A federal appeals court recently ruled in favor of a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer — currently serving with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office — who faced a suit stemming from a 2009 fatal shooting of a teenager.

In September 2009, Derek Colling shot and killed 15-year-old Tanner Chamberlain in Las Vegas.

According to court documents, police were dispatched to the site after being told a bipolar teenager was threatening his mother with a knife. Chamberlain’s mother, Evie Oquendo, later testified she and her son were involved in a physical altercation and he took 10 anti-anxiety medication pills.

When officers arrived, Chamberlain, who had a folding knife in his hand, pulled his mother in front of him, documents state; the officers and Evie Oquendo disagree on the positioning of the knife relative to her head and neck. Chamberlain did not verbally respond to commands to drop the knife and backed away, still holding onto Evie Oquendo, and Colling shot him in the head, killing him.

The shooting took place within one minute of officers arriving at the site.

A coroner’s jury later ruled the shooting was justified, according to an article in the Las Vegas Sun.

In 2011, Evie Oquendo filed a suit in federal court against Colling and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. In 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada dismissed several of the suit’s claims, including negligence and unreasonable seizure claims, but found in her favor on claims of excessive force, municipal liability and wrongful death.

The police department appealed, and in a decision filed in August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling, arguing Colling did not violate any clearly established law and had reasonable cause to believe Chamberlain was an immediate threat to Evie Oquendo.

“Indeed, our precedent indicates that it is reasonable for an officer to use deadly force to stop someone who the officer reasonably believes poses a threat of serious physical harm to others,” the appellate court decision states.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department declined Friday to comment on the decision.

Evie Oquendo said she was concerned about inconsistencies in Colling’s testimony, particularly in his voluntary police statement, in which he said Chamberlain held the knife “at” Evie Oquendo’s throat; when shown frames of the shooting video during his deposition he stated the knife was “near” her throat.

“I really am concerned to know that this can happen again … that is my main concern,” she said.

Suzanne Oquendo, Chamberlain’s aunt and a retired New York City Police Department officer, said she was surprised to learn Colling found work in law enforcement after his dismissal from the Las Vegas department.

“We’re just concerned,” she said. “We didn’t want to see him have the chance to do that to somebody else.”

According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Chamberlain’s death marked Colling’s second fatal shooting; in 2006, he was one of five officers to shoot and kill Shawn Jacob Collins, 43, after the man pulled a gun at a gas station.

Colling was dismissed from the Las Vegas department in 2011 following accusations he beat a videographer, Mitchell Crooks, who was recording footage of police investigating a burglary. He was later hired at the Albany County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy.

Albany County Sheriff Dave O’Malley said he fully supports Colling, whom he describes as a professional officer highly respected by his peers and law enforcement agencies in the county. Colling hasn’t been subject to any disciplinary action since joining the office, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office conducts an extensive background investigation before placing deputies, O’Malley said, adding Colling’s supervisors and coworkers in Las Vegas considered him a “top-notch” law enforcement officer.

“He’s a fine officer,” O’Malley said. “I’m glad that I have him here. I support him completely and his future in law enforcement.”

Colling currently serves as a custody control instructor, a firearms instructor, and a member of the special response team, O’Malley said. He was the first deputy to graduate from the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy with top honors in every area.

While Colling hasn’t yet been in a situation to test for advancement, if he does and comes out in a position for promotion, O’Malley said he would promote him “in a heartbeat.”

O’Malley acknowledged that a life was lost in the 2009 incident, a difficult situation for people on both sides.

But officers don’t go out looking for trouble, he said — trouble tends to find them.

“I don’t know any law enforcement officers who get up every morning and put on a uniform and think, ‘Well, I’m going to go out and shoot somebody today,’” he said. “But all of us that put on the uniform have to realize that those can happen. And in those situations you do the best that you can under the circumstances to protect your life, the lives of other citizens, and that type of thing.”

(15) comments

packerpoke

Why did they hire him, We do not look good in this,

justice denied

As a retired law enforcement person I agree with Chief O'Malley that the primary reason you become a police officer is to protect and serve the public. However; as in any profession, there are people who really don't belong there for a variety of valid reasons. On the date of this occurence; there were at least 2 CIT (crisis intervention trained ) officers present who were never given the chance to used their training and expertise to establish a dialog and de-escalate the situation to a more peaceful resolution due to the fact that Derek Colling waved them off and shot 15 year old Tanner Chamberlain within 10 SECONDS after arriving at the scene as the Las Vegas Metro Police taser video showed. I'm sure any parent of a hormonal, bipolar or mentally ill child would want to see the other training modalities attempted before resorting to a shooting outcome. Laramie is a family and college town with many precious lives to preserve. This type of tragedy should never have to be experienced by any parent. For all the other hardworking men and women of the Laramie Police Department this is said with due respect.

