired three more rounds. His final sentence was:
Observed a holstered handgun on the ground which I assume was the suspect’s.
A Detective Kyger interviewed David at 1626 that day. Like Renee, his attention was drawn by an officer—probably Mosher—whose handgun was drawn. David thought Scott had been hit by a Taser and “…I was looking for wires.” A number of other witnesses thought Scott was hit by Taser barbs. David said he could not see what Scott was doing before he was shot.
Amazingly, David said nothing at all about a handgun on the ground—holstered or otherwise—in this taped statement. He also said nothing about another object on the ground, and the detective did not ask about that either. This too is amazing. Either Det. Kyger didn’t bother to read David’s written statement, or like the other detectives, had no interest in a complete investigation.
The Shotgun And The Disappearing Gun and Holster:
Robert Connolly was interviewed by Detectives Jensen and Calos on 07-29-10. He made no written statement. Connolly believe Mosher “tapped” Scott on the shoulder and Scott half turned toward Mosher. He believed Scott tried to hand a holstered gun to Mosher, who immediately shot Scott. He also believed one of the officers that shot Scott had a shotgun, but apparently didn’t fire it. He didn’t hear anything that was said, and thought the confrontation took ten seconds.
This is a particularly interesting exchange:
Q: Did you, prior to leaving, did you see anything on the ground by the, behind the guy?
A: No, no, no no, I didn’t. No. I just saw him.
Q: Did you know what happened to, ah, to the gun that he had that we was pulling out?
A: No, I don’t. No, I don’t.
Remember that Off. Mosher had no idea whether he touched Scott prior to shooting him, and had no idea where Scott’s hands were, yet claimed Scott was pointing a holstered gun at him, not trying to hand it to him. The confrontation took only a bit more than two seconds, and there was an officer with a shotgun there (Dustin Bundy, Update 14.2), but not until some minutes after Scott was already shot and down. Again, even 19 days after the shooting, detectives still had no interest in constructing competent time frames.
Some 19 days after the shooting, Metro had long solidified its narrative, yet the only witness to describe Scott trying to hand a holstered gun to Mosher lost track of that gun and holster seconds later, and again, the detectives did not ask logical follow up questions.
Changing The Subject And The Time Frame:
Christine Dye was interviewed by Detectives Jensen and Calos on 08-25-10. She contacted Metro to take her statement. This statement is remarkable for the constant interruptions made by the detectives. Dye could barely get a complete sentence out. Consider this exchange:
Q: So you can see the front of him [Scott]?
Q: Alright. And then you…
A: What I notice is in the face of the officer yelling at him, he looked bewildered to me, but he’s doing this, and pulling, all I saw was something dark here. It was a…
Q: I want to clarify, because…
Q: …the tape doesn’t see what you’re doing. You, you got your hands at your waistband.
A: At my waist like at a pocket, or…
A: …or waistband.
Q: Okay. And…
A: Ah, yeah.
Q: Do you see him pull anything from his waistband?
A: Yeah. Well yeah. He is.
A: He’s pulling. It was at that point that Mike, um…
Q: And Mike is your husband?
Notice that Dye is barely getting in a word edgewise. Competent investigators want people to speak as much as possible and ask questions that encourage and allow that. Immediately after this exchange, the detectives changed the line of questioning and did not ask questions such as “What was he pulling? Did you see it? What did he do with it?” Or even, “did you see a gun?” It seems the more obvious and necessary the follow up or clarifying question, the less likely it is Metro detectives will ask it.
The detectives did return—many pages later—to whether Scott pulled anything from his waistband, and even seemed about to ask about seeing a gun on the ground, but again as soon as Dye appeared to answer, dropped that line of questioning:
Q: I’d asked you about his hands being up, if, if you saw him, did you actually physically see him pull an object from his waistband, or did you…
A: Yes. Yes.
Q: …get down___(both talking)?
A: No. I saw an object. I just, I don’t know what it was.
Q: Okay. Alright. And then, now you didn’t go back over there to see, ah, Erik, to see him laying on the ground, or anything like that? Did you see a, I mean a…
A: I saw his legs…
Q: You saw his legs.
