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Inadequate Security at Las Vegas Apartment Leads to 19-Year-Old Boy’s Death

A mother lost her only son when he was killed by a shotgun blast outside their Las Vegas apartment. The owners of the complex had failed to provide adequate security, despite dozens of police responses to complaints of prostitution, drug dealing, and other crimes there, and the repeated warnings of tenants and on-site employees that someone was going to get hurt.

The 19-year-old boy who was killed shared an apartment with his 40-year-old mother in a 190-unit apartment complex located in downtown Las Vegas. As the son left their apartment, another tenant of the complex fired a single shotgun blast into the boy¹s torso. Death was almost immediate. The shooter pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence in the Nevada State Penitentiary.

The mother developed post-traumatic stress syndrome and severe depression, stemming in part from having arrived at the murder scene within minutes of the shooting to find her son bleeding to death.

The mother filed suit against the owners of the apartment complex, alleging inadequate security and wrongful death and asking for compensatory and punitive damages.

In the six months prior to the unprovoked murder, there had been 86 police runs to the apartment complex, which was a haven for dope dealers, gang members, and prostitutes. The parking lot where the shooting took place was a hangout for dope dealers, who openly sold “crack” cocaine and “speed.”

The owners had hired two security guards to patrol the apartment complex. One guard had been living at a homeless shelter when he was hired. The evidence was that he sold illegal drugs when he was on duty as a security guard for the apartment complex. The other was a convicted felon who was on probation. Several tenants testified that the guards virtually never patrolled the complex in the months prior to the shooting and that drugs were dealt openly on the property.

A former head of housekeeping for the complex testified that, on learning that the murderer was living at the complex, she had told the resident manager that the man had assaulted her with a butcher knife prior to moving there. She also told the resident manager that the murderer carried guns and knives, had fantasies about killing someone, and bragged about killing people.

A former employee of the complex testified that she had told her supervisor that the murderer would be a danger to everyone and would hurt someone if he was allowed to live there. Three weeks prior to the shooting, the same employee advised the resident manager that the murderer told her that he kept a loaded shotgun under his bed, rigged “to blow someone’s head off.” The resident manager ignored her warnings and instructed her not to clean the murderer’s room.

The apartment complex’s general manager had advised the owners that the parking lot area was dangerous. The manager requested closed-circuit television to monitor the area, but the owners refused due to the cost involved. The owners admitted that only one of the 30 properties they owned had closed-circuit television, and that system was installed in the parking area of the building in Los Angeles where the owners maintained their business offices and parked their personal vehicles.

The owners also admitted that, in the months prior to the shooting, they knew that their manager had been assaulted at the complex, and that daily cash receipts were stolen from him. Rather than provide additional security for tenants and employees, the owners hired an armored car to pick up and protect their daily cash receipts.

A criminologist testified that the violence was foreseeable and predictable, and that the murderer should have been removed from the apartment complex before the shooting occurred. Had that been done, the son would not have been murdered.

At the end of the eight-day trial, the jury found in favor of the mother, awarding $10 million in compensatory damages for her son’s wrongful death and $2.6 in punitive damages to punish the owners for their outrageous conduct.

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