News Companies Sue Murdered Cop's Widow

Two publications are suing the widow of a Las Vegas officer who was murdered during the shooting on Oct. 1, 2017.

Las Vegas, NV – The Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal are both suing the widow of a police officer who was killed during the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.

The battle began when the Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal jointly sued to have all of the shooting victims’ autopsy reports released in January of 2018, according to KLAS.

Clark County District Court judge Timothy Williams ordered the Clark County Coroner’s Office to release 58 redacted autopsy reports on Jan. 31, the Press Freedom Tracker reported.

Veronica Hartfield, the widow of Las Vegas Metro Police Officer Charleston Hartfield, who was off-duty when he was fatally shot during the gunman’s shooting spree from the Mandalay Bay resort, sued the publications to keep her husband’s autopsy report from being released, KLAS reported.

Fifty-eight people were murdered, another 851 were injured in Las Vegas during the deadliest mass shooting committed on American soil.

On Feb. 9, a judge ordered the Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal to return copies of the redacted autopsy report, and barred both publications from reporting further on the murdered officers’ autopsy, the Associated Press reported.

Officer Hartfield’s widow argued that the autopsy records were confidential and contained protected health information, according to the Associated Press.

"All she ever wanted to do was say when is enough enough? Relative to the heartache that has to be levied on her whenever she reads an article. Every time they want to do something, do they really need the autopsy report?" said attorney Tony Sgro said, who represented Veronica Hartfield.

Sgro said the publications did not need the information, and argued it went past the limit of the First Amendment, KLAS reported.

But Maggie McLetchie, attorney for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, claimed the judge’s order was unconstitutional and argued that other media outlets had not been banned from using the autopsy report.

In fact, the Huffington Post published summaries of all 58 autopsy reports on Feb. 15, the Press Freedom Tracker reported.

The judge’s order presented a logistical problem for the Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal because, as the autopsy reports had been redacted prior to their release, the publications couldn’t tell which one was Officer Hartfield’s autopsy. As a result, they were effectively banned from publishing any of them.

KLAS reported that the court eventually sided with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Associated Press, and allowed them to publish the fallen hero’s autopsy.

“While we are deeply sympathetic to the decedent’s family’s privacy concerns, the First Amendment does not permit a court to enjoin the press from reporting on a redacted autopsy report already in the public domain,” the Nevada Supreme Court said.

Clark County District Judge Michelle Leavitt dismissed Veronica Hartfield’s lawsuit on May 14 and said the suit couldn’t go forward because the Nevada Supreme Court had already declared the autopsy reports to be public record, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“It would undermine both the free speech rights of the media and the important democratic principles underpinning the Nevada Public Records Act if the media could be sued for successfully suing to get access to records and reporting on public records,” the newspaper’s attorney said.

McLetchie filed a lawsuit against Verona Hartfield seeking $60,000 in legal fees, claiming that the court’s ruling allowed her to hold the widow’s attorney responsible for the publications’ costs.

"Everybody's heart goes out to Mrs. Hartfield and her family. Nobody wants to undermine the pain she is suffering. That doesn't mean though that her lawsuit can go forward, and it's an attorney's obligation to explain to a client, look what you're trying to do is illegal," McLetchie said, according to KLAS.

The case will now go to the Nevada Supreme Court, according to KLAS.

Comments (46)
No. 1-46
Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

Wonder if it was friendly fire.

JBo
JBo

And the media wonders why they have a bad image...

