The parents of 18-year-old Sparks man Miciah Lee have filed a lawsuit against the City of Sparks and four Sparks Police officers, who were involved in killing Lee on Jan. 5.
On that day, at 5:48 p.m., a 911 call was received by Sparks Police emergency dispatch from Susan Clopp, Miciah Lee’s mother. She can be heard informing the dispatcher that her son was suicidal and intent upon death by either suicide or “cop.”
At the time, she said, Lee was armed with a handgun and parked in a silver Pontiac near Chuck’s Boulevard Pizza, a restaurant on Rock Boulevard in Sparks. Clopp told the dispatcher she and her two other sons were attempting to block Lee’s car with their bodies, so he wouldn’t leave.
During the 911 call, Clopp said she worried Lee would run them over in his attempt to flee. Clopp also said Lee was mentally unstable and had a history of drug use. Shortly thereafter, Lee pushed past his family and left the area in the Pontiac.
Sparks police officers pursued Lee. Eventually the car chase upon which he led them ended in Lee wrecking his vehicle. Police then moved in on his disabled car, ordered him out of it, released a police dog on him and shot him when one officer on scene shouted that Lee was reaching for a firearm. The firearm was later determined to be unloaded.
In June, the Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks determined that the officers had been justified under Nevada law in their use of deadly force–a decision that has been criticized by community members, including Black Lives Matter supporters. Lee’s name has been chanted at protests. His death has been referenced by community members making public comment in favor of police reform in front of governmental bodies ranging from the Sparks City Council to the Nevada Legislature.
Lee’s mother, Susan Clopp, and his father, Paris Fridge, allege in the suit—which seeks both compensatory and punitive damages—that the officers involved in Lee’s death had time to assess the situation and peacefully resolve it, and that they were trained to do “precisely the wrong thing.”
Clopp and Fridge are being represented by Reno attorney Terri Keyser-Cooper and Las Vegas attorney Peter Goldstein.
The suit filed on Thursday alleges that if “officers had been properly trained in the fundamental principles of maintaining a covered position to calmly communicate with an armed emotionally disabled person rather than hysterically screaming commands, loudly cursing, sadistically using an attack dog, and cruelly rushing the teenager, with lights flashing and sirens blaring, this incident would not have happened.”
The suit alleges that the actions taken by the officers were “preordained to result not in a safe and peaceful self-surrender, but in the inevitable death of the mentally ill teenager.”
The officers named in the suit include the two who fired their weapons, killing Lee—officers Eric DeJesus and Ryan Patterson. In addition to the city, two other officers are named in the suit—James Hammerstone and James Ahdunko.
Listed also as plaintiffs are DOES 1-10. What this means is that as the case moves for the discovery phase—Fridge and Clopp’s attorneys may or may not name additional defendants.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.