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On Your Side: Sparks woman files $2 million lawsuit after police shooting

On Your Side: $2 million lawsuit filed in police shooting
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Reno, Nev. ( & KRNV)
It's been two years since an officer involved shooting in Sparks which killed one woman and injured another.

But News 4 has learned this case is far from over. A federal lawsuit has been filed aganst the city of Sparks seeking millions of dollars in damages.

The case dates back to October of 2013. A quiet street in Sparks quickly turned chaotic as Monica Ritchey was reported to be waving a gun and threatening to kill herself in her front yard on Woodhaven Lane.

Ritchey's daughter, Darcie Latham, called police and she was on the phone with 9-1-1 as officers arrived on the scene.

News 4 obtained a copy of that 9-1-1 call. Here's what the operator told Darcie:

"I need you to get out of the line of fire, okay?"
Darcie replied, "I'm going across the street."

Darcie walked across to the West side of the street to get out of the way, as she was told to do. What happened next is both baffling and tragic. Darcie was shot by a police officer's bullet while standing there on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator.

Officers immediately called for help, according to the audio recordings from the dispatch center.

"Sparks, get medics," The responding officer ordered. "He shot one and she's down."

Darcie latham's attorney, Rich Salvatore says officers had no reason to shoot his client.

"There's no question police made a mistake," Salvatore said.

Latham, who was not armed, was shot once in the hip but survived. Moments later her mother, who was armed and suicidal, was shot and killed by police. Both shootings were ruled justifiable after a lengthy
investigation by the Reno Police Deparment.

But the reason Darcie was shot, according to a police transcript obtained by News 4 as part of our investigation, appears to be that the responding officers were confused about directions and what was happening at the time.

That transcript indicates officer Chad Mowbray says he was told over the police radio by his sergeant on the scene to "Take the shot" as he approached Darcie who again was standing on the West side of the street,

Here's how the conversation played out that day between the officers in the moments before Darcie was shot.

Officer Mowbray: "Yeah, got her on the West side."

"Affirm," Mowbray was told by his fellow officer. "Take the shot. She just pointed the gun at us."

Mowbray fired and hit Darcie. But the woman with the gun, Darcie's mom, was in her front yard on the East side of the street.

"They were not seeing the same thing at the same time," Salvatore claims.

One officer as we have documented said "take the shot."

"And the other one responded and did," Salvatore added.

Again both shootings were determined to be justified by the Washoe County District Attorney because the officers felt their lives could have been in danger. The officers claim it was impossible to tell whether Darcie was carrying a phone or possibly armed with a gun herself.

"These types of events are dynamic and ever changing." pointed out Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen at the time.
But Allen provided only brief comments on the investigation when it concluded and he's declined to answer questions about the case ever since, citing legal concerns. In cases like this that makes it difficult for the public to know what really happened.

Salvatore says his client will need lifelong care to cope with her neurological injuries from being shot. He has now filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Sparks seeking more than two million dollars in damages.

"She's a young lady, she's got her life ahead of her, and she will have to deal with these problems for the rest of her life," Salvatore said.

No one at the city of sparks would go on camera for this story. But in july the council approved a $300,000 payment to travelers insurance to settle the case. That $300,000 puts a cap on the city's and taxpayer's liability.

It will not however, erase the questions many have about the shooting of Darcie Latham.
While the official record lists it as "justifiable," others say it could have and should have been avoided.

As attorney Salvaore puts it, "They failed to identify the perpetrator of the crime. The person with the gun."

As part of our investigation News 4 asked Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen if his department has adopted any changes in training or safety procedures since this shooting happened. Allen told us he can't comment on that because of the ongoing legal case.

He says his department has been as transparent as possible regarding this investigation, but, he says there are limits as to what they can discuss until this case is settled once and for all.
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