LEO0301
LEO0301

@Burgers Allday - another intellectual comment I see. I have no idea why you are so hated on this site when the remarks you make are so well thought out.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

@LEO0301: I am surprised that you are not curious about the question of friendly fire. It is an important issue to explore, especially in high profile cases, because it can be an opportunity for learning important safety lessons that can impact LEO safety and/or civilian safety. And Lives Matter.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

And, of course, the reason one wonders especially about Charleston Hartfield is that he was presumably an armed individual in civilian clothing. Did he pull out a weapon, and, if so, is that what got him shot by some confused LEO, or civilian, on the scene? This is important info that both the police and the public really need to know.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

@LEO0301: well, what would you have done if you had been on the scene, watching and hearing the carnage, and then you see Charleston Hartfield, through your Oakley Half Jackets, standing there with his gun at the low ready. Would you wait for him to raise it? What if you said, "drop the weapon," but he didn't drop it? Once you mentally put yourself in the position of the officers on the scene, you begin to appreciate how this might have been friendly fire. As you know from the gunfights you have been in, sometimes it is difficult to tell exactly where the gunfire came from.

dbosse
dbosse

I'm sick of all this "public's right to know" crap and all these stupid moves made by media companies. What difference does it make... bunch of folks dead from a lunatic. Leave the survivors of those killed, especially the off duty cop's widow alone.

Celtic Gyrl
Celtic Gyrl

They won. They got to publish all of the autopsies. But that’s not enough for these vultures. Now they are suing the widow for $60,000. A cop’s widow! Just exactly where do they think she can come up with that kind of cash? Greedy, nasty vultures is all the media is these days. They could have just taken the victory and been done but no that’s not enough!

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

If there are sanctions here, and there probably should be, then they will almost certainly be levied against her attorney(ies) and not her. Furthermore, if any police departments persuaded her to maintain her frivolous lawsuit, then they may well have agreed to indemnify here. Second to last point, I wouldn't be surprised if she is getting a lot more death benefits than the average survivor of the average victim of the Vegas shooting. Final point, I wonder whether stricter federal gun control laws could have prevented this shooting.

LEO0301
LEO0301

@Burgers Allday - well, at this point in the investigation, they know exactly who shot Hartfield. The bullets pulled from his lifeless body will determine if it was "friendly fire" or a round from the lunatic that killed all those people. The police officers on the ground that day knew the person shooting was doing so from a higher vantage point. Hartfield worked for the LVPD for a long while and was well known in the ranks. I doubt he was misidentified because at this point the public would probably know.

BTW Hartfield even wrote a book about his experiences as a police officer that I bought shortly after he was killed. I did so to help, in anyway small, his wife and children he left behind. You can buy it on Amazon if you actually believe in your mantra that Blue Lives Matter!

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

"well, at this point in the investigation, they know exactly who shot Hartfield. The bullets pulled from his lifeless body will determine if it was "friendly fire" or a round from the lunatic that killed all those people." I would like to see this information. Do you have a link?

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

My concern is that they know it is friendly fire and that they are trying to hide that to avoid embarrassment and/or a lawsuit. If it was friendly fire, I think the public has not only a right to know, but a duty to know. Also, if it was friendly fire then I want to make sure his surviving spouse knows that.

Aaron57
Aaron57

Why do you assume friendly fire is even a concern? Maybe her fighting the release of his autopsy report is just because she doesn't feel that the masses need to know the specifics of how he died?

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

"Why do you assume friendly fire is even a concern?" Armed warrior in street clothes + distant gunman firing voluminously + fog of war = concerns about friendly fire. If you didn't have them before, then you should now.

Aaron57
Aaron57

Where does it say he was armed when he was shot? If he was carrying a weapon, how do you know it was drawn? You're making assumptions with no evidence to back them up.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

Pretty sure he would have been armed.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

okay, copiously

Aaron57
Aaron57

If he was going to the music festival, he may have been unable to carry a weapon, even as an off duty LEO, due to the rules of most music festivals. And his military service really doesn't really have any bearing here. I personally know several former military personnel, including front line combat personnel, who chose not to carry on a daily basis.

Aaron57
Aaron57

In any case, my point is that you're assuming there is some attempt at a cover up, with nothing but speculation to support it.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

Well, on the one hand, the festival may have forbidden guns. On the other hand, they may not have had a metal detector at the entrance. If Hartfield was carrying (and he looks to me like the kind of person who would be) then he was probably carrying concealed and didn't get it out of his BUG until the gunfire erupted in massive spurts.