A: …in, in, ah, blue, light blue denim jeans.
Q: Okay. Did you hear anymore yelling at that point?
And again, the line of questioning was dropped entirely. No questions about guns, drawn or on the ground. After the detectives said they had no additional questions for her, Dye spoke of her difficulties finding officers to take her statement and added this:
A: …but I went with him [her husband] back to Costco, and, um, we had trouble finding like making connections with who we needed to see, and, um, so we’re walking like by this area with ___(inaudible_ following a sergeant or somebody, and, um, I just, it wa—you know, noticed like a cart that somebody had been, it was all there, and I saw, you know, a gun laying on the ground.
Q: Okay. At…
Q: …at, that that was hours after the…
A: It was. It was, um, that happened like one something, and this was probably three, so probably two hours.
A: Um, and yeah. Okay.
And yet again, the detectives immediately changed the topic and showed no interest whatever in following up, leaving Dye having seen some sort of gun somewhere on the ground several hours after the shooting.
Keep in mind I am not calling those giving statements to Metro liars. I have no doubt that many, particularly those who actually called Metro and more or less demanded to be interviewed had the best and most noble motivations. I have no specific evidence that any of them were engaging in lies, nor have I implied such. The point is that the police must be competent enough, and honest enough, to know the many factors that can cause witnesses to be wrong–sometimes badly wrong–about matters small and great. Only by professionally and accurately comparing witness statements with independent evidence can their statements be properly considered.
The statements excerpted in this update are representative of Metro’s strongest witnesses, the witnesses that put a gun—in at least some way—in Erik Scott’s hand at the Costco, and who saw at least something they identified as possibly a gun on the ground near his body. In the case of Ronald Montgomery, Metro’s strongest witness in terms of his surety of seeing a gun. Yet even their statements don’t well support each other, and Dye only saw an unidentified gun on the ground several hours after the shooting.
What is bizarre indeed is the reluctance of virtually every detective involved in the investigation to ask the most elementary and initial questions, as well as follow up questions, where any supposed gun handling on the part of Scott is concerned. In fact, as the excerpts demonstrate, whenever a gun came up, they changed the subject, when they weren’t talking over and obstructing the witness.
To competent investigators, this is dumbfounding. In a crime where a shooting was involved, particularly if that shooting was done by not one but three officers, any competent interview would include exhaustive questioning about precisely how a gun was involved, what kind of gun it was, and where it ended up, yet these detectives seem determined to avoid the subject. Why?
There are several logical reasons. For those witnesses interviewed the same day as the shooting—07-10-2010—detectives may not have solidified the narrative. Most were interviewed hours before the Ruger was found in and taken from Scott’s home. While the rough outlines of the narrative were already in place, until they could be certain about the Ruger and its place in the narrative, they dared not ask questions about Scott’s gun, and when anyone brought up the topic, changed the topic. Therefore, basic questions any competent cop would ask as a means of nothing more than being sure all bases were covered were carefully omitted. No doubt, the “my recorder is broken” trick also helped sanitize transcripts.
But what about interviews done weeks, even months later? Wouldn’t the narrative have been solidified? It would indeed, however, since there was little or nothing gathered in the early interviews, it would be dangerous to pursue details later lest inconsistencies start cropping up, as they surely would. In addition, it would be dangerous indeed to start asking for details about guns no one had actually seen. What happens when they start describing all kinds of guns rather than the gun—or guns—specified by the narrative. It was likely for this reason that the EMT-Thorpe—who supposedly found Scott’s damaged Ruger in his pocket in the ambulance (but wrote and said nothing about damage) was, during the Inquest, carefully not asked to identify the gun he “found.” Even those witnesses who believed they saw a gun in Scott’s hand or on the ground near him at some undefined point in time were remarkably vague in describing that gun, vague to the point that any competent investigator would surely be suspicious.
Unless, of course, the narrative required a lack of suspicion.
I hope to see you next Monday for Update 20.3, which will explore witnesses who are far less supportive of Metro’s narrative, despite being handpicked by Metro.