Until about a week ago, Terry Rogaczewski was an ordinary man who made a living as a paramedic and lifeguard, spent his free time helping the weak and unfortunate, and bothered no one.
Calling Rogaczewski ordinary might even be selling him short.
In the 1990s, he was featured in a Los Angeles Times article for his whale-saving efforts on the California coast. He was part of a lifeguard crew that made headlines when they saved a stranded baby whale on the beaches of Marina del Rey.
Later, in his 20s, Rogaczewski spent time in Japan working to save whales and dolphins. The ocean was his passion.
Last year, Rogaczewski was honored as a volunteer of the year in St. John of the Virgin Islands, where he worked as a lifeguard. With no wife and children, he devoted evenings to St. John Rescue and trained people in emergency medicine.
"He was the Batman of St. John," friend and former roommate Peter Hassen said. "He'd show up to every (medical) call with this giant toolbox and just take over the scene. He was seriously like a superhero."
What happened to that good-hearted, likable man Nov. 3 outside of a weekly motel in a poor Las Vegas neighborhood remains a puzzle to the friends who knew him best.
"When I was called, I thought they'd be telling me that Terry saved someone's life or did something heroic," said friend and St. John Rescue colleague Bob Malacarne, 66. "Holy mackerel. This can't be the same Terry,"
Rogaczewski resides in the Clark County jail today, charged with nine felonies from resisting arrest to attempted murder. Las Vegas police said he attempted to carjack two vehicles at the Town & Country Manor III at 5390 Boulder Highway, near Harmon Avenue.
Of the five officer-involved shootings across the valley in the past few weeks, Rogaczewski's shooting may have been the most brazen.
Police said he held the driver of a Nissan Altima at gunpoint, fired his .40-caliber handgun into a Cadillac and then pointed the gun at officers who tried to stop him.
"Fearing he would be shot, (the victim) ducked down in the seat, threw the car in reverse and accelerated away from Rogaczewski, who continued to shoot at him," the police report said.
Rogaczewski, who had no known criminal background, appeared to have chosen his victims at random, police said.
"The officers identified themselves and issued several verbal commands for Rogaczewski to show his hands. Rogaczewski immediately turned around with a black handgun in his right hand, which was pointed toward the officers. The officers believed Rogaczewski fired several shots at them before (the) officers returned fire."
The officers shot and wounded him. He was hospitalized for five days before he was booked into jail.
Hassen, who lived with Rogaczewski for two years, has agonized over the report for the last week. He refuses to believe its contents.
"He unloaded a clip into a Cadillac," Hassen said. "This isn't the Terry I knew. Unless he just completely went crazy, it doesn't seem likely. He would never have fired his weapon unless he believed his life was in danger. I truly believe there's something more that we don't know about."
The mystery behind his apparent breakdown has not been revealed. The police report doesn't mention a possible motive for his behavior, and his family has not responded to repeated calls and messages seeking comment.
Hassen said he spoke to Rogaczewski's mother, Colleen Lutz, but received little information about his friend.
"I said, 'Colleen, Terry's charged with attempted murder. What's going on?' " Hassen said. "She hung up on me and later sent me a Facebook message saying, 'I'm sorry, you have no idea what I'm going through.' "
Hassen said Rogaczewski was mild-mannered, did not drink to excess, never used drugs and was responsible with his handgun.
"I've never seen him out of control," he said. "I've never known him to even get drunk."
Rogaczewski left St. John for a temporary job as a seasonal park ranger at Yellowstone National Park about a year ago. He then spent time with family in California, where he was born and raised, before moving to Las Vegas for a casino paramedic job several months ago, Malacarne said. He wasn't sure which casino.
Both Malacarne and Hassen said they spoke with him a few weeks before the shooting.
"He was fine and dandy two weeks ago," Malacarne said.
Officials said Rogaczewski, licensed in California and Florida, did not have an emergency medical technician license to work in Las Vegas.
Rogaczewski's father resides in Northern Nevada but didn't keep in contact with his son, according to step mother Heather Rogaczewski.
She was shocked to learn about the shooting, however. Like everyone willing to speak about Rogaczewski, she didn't have a bad word to say.
"I'm a high school teacher and have a pretty good sense of who is going to go down a wrong path. He was not that way," Heather Rogaczewski said.
Rogaczewski's public defender declined immediate comment. A court hearing is scheduled for next month.
Malacarne said Rogaczewski was a gifted training instructor who was never violent or even raised his voice.
"He was a real stickler for getting everybody to do things the right way. He wanted everything done properly and wouldn't let people cut corners," he said. "He was just a great guy and a really good friend to have."
Malacarne, vacationing in Florida when he heard about the shooting, has tried to investigate the incident without much luck.
He said he called the Las Vegas homicide section, the hospital and even friends with FBI connections, but no one had an answer.
"I just can't see it. I know it's him, but I can't believe it," he said. "I just think that someone must have slipped him drugs or something because nothing else makes a lot of sense."
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.