Felon who called police on self gets another chance at freedom

Zachary Duncan couldn’t bring himself to steal laptops, so he called the cops on himself.

But the Las Vegas man was a felon with a long rap sheet, and he wasn’t supposed to be carrying a revolver.

Six years later, after doing time in a New Jersey prison, Duncan was back in a Las Vegas courtroom Thursday and was given two years of probation for attempted possession of a firearm by an ex-felon.

District Judge James Bixler seemed reluctant to order probation for someone with such a lengthy criminal history.

According to court records, Duncan expressed similar reluctance about committing the robbery.

In 2008, police said, Duncan wandered into an Office Max on South Decatur Boulevard, briefly inquired about laptops and walked out.

Twenty minutes later, he returned while on his cellphone, saying, “I can’t do it, man.”

Duncan told the clerk that gang members were forcing him to commit a robbery, and he showed the clerk a gun before asking the clerk to call police.

The clerk didn’t make the call, so Duncan walked across Sahara Avenue to a Vons, where police found him on the phone with a 911 operator.

He hung up and handed the officer a black bag. As the two walked back to the patrol car, the officer pulled a .22-caliber, short-barrel revolver out of the bag.

Duncan said a man named Shawn, whom he owed money, harassed him and wanted him to join the Crips gang.

Shawn had an AK-47 assault rifle and tried to force him to commit the robbery. Duncan said Shawn gave him the revolver and ordered him to steal a couple of laptops from the Office Max at 2640 S. Decatur Blvd.

Duncan told police he pretended to go along with the plan but decided against the robbery.

The officer discovered that Duncan had been convicted in 1995 of aggravated battery in Florida, for which he served prison time. And in 2001, Duncan was convicted of distribution of heroin and cocaine in New Jersey.

A year after he was caught with the gun at the Las Vegas grocery store, Duncan was charged with domestic violence in Clark County. Five months later, Duncan was arrested in New Jersey and charged with aggravated assault, making terrorist threats and several other counts, including possession of a weapon by a felon.

Duncan appeared in Las Vegas Justice Court on Feb. 19, his 41st birthday, and agreed to plead guilty to attempted possession of a firearm by an ex-felon.

“I just want to say I love you to my fiancee, my son, my mother and my father,” he said at the time.

The case moved to District Court, where Bixler followed the terms of a plea bargain in handing down a suspended sentence of one to five years in prison and ordering Duncan to serve two years of probation.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything as strange as this,” Bixler said at Thursday’s hearing. “A deal is a deal.”

Reviewing Duncan’s criminal history, the judge also told Duncan he must undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

“Maybe you need some legitimate medication,” Bixler said. “Maybe not. We’ll see.”

Bixler ordered Duncan to make a “superhuman effort” to let probation officers know he is prepared for supervision.

Duncan said he has an “on and off” job, and the judge ordered him to find full-time work.

The defendant also told Bixler he is a newlywed.

“I just got married on July 1,” Duncan said.

“Today’s the third,” Bixler said. “You got married two days ago? You’re on your honeymoon?”

“Yes,” Duncan said and soon walked out of the courtroom with his arm around his bride.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at 702-380-1039 or dferrara@reviewjournal.com. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker.