|Harrah’s casino in Las Vegas bore no responsibility for the death of a tourist in September 2000, a Jury ruled late Friday.|
Heather Vitarelli, a resident of Hawaii, died during an attempted arrest of a thief in Harrah’s casino while in town to celebrate her 30th birthday. According to court testimony, she was shot in the back after a suspected slot bucket thief struggled with Harrah’s security officers, who were trying to make an arrest.
The suspected thief Stephen Mullen had been stopped by officers 18 minutes before the shooting, after they noticed he matched the description of a theft suspect on a flier distributed by surveillance personnel.
Gene Wait and Wayne Shaffer, representing Vitarelli's parents in their lawsuit against the casino, told jurors that Stephen Mullen should have been immediately taken off the crowded casino floor.
They further alleged Harrah's had insufficient security staff on hand to make the arrest once they decided to do so.
Harrah's attorney Robert Foster told jurors the arresting officers didn't have enough probable cause to arrest Mullen until a supervisor confirmed his identification by viewing surveillance tapes of the prior thefts.
Mullen, 34, is serving a 40-year to life sentence for Vitarelli's death and a consecutive sentence of 16 to 40 years for the non-fatal shooting of a security officer.