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Wrongful death trial against LCPD concludes

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Apr 11 2013 10:03:16 PM CDT
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

A $14 million lawsuit against Las Cruces police is now in the hands of a federal judge.

On Thursday, testimony concluded in the wrongful death lawsuit for the shooting death of Lance Hummell.

For three days, counsel presented testimony and evidence concerning the 2010 death of Hummell.

His family alleges police went too far when they shot him four times, killing him. But a law enforcement expert said the shooting was justified.

Jack Ryan testified, "You're going to respond to lethal force with lethal force. Remember, the subject gets out and pulls out a weapon. That's step one. The second piece is moving toward the officers. A four-foot sword is a very dangerous weapon."

In July 2010, police said they responded to reports of an "irate man" threatening people in an apartment complex with a sword.

When officers arrived, police said Hummell got out of a car and pulled a samurai sword on them.

The family's attorney, James Lyle, said Hummell was far enough away that officers could have given him more time to back down.

Witnesses testified they heard officers shout, "Don't move," and seconds later they heard gunshots.

Officer Horacio Rivera shot Hummell four times with an AR-15 rifle.

The defense argued that officers did plenty to diffuse the situation, starting with the fact that they were in uniform and wielding their guns.

The defense said the officers gave Hummell warnings, but his approach with the sword warranted a lethal response.

The defense also brought up the fact that Hummell was suicidal at the time. They showed a text message he sent to his girlfriend at the time saying, "Guess it will have to be death by police."

Lyle argued that even if Hummell was suicidal, police did not do enough to get him to back down.

"Lance was obviously upset, but he deserved a chance and never got one. Those facts are undisputed. No one in this courtroom has said officers gave him a chance to respond," Lyle said.

After closing arguments, the judge said he would have a verdict "as soon as possible." That decision could take days, weeks or even months.

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