Police tell of threats, shooting in incident that left one dead

The 56-year-old man who wounded an 8-year-old girl and a police officer Friday night before killing himself had been drinking and arguing with his girlfriend before a lengthy standoff with officers, Las Vegas police said Wednesday.

Deputy Chief Jim Owens said Sammie Lee Clay had been "drinking heavily" before he fired a shot about 10 p.m. that passed through a master bedroom wall and grazed the cheek of his girlfriend's granddaughter, identified only as Jhalisa.

"Clay made threats to those in the home and then fired one shot," said Owens, detailing the incident, which ended in Clay's suicide.

Both the girl and officer escaped serious injury.

Owens said four officers fired 29 shots in the standoff with Clay, who shot at police seven times.

Owens' account of the events differs greatly from that of Clay's girlfriend, Laurie McMillan, who spoke Monday with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

McMillan denied that she and Clay had been arguing. She also said Clay was either cleaning or moving his handgun when it accidentally discharged and struck Jhalisa. McMillan said she was cooking when she heard the shot.

McMillan said Clay froze after he shot the girl he adored. He did not go to University Medical Center with the child. Jhalisa received stitches and was released, but Clay never learned that.

McMillan also said Clay would never intentionally hurt officers. She said he reacted after police kicked in the door and startled him. She said Clay might have thought he killed his granddaughter and an officer after watching early accounts of the shootings on television.

Owens said there is no telling what Clay was thinking before he fired at officers. "I don't know what he knew," Owens said.

He said police learned Clay was arguing with McMillan from Jhalisa's mother at UMC.

Officers responded to UMC on a report that a girl had been shot in the face.

Officers then went to check the single-story house at 1213 Wyatt Ave., near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Owens Avenue, about 11 p.m. to see whether anyone in the home needed help.

Owens said officers knocked on the door, looked through windows and "announced their presence loudly."

Officers looked to see whether any doors or windows were open and saw an unlocked side door.

The five patrol officers directed to the home after the girl arrived at the hospital -- Brian Jackson, 39, Larry Miles, 30, Jacob Legrow, 21, Brian Walter, 39, and Roberto Medina, 43 -- saw blood outside the house and entered.

They were immediately met by gunfire, Owens said.

Jackson was grazed in the head by a bullet and did not return fire. The four other officers did.

Owens said Jackson is lucky to be alive.

"He was very fortunate that it struck him on the skull and it stayed on the outside," Owens said. "It could have been a tragedy."

After Clay fired at police, SWAT was called, and the neighborhood was evacuated.

SWAT officers unsuccessfully tried to persuade Clay to leave the house by communicating with him through a bullhorn and a phone. A SWAT robot was sent into the home and showed Clay's body facedown in a bathroom.

Police entered the home about 2 a.m. and found him dead. The Clark County coroner said Clay died from a single gunshot wound to his chest.

Mike Jacobs, 56, Clay's cousin, told the Review-Journal on Wednesday he didn't believe the police account of Clay being drunk and making threats.

"Sammie wouldn't have hurt that woman or that baby if his life depended on it," Jacobs said. "He loved his family."

McMillan, Clay's girlfriend for 13 years, was not available for comment Wednesday.

Mike Park, 48, said Clay was his employee in the construction business for the past 20 years. Park said they met when he picked up Clay as a day laborer on D Street. After that day, Clay became a regular employee and a close friend, he said.

"We raised our kids together," said Park, fighting back tears Wednesday.

Park described Clay as an "outstanding" person who would never act maliciously toward his family. He said Clay's criminal history wasn't an indicator of his true character.

"Let other people say what they have to say about Sammie, but other people know the truth," he said.

Clay's encounter with police over the weekend was not his first.

On Aug. 5, 1999, a police officer pulled up behind a blue Hyundai Accent that was parked near F Street and Van Buren Avenue in West Las Vegas. A man and woman were inside the car registered to Clay.

The officer ran a check on the license plate and learned that Clay was wanted for tampering with a vehicle by authorities outside of Clark County.

The officer, M. Colgan, approached the Accent and asked Clay to get out of the car. Because of the outstanding warrant, Colgan went to handcuff Clay. According to his arrest report, Clay fought with the officer by elbowing him in the chest and head butting him in the stomach.

Colgan felt Clay was reaching for his gun, the report showed. Colgan pushed Clay to the ground and aimed his gun at him. Clay then ran and eluded officers.

Eventually, another officer confronted Clay, and, according to the report, Clay put up his hands in a fighting stance. The officer subdued Clay after striking him with a flashlight in the mouth, requiring stitches to his lips.

Clay was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts, including battery on an officer and escape.

On his way from a local hospital to the jail, "Clay kept stating that he wished that (Colgan) would have shot him to put him out of his misery."

Clay cut a deal with prosecutors and, in November 1999, pleaded guilty to the battery count. He was sentenced to probation, which included a 60-day jail stint.

Once out of jail, Clay failed to report to the Department of Parole and Probation. He was arrested, and his probation revoked. He was sentenced to serve a year in jail.

The shooting is the fourth involving Las Vegas police this year.

Review-Journal reporters Francis McCabe and Mike Blasky contributed to this report. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.