Katarina
Katarina

When is this site going to allow us to block comments from those we don't welcome, and who only bicker nonsensically between each other?!?! Let them rant at each other if they choose, but I, for one am not interested in their juvenile banter!!!

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

@Katarina I thought you were leaving this site? Or was that a threat to get customer service involved?

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

Because veterans who go on to become policemen are almost always armed. Especially when they go out in public where they might encounter a mass shooter. What do you think about gun free zones, Aaron57? For or against?

Aaron57
Aaron57

Nice try changing the debate.

  1. I know several officers who are former military who regularly don't carry off duty.
  2. There are certain places where I don't necessarily think just anyone should be carrying a firearm. Places where the majority of people are likely to be inebriated, for example. Also, it is perfectly legal for a business owner who does not support firearms to ban them on their premises.

I'm not in favor of gun free zones in general, but I also respect others' opinions and feelings enough to see where they're coming from.

Back to the issue at hand, however, other than unfounded speculation, why do you believe that Officer Hartfield was killed by friendly fire? As I have stated previously, it is possible, but there are much more likely and reasonable reasons Mrs. Hartfield might want his autopsy report kept private.

JBo
JBo

Burgers Allday said, "Because veterans who go on to become policemen are almost always armed".

Like he would know.

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

@JBo Well I would know. and whether former mil is an officer or not, they are highly likely to carry if their state allows.

JBo
JBo

Hi_estComnDenomn

I was aware that you said you were a veteran but I did not know you were a police officer.

LEO0301
LEO0301

@JBo - he's not...but he did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

b1rd
b1rd

@JBo All H_C Dumbshit knows is how to take it in the a$$.

b1rd
b1rd

I have challenged him many times on his military knowledge and he still comes up as a fraud. He can only regurgitate what can be googled. Why people continue to engage his stupid comments is beyond me.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

Shouldn't need to be said, but my goal here is not to convince the other posters here that Officer Hartfield whipped his gun out when the shooting started. Instead, I want readers to realize that there should be accounting by the authorities of who was killed by friendly fire and who was not. I shouldn't need to prove that Hartfield (or any of the other victims) were killed by friendly fire before the authorities investigate that possibility. The public is being deprived of knowledge it has a right to know because there is no info from the authorities about whether the possibility of friendly fire was investigated, and, if so, what the conclusion was. Maybe Hartfield's widow doesn't even recognize that friendly fire is a possibility -- she deserves to know and so do the rest of us. Because the authorities aren't saying, I tend to think it was friendly fire that got him.

Leah67
Leah67

FYI weapons were not allowed in the concert venue so no he was not armed second no one was killed by friendly fire. Not sure why two pictures of Officer Hartfield prove in any way that he was likely armed and to insinuate he was based off of two photos is disrespecful

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

With a BUG nobody knows if you are carrying or not.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

@Leah67: You can't tell why the various photos of him make think think it is highly likely he was carrying? I think you are trying to gaslight me, Leah67, but, if not, can anyone else here explain it to Leah in terms that she can understand?

JBo
JBo

@LeahFNP

With Burgers Allday, you have to remember that those who can do...do. Those who can't do...whine about it.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

@JBo: Now, c'mon. I am sure you remembered what happened with Pat Tillman. At first the authorities did not want to investigate whether it was friendly fire. then they did, and they figured out it was friendly fire, after people put pressure on them to investigate. Let's hope the same thing happens in Officer's Hartfield's case -- then she can potentially get a bigger reward for losing her husband! Are you with me on this?

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

@Aaron57: we actually don't yet know how many rounds were fired by the criminal and how many were fired by the good guys. No authorities have broken down the shooting in this manner yet.

fedupveteran
fedupveteran

This is bullsh*t! This widow needs to find out some names of employees and family members who have died and had autopsies and demand to get copies of them. Then go to the nearest media outlet and get them published along with publishing them on social media. See how they like it! This disgusting but of course right on track for the lame stream media.