Man who shot North Las Vegas officer was drunk, waving shotgun

A 25-year-old man who shot a North Las Vegas police officer Monday night was drunk and waving a shotgun when his family called police, his grandfather said Tuesday.

Christopher Burcham was frustrated about being unemployed for more than five months, his grandfather Gerald Burcham said. Christopher Burcham had been drinking on Monday and started brandishing a gun during an argument with his family. That's when the family left the house and called 911, he said.

"My grandson lost his cool," an emotional Gerald Burcham recalled Tuesday. "I don't really know what his mind was thinking at that moment. … He was drunk on his butt."

Four North Las Vegas patrol officers tried to enter the home through the garage at 6324 Silver Edge St., near Centennial Parkway and Clayton Street, about 10 p.m. Monday.

North Las Vegas police Sgt. Tim Bedwell said Christopher Burcham immediately fired upon the officers with a shotgun. A 36-year-old officer was struck and severely injured, but he was listed in stable condition by Tuesday morning. Police did not say where the officer was shot.

Two officers returned fire, including the wounded officer. It's unclear whether Burcham was injured, but he surrendered shortly after the shooting and was taken to jail rather than a hospital.

Bedwell said it was a miracle the officer was not killed.

"He was lucky by the grace of God," he said. "A gunshot is a game of inches, and sadly we usually lose those games."

The injured officer has been a North Las Vegas officer for almost five years, police said. The second officer who fired his weapon, also 36 years old, has been a North Las Vegas officer for eight years.

Gerald Burcham didn't give details of the argument with his grandson, who lived at the home.

He said his wife called police because Christopher Burcham was getting out of control.

"She thought he was getting dangerous," Gerald Burcham recalled.

Christopher Burcham's father, who did not give his name, said he was at work during the incident and didn't learn all the details until early Tuesday morning. Christopher Burcham was the only family member inside the home during the shooting.

The father offered no explanation for his son's actions.

"I don't know," Burcham's father said. "I'm just wondering what his mind-set was right then."

Christopher Burcham was booked at the North Las Vegas Detention Center on several felony charges, including two counts of attempted murder and one count of ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Gerald Burcham did not elaborate on his grandson's criminal history but said he knew the young man was not supposed to have a weapon.

"He was told to get rid of it, and he didn't," he said. "That's all I know."

Bedwell said the public often doesn't realize how frequent and how dangerous domestic disturbance calls are for officers.

Police can't use SWAT teams for every report of a drunk waving a gun because it happens almost every night, he said.

"We have to go in and resolve the situation. And it's dangerous, but that's our job," Bedwell said.

It's police policy to send at least two officers to every domestic disturbance, he said. In cases like Monday night's shooting, they sent four officers because of the increased threat.

But the officers never had the chance to talk to Burcham before he began firing, Bedwell said.

Monday's shooting was similar to an officer-involved shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month.

On March 16, 56-year-old Sammie Lee Clay shot a Las Vegas police officer in the head after five officers forced their way into his home after reports of an accidental shooting of a girl.

The officer, Brian Jackson, was grazed by the bullet and survived. Clay later killed himself after a standoff with police.

It's not clear whether the North Las Vegas police forced their way into the Burcham home.

Gerald Burcham said his family was still dealing with the aftermath of the shooting on Tuesday morning.

He said he recently had purchased the home and moved in three days ago. Bullets from the shootout damaged a significant portion of the garage and resulted in the water being shut off, he said.

"I can't really talk about this anymore," he said. "It's too hard right now."