Family sues Vancouver police for $11.5M, alleges wrongful death

Iraq War vet was killed during 2010 altercation

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Wrongful death lawsuit

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The parents of an Iraq War veteran killed nearly three years ago during an altercation with police have filed an $11.5 million lawsuit against the Vancouver Police Department, saying their son had tried to cooperate with officers before they shot him.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday says officers fired more than 13 rounds at Nikkolas Lookabill, 22, striking him nine times as he lay immobile in the street during the early morning of Sept. 7, 2010.

Officers didn’t correctly assess the situation when they confronted Lookabill as he headed south on Fruit Valley Road following an argument with his girlfriend, the suit alleges, nor were they properly trained to handle a mentally ill war veteran.

Officers stopped Lookabill following reports that he was barking like a dog and making other noises as he walked down the street. A pedestrian told police that Lookabill had flashed a gun at him and two friends, but also told them he posed no danger.

Lookabill, who’d previously served in the National Guard, was registered to carry a concealed weapon, the suit says. He suffered from a “treatable form” of post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental illness that officers knew about based on prior interactions with the man.

Police arrived and ordered Lookabill to lie face down on the ground, where he remained for more than half an hour. When officers asked him about his weapon, the suit says Lookabill told them he had a gun under his stomach and pleaded with them to take it.

When police didn’t take the gun, Lookabill became visibly distraught, threatening to bang his head against the ground and starting a countdown. Officers fired on Lookabill twice, the suit says.

Following the incident, police reported Lookabill had consumed several cans of a caffeinated malt liquor called Four Loko, which may have contributed to his erratic behavior.

Police also said they ordered Lookabill to drop his weapon prior to firing at him, but he refused.

The Vancouver City Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request to comment on the lawsuit.

The suit alleges the three officers involved in the shooting were negligent. Sgt. John Schultz, along with Officers Franklin Gomez and Gerardo Gutierrez, are named in the suit. All three were placed on administrative leave following the incident.

Internal reviews by the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office and police department determined all three officers were justified in using deadly force because the officers were in imminent danger.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com