concerned mom

The article fails to mention they have possession of a "10 second video" which the reporter and editor have viewed, and which found "very difficult" to watch the shooting death of Tanner Chamberlain with his mom who was positioned directly in front of him. They also failed to mention legal documented testimony from a Senior Crisis Intervention Officer & Acting Sergeant during the incident on 9/29/09; the officer testifies that he yells to the other officers "Let me talk to him," and then he says to the teen "Let me talk to you. Let me talk to you.", Tanner turned left to face him and Derek Colling shoots Tanner in the head as he is about to comply with commands!
The video CLEARLY shows no knife near her throat and you can barely see the handle of the knife which is behind her head and the mother is holding on to the arm of her son. The mom is trying to protect her son; and under 3 legal documents provided to the Laramie Boomerang, Derek Coling is quoted " I heard the mother yelling "Don't shoot him!" Don't shoot him!" the WHOLE 10 seconds until he took the shot!" The mother also never called 911 and it was a 3rd party call and she was expecting an ambulance to arrive! The article also fails to mention the documented testimony they possess that Derek Colling drew his weapon upon visual contact of Tanner and his mom when he saw the teen had a knife in his hand. The boy was sitting on stairs and mom had back to officers; when boy saw Derek Colling with a gun aimed at him, he jumped up and placed his mom in front of him out of fear and to avoid being shot! Testimony shows that Derek Colling kept advancing towards mom & son with gun aimed at them and "knowing" a shot to the head would "kill him."
The officer escalated a situation that could have been De-Escalated by the senior CIT officer at the scene who was quoted as saying "Let me talk to him!" Had Derek Colling deferred to the CiT officer (which is LVMPD protocol) and had given him the chance to talk to the boy who had turned to face him, a peaceful resolution may have transpired.
Mom is grateful that article is printed and understands they could not print all details in a limited space allowed. She appreciates they express her deep concern for residents of Laramie and Albany County, however, feels video should be RELEASED to media to really be able to se the "horrific truth" of that day! She still bears the pain, heartbreak, and memory of that day; especially at this time of the year as the 6th anniversary of her only child approaches on 9/29.

John Parker

@concerned mom- your points are irrelevant to the Use of Deadly force, and contain certaintudes that have no certainty. As a trained CIT individual myself, counseling/talking a subject down, when it's clearly a deadly force situation is not taught, encouraged, and just plain stupid. Officer Colling shot at the center of mass of the available target, that happened to be the subject's head. One shoots to stop, not wound. Under the 4th Amendment - Graham vs. Connor, it speaks to Tense, Uncertain, and Rapidly Evolving situations; this was most certainly one of them. Action beats reaction. Every. Single. Time. Don't want to get shot? Don't hold a knife to your Mom's neck at the same time you're using her as a human shield. The video is not tightly held, a simple 5 second Google search shows it. It's not that difficult.

@ Justice Denied- I HIGHLY doubt you are retired LEO, or even ever were one. "Modalities", uh huh, right. If you were LEO you'd be well versed in the Use of Force as well as Deadly Force under both Graham and Tenn. vs. Garner. You would also know that 10 seconds in a fight is an eternity. Colling made the right decision at the right time with the appropriate, and lawful use of force.

Out of Darkness

"Colling was dismissed from the Las Vegas department in 2011 following accusations he beat a videographer, Mitchell Crooks, who was recording footage of police investigating a burglary."

First Colling shoots a youth. Then he is dismissed because he beat a videographer. Hmmm. What's the common thread here? Violence. That doesn't sound particularly comforting to have on Laramie's payroll.

John Parker

@out of darkness, I guess you fail at reading comprehension. Colling wasn't fired for beating the videographer (it wasn't a beating either, but a lawful arrest upon a physically resistive subject), but for violating administrative policies.

BEP

This officer is a “loose cannon.” He has a history of violence including two shootings and at least one beating (I saw that recording). As a retired LEO from a large metropolitan police department, I am familiar with protocols for situations requiring negotiations. These negotiators are well trained in defusing delicate situations and take the lead when their presence is required.

I understand there was a Crisis Intervention Team present. However, this officer arrived at the scene, and without knowing the conditions, circumvented the authority of the negotiator and use deadly physical force in a matter of seconds. This is nothing short of an outrage. This person should not be should not be in law enforcement. This individual should be denied employment in any police department due to his for his excessive violent tendencies, for failure to follow proper department protocol regarding weapons discharge, and for not following the chain of command.

adroit1

Thank you, BEP. You have to understand - Mr. Parker is an advocate for violence. But not for peaceful protests.

Timmy106

This county should be ashamed! I do not understand how a man such as Colling's would ever be allowed to not only wear a police badge but carry a gun. I am baffled with this decision and hope that after my comments the county takes a real good look into this monster Colling's.

