The wail of sirens and crack of gunshots were familiar sounds to the apartment dwellers at 2304 Tam Drive. In this area off the north end of the Strip known as the Naked City, it took more than that to get people's attention. Something like the crash of a police battering ram obliterating the front door of Unit 105.
Rayburn Bryant had no idea what he was getting into on that warm August night in 2002 when he stopped his green Toyota Camry in a nearby alley. He just wanted a fix, and he knew Unit 105 was the place to go.
Fernando Perez, who was on a balcony watching the drug raid unfold, saw Bryant approach and warned him he was headed for trouble.
"He was a friend of my uncle," Perez later told a coroner's inquest jury. "He was an addict, like my uncle."
Bryant started back to his car.
The fix would have to wait.
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Sherry Bryant was at home the night her husband found trouble in Naked City. She knew he had been going there for some time to buy crack cocaine. She hated that.
"It was the only thing we fought about," she said.
A year earlier, police shot and killed a man not 400 feet from where her husband went for crack. Officers sometimes came under fire in the area.
Sherry Bryant would later make several visits to Tam Drive to try and piece together exactly what happened around 10:45 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2002. She wonders why the officers even bothered with her husband, who wasn't a dealer.
"It was hot out," she said. "It seems like that's when most of these incidents happen, when everybody's a little hotheaded."
Perez later described Rayburn Bryant's interaction with police as "Smash, boom, boom, smash, boom, boom."
As with many of the officer-involved shootings in the Las Vegas Valley since 1990, it happened quickly and chaotically. But behind every shooting is a story. This one is about how the lives of a police officer and a family changed amid a hail of bullets.
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The storming of Unit 105 by six Las Vegas narcotics officers yielded two arrests, a little crack cocaine, and a lot of paperwork. About 15 minutes into the raid, Anthony Guy, who was in his fifth year with the Metropolitan Police Department, peered out the window and saw a tall and slender man shuffling toward the door.
His work was not yet done.
He called out to his colleagues, who agreed it was worth having a chat with Rayburn Bryant. Guy, dressed in jeans and the blue-and-yellow shirt worn by bike officers, was first out the door.
"What did I do?" Bryant shouted at the three cops who pursued him. He did not break stride, ignoring their calls to stop.
In the 1990s, Bryant had spent five years in prison on burglary and grand larceny charges. But since his release he had married and fathered a son and daughter, David and Allison.
Life was OK. A debilitating injury suffered while working as a carpenter had caused some anguish, not to mention a drug habit, but it also opened a new door for him. At age 39 he was being retrained at the Community College of Southern Nevada as a pastry chef and was on the verge of completing the program.
Everything would remain OK if only he could just make it home. He quickened his pace until he reached the car.
But he was flanked by Guy and detectives Ryan Kraft and Harold Twigg.
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A native of rural Alabama, Anthony Guy joined the Marine Corps out of high school and settled in Las Vegas in 1994. He got his associate degree, and four years later signed on as a Las Vegas patrol officer. At 31, he'd transferred to narcotics just a month before the raid on Unit 105.
Guy, whose wife was pregnant with their first child, knew his work involved risk, especially during drug raids. Between 1995 and 2002, police killed three people in shootouts while searching homes for drugs.
"It's not something I really considered would happen," he said of having to use deadly force. "I thought, you know, I'll be prepared if it does, but I don't think it'll ever happen to me."
But it did.
And though it wasn't immediate, things changed for Anthony Guy after the first and last time he fired his pistol at another human being.
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The officers later told the same story:
With his Camry surrounded, Rayburn Bryant had little room to maneuver in the alleyway. But he revved the engine, anyway. Up until this point, his only crime had been evading a police officer. Now, with the officers putting themselves in harm's way to block his escape, the situation was about to get more serious.
Ryan Kraft, the youngest but most experienced officer, was behind the car.
"As I'm coming around the back of the vehicle, Mr. Bryant throws it in reverse and at a fast pace, backs out of the spot," Kraft said at a coroner's inquest.
