Criminal Justice

Shot by police in traffic stop, lawyer runs for DA; his felony trial and election are a week apart

Shot three times by Las Vegas police during a 2009 traffic stop, a Nevada lawyer filed Friday to run for election against the Clark County district attorney in charge of prosecuting a felony case that resulted from the incident.

Raymond James “Jim” Duensing, who is a Libertarian, had previously run unsuccessfully for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, notes the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

He was pulled over on Oct. 29, 2009 for proceeding straight through an intersection via a right-turn-only lane. What happened next is disputed.

Asked to exit his vehicle because a records check showed an arrest warrant, Duensing was first hit with a voltage from an electronic stun gun then struck by three law enforcement bullets after he reached for .45-caliber handgun in his right pocket, as well as a folding knife, police said. The shooting was determined to be justified in 2010 by a panel of police and civilians, the newspaper recounts.

The attorney says he never reached for a weapon and contends that the police officer who stopped him should have been the one to be prosecuted. Instead, Duensing is scheduled for trial Oct. 28 on three felony charges resulting from the incident: unlawful possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and resisting a police officer. If convicted on all charges, he could get as much as 12 years in prison. The election is scheduled about a week later.

As far as his election campaign is concerned, Duensing admits he has little funding but says he believes a grass-roots campaign could be effective.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the way the office is being run,” specifically the handling of officer-involved shootings, he told the Review-Journal.

Duensing, whose practice focuses on traffic tickets, plans to take the emphasis off of “revenue enhancement” misdemeanor prosecutions if he is elected and focus prosecutorial resources on more serious crimes.

As the website for his campaign puts it, “If you drink a beer on Fremont Street, I will not have the resources available to prosecute you. I am willing to let jaywalkers, seat-belt offenders, motorcyclists without helmets, and a host of other non-violent people go free because it will allow me to try every violent offender in front of a fully informed jury of their peers. Victims of violent crime will have justice and their rights respected. ”

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson declined to comment on Duensing and his campaign when contacted by the newspaper. It isn’t clear whether his office will continue to prosecute Duensing, given the apparent conflict of interest that may now exist.

See also:

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nov. 2009): “Shooting accounts conflict”

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