Knowing that he has two shootings on his record one of which was a 15 year old boy. I knew this wonderful young man Tanner Chamberlain, he was a bright articulate kid who had an amazing future ahead of him and that light was turned off with 15 seconds of Colling's arriving at the scene.

I am not familiar with the protocol of a crisis situation but I do know that shooting someone within 10 seconds of arriving at the scene is not the right procedure.

The fact that you can hire such a man to patrol a college town is a mystery to me. It is obvious that this man has a very short fuse and the only way he can justify his anger is by pulling a trigger and then hiding behind his badge.

I can honestly say that I am concern for the citizens of this county. If I was a parent I would not send my child to go to college here in the fear that another situation like this could happen again. I hope that the people of this county read these comments and demand the legislators of this county to have this man fired.

It is only a matter of time before Colling's loses his temper again and takes it out using his gun. I fear for the day that another parent or family of your county has to experience the anguish of Tanner Chamberlain's family.

I do want to make it known that I live in a large city with 9 million people and I plan on sharing this article with as many people as I can. The world needs to know who this man is and he needs to be stopped before one of you in Albany county have to bury a love one.

Tara

I cannot believe this guy has been hired as a law enforcement officer. 2 shootings and a beating! This guy is a loose cannon and I can only pray no other parent/ loved one has to go through what Evie and her family and loved ones had to go through. I support law enforcement but I have seen the video and believe if Colling had not been there Tanner would be alive today.

Blinks

For the last 6 years it has been very difficult for me to get my head around this man was set free. From the first day Evie pressed charges against police officer Derek Colling there should have been no question that Derek Colling was guilty of murder and the court should have held Derek accountable for the murder of Tanner Chamberlain; a 15 year old boy that had a disorder and the only thing that should have taken place that day was a trained specialist trying to help him, not a trigger happy officer that felt the need to fire one bullet straight to the head when all the other officers that had arrived at scene felt it unnecessary to use their guns. Derek pulled out his gun with the intent to kill and he needs to pay the price. This man should never have been set free never mind given a job in law enforcement. If I lived in your county I would petition to get him off the force, this is not a man you want protecting your children or anyone for that matter.

Matthew Brammer

I can't believe this is still an issue, thanks first to a couple of local anti-LEO, wanna-be Facebook journalists in Laramie (they know exactly who they are) and now a bunch of people from Nevada that are overly concerned about something that's not their problem or business anymore.

Here are the facts:

1. Derek was cleared by a coroner's jury.
2. Half the Federal lawsuit was tossed by the initial court.
3. The rest of the lawsuit was tossed by another [the appeals] court.
4. The LVPD cleared him and, contrary to the spin put on it by Derek's detractors, did not terminate him because of the shooting [at least directly].
5. Derek came to the ACSD with the approval and recommendation of his peers.
6. Derek has proven himself a superior and capable LEO through service, training, etc., as reflected in his honors, scores, and assessments.
7. Derek has had zero disciplinary issues since he has been here.
8. I have heard of no citizen complaints against him.
9. O'Malley is not a stupid guy. There's a reason he continues to be our sheriff.

So, how about you fine folks from LV leave WY stuff to WY, and focus on your own city....there's plenty there to focus on.

The court of public opinion is a cruel place....but thankfully, none of you were a judge, supervisor, or jury member privy to all the details and/or directly involved in any of these decisions.

concerned mom

Here are the facts & newspaper has the legal docs to prove them!
Derek Colling perjured himself at the coroners inquest! Said knife was at center of throat when he shot! Look at images to verify him on witness stand.
Deposition he states near the neck area !
Senior CIT officer depo states he yelled to officers to let him talk to boy & said to boy let me talk to you! As teen turned to face Acting Seargent... Derek Colling shot him in the head with mother 2 inches away from him. This is quote from Colling deposition.
Get your facts straight!!! Are you Derek's puppet!
6 years ago today, Tanner's mom buried her son!!!
Lvmpd could not fire him for excessive force because of the lawsuit & judge ruling in mom's favor! That would be admitting guilt. You don't pay Mitchell Crooks 100,00$ for violating police procedures!
RIP Tanner Chamberlain

Justice

SHERIFF OMALLEY WILL HAVE BLOOD ON HIS HANDS WHEN COLLING KILLS ONE OF ALBANYS CITIZENS
He has killed 2 already it's not a far stretch there will be a 3rd

concerned parent

I find it deeply disturbing that Derek Colling made a 10 second decision to shoot a 15 year old mentally ill boy in the head. CIT were at the scene, give them a chance to do what they are trained for. He made a terrible decision that ended in tragedy. Where I come from the police shoot to stop not to kill.

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