After being clipped by a rear corner of the Camry, Kraft repositioned himself in front of the car.
Bryant put the car in drive and accelerated toward Kraft, forcing the 27-year-old officer to jump on the hood. After the car had traveled about 20 feet, Kraft fired his 9 mm pistol through the windshield.
"I was in fear of my life and trying to protect my life," Kraft explained.
The bullet missed Bryant, who slammed on the brakes, throwing Kraft to the ground.
Bryant tried to keep driving, but Guy and Twigg saw that Kraft was still in the Camry's path. They fired a combined eight shots before the car veered into a wall.
A bullet from Guy's .40-caliber pistol shredded Bryant's pulmonary artery and vein. He bled out at the scene. He would be buried in his chef's uniform.
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The morning after the shooting, the Bryant home was crowded with relatives, neighbors and police. Sherry Bryant took her children aside and told them their daddy was not coming home.
Today, more than nine years later, she still is not satisfied the truth about that night in Naked City has come out, nor does she believe it ever will.
Onlookers near the scene cast doubt on the officers' account. Several said they heard no squeal of tires indicating an escape attempt. One man said the officers pulled their guns after Bryant started driving away, not when Kraft was in the path of the car and officers were forced to shoot.
But none of the witnesses were in a position to see exactly what happened. Sherry Bryant hired a private investigator to interview anybody who might have had a clearer view. She collected tapes and documents in a black briefcase.
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Following what was the Las Vegas department's fourth fatal shooting of 2002, Guy, Kraft, and Twigg went on routine paid leave pending an investigation and coroner's inquest.
Over the course of a month they were evaluated by a psychologist, a requirement for all officers who discharge their weapons on duty. The psychologist administered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a series of statements with "yes" or "no" answers. Sample statements: "I am not afraid of mice"; "Everything tastes the same"; and "Sometimes I think strange thoughts."
None of Guy's answers sparked any concern.
At the coroner's inquest, Guy conveyed his belief that he did what needed to be done.
"This individual had already demonstrated a lack of concern for Detective Kraft's life, not only striking him twice, but once he's up on the hood, by driving at a high rate of speed down the alley," Guy told the jury. "The only thing I could interpret from that was that he decided he was getting away at all costs; and then even after Detective Kraft fired through the windshield, he just took off like he was going to run him over. At that point, we had no other choice but to fire our weapons at him."
At the inquest, Guy learned it was his bullet that killed Bryant.
Crime scene analysts presented physical evidence backing up the officers' account. Had Bryant lived, a homicide detective testified, he would have been arrested for attempted murder of a police officer. It also came out that Bryant had been using cocaine and marijuana.
After 15 minutes of deliberation jurors unanimously voted that the shooting was justified. The three officers went back to work, and all was well.
For a while.
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Researchers have identified a phenomenon known as "post-shooting trauma" among officers who use deadly force. According to a 2006 National Institute of Justice study, many experience fatigue, anxiety, and nightmares that emerge in the first 24 hours after an incident and dissipate in a few days.
The study found that officers experience a wide range of emotions, not all of which are negative: "Following about one-third of the shootings, officers reported feelings of elation that included joy at being alive, residual excitement after a life-threatening situation, and satisfaction or pride in proving their ability to use deadly force appropriately."
The Review-Journal interviewed several current and former police officers involved in fatal shootings. Some said they quickly realized the significance of taking a life but came to terms with their emotions. Others reported little if any psychological impact. Still others were plagued with guilt for years.
The conclusion: No two officers react exactly the same way to killing someone.
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For about a year after the Bryant shooting, Guy did his job without any problems to speak of.
Then the nightmares started.
Each dream was as vivid as the next. Each took place on Tam Drive, but each ended with his own death.
One morning Guy thought he was having a heart attack. It was the first panic attack of his life.
He became frightened. Why were the memories of that night returning to haunt him now?
The nightmares coincided with self-destructive behavior. He drank to excess. His marriage fell apart.
"I didn't know what was happening, but it made me realize that I had to stop and go back and revisit the whole thing," he said.
His supervisor sent him back to the psychologist he'd seen a year earlier. This time, the doctor wrote one word on Guy's file: "Guilt."
"My son was born just a few months after the shooting," Guy said. "I had a huge weight of guilt on me, and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that Mr. Bryant had young kids. They didn't have a dad anymore, and it was because of me."
With Christmas approaching, Guy went to Wal-Mart and bought gift cards for the Bryant children.
But amid the swirl of anger, grief, and sadness he knew the Bryants must be feeling, he wondered if the gifts would be well received.
He thought about it, then threw the cards away. To this day, he wishes he hadn't.
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At some point, the "then" and "now" came together.
Sherry Bryant struggled to find normalcy. Her entire family moved to Las Vegas from Missouri, to help her cope.
"It's not the years right after (the death) that are hardest," she said. "It's dealing with it now. It's when it's all done and everybody has forgotten about it."
Over the years, the impact of Rayburn Bryant's death on his children has shown itself in many small ways.
For a long time, Allison Bryant refused to let anyone touch her hair. Her dad was the one to brush it, while singing country songs. She sat in his lap when she got it cut.
David Bryant attended bereavement camp. It helped him to be around other children grappling with similar life changes. As he grew from a child to a young man, he would sometimes probe for answers, asking, "He was in a car wreck, right, mom?"
Everyone in their neighborhood knew the story, but his widow felt it best to keep the truth from her kids.
"My kids have to respect police officers, and I don't want them directing their anger toward the police department," she said.
David Bryant earlier this year completed the requirements for a Boy Scout crime investigation merit badge. His mother steadfastly avoids places where officers congregate.
Acting as her own lawyer, Sherry Bryant sued the police department. The case was dismissed in 2006. A short time later she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.
When it appeared she might not have much time to live, Bryant took the black briefcase with all her files to an attorney with instructions to show them to her kids when the time was right. She is thankful that time has not yet come.
Today, her children's rooms are filled with Rayburn's belongings: ball caps, pocket watches and knives. On his birthday they go to a park and release balloons into the sky. The balloons, Bryant says, represent his eyes, flying into the heavens to watch over his family.
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Guy took a leave of absence a year after the shooting. He returned to duty but quit for good in 2008, the death still very much on his mind.
"Ultimately it was (Rayburn Bryant's) actions that set the whole thing in motion, but it was the bullet from my gun that took his life," Guy said.
He said he never again felt fully comfortable as a police officer.
"I almost felt shunned coming back into work," Guy said. "It was almost like people didn't know how to talk with me. There were days I was just a train wreck. It was the most significant emotional event I've ever had to deal with."
The final push out of law enforcement was a prolonged internal investigation into an old allegation of improper contact with a woman while on duty. Guy denies he did anything wrong.
Until he recently left for another job, he was a security manager for the Round Mountain Gold Corporation, a job that regularly took him to Mauritania and Ghana in West Africa. Al-Qaida terrorists are a major threat there, but Guy did not carry a gun. It was his choice.
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Anthony Guy and Sherry Bryant's lives intersected because of the same bullet, giving each a unique ability to relate to the experience of the other.
"I feel for him, because I know how hard it is, because I've struggled through it," Bryant said.
Guy has similar words for the widow of the man he shot.
"I'm sorry that her family had to go through it and sorry that I was the catalyst for the whole thing," he said. "I think back all the time to it and ask whether we really needed to go out and talk to the guy. He had already been tipped off that the cops were there. We could have just let him go. But that would have been lazy of us."
Bryant recently decided to tell her children about their father's death, though she doesn't feel it necessary to reveal the contents of her black briefcase or to convince them any one person was to blame for the shooting. She just wants them to know that while their father made mistakes, he was a good man who loved them dearly.
She hopes that talking about it will help her get past her own anger and make her family whole again.
Alan Maimon is a Review-Journal special correspondent.