The Los Angeles man shot by park rangers after a routine police stop just outside Las Vegas last week wasn’t homeless, didn’t use hard drugs and wasn’t a violent criminal, according to his father.
D’Andre Berghardt Sr. said he wanted to clear the air about his son, D’Andre Berghardt Jr.
“My son ain’t never been a gang member. He wasn’t violent. He never used hard drugs … I wouldn’t accept that s*** from him,” Berghardt Sr. said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home.
“I don’t know what these (expletive) out there did to my son, excuse my French,” he said. “I won’t accept it. They’ll never have me believe that my son would have tried to hurt anybody.”
Berghardt Jr., 20, was shot and killed near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Friday afternoon after Bureau of Land Management rangers responded to call about a pedestrian impeding cyclists along state Route 159.
A video filmed by observers and obtained by the Review-Journal showed the lengthy altercation with rangers, who appeared to use pepper spray to subdue Berghardt Jr. but were unable to arrest him.
BLM officials issued a statement Thursday after avoiding questions for nearly a week. The statement said the rangers also used their batons and Taser stun guns in the struggle, but nothing was effective.
“The officers were unable to gain compliance,” the statement said.
The situation escalated after Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Lucas Schwarzrock arrived several minutes into the confrontation. Berghardt Jr. ran from the officers and tried to open the door of two cars, the BLM said.
The video later showed the rangers holding Berghardt Jr. on the ground. But Berghardt Jr. fought them off, pushed Schwarzrock away and climbed into the trooper’s patrol car. Moments later, a ranger is shown firing into the car, killing Berghardt Jr.
The BLM confirmed Thursday that both rangers fired after Berghardt Jr. reached for the trooper’s AR-15 rifle, which was secured in a locked gun rack. Only one ranger can be seen firing in the video.
Eight or nine shots can be heard. Berghardt Jr. didn’t appear to have a weapon.
The BLM refused to identify either officer, but said one ranger had 17 years of law enforcement experience and the other was a nine-year veteran.
Las Vegas police are leading the investigation into the incident with assistance from Highway Patrol and the FBI. On Wednesday, Metro asked for the public’s help in determining how Berghardt Jr. got from Las Vegas to a roadside near Red Rock canyon.
His father said he didn’t have an answer.
Berghardt Jr. took a bus from California to Las Vegas two days before the shooting after an argument with his mother, he said.
He was supposed to meet his brother at the bus station in Las Vegas, but never showed.
“Usually when him and his mama get into it, he comes straight to me,” said Berghardt Sr., who is separated from his son’s mother. But she called him after the fight and said Berghardt Jr. was on his way to Las Vegas. His son had lived in Las Vegas with his mother and half-brother several years earlier, he said.
Berghardt Sr. said no one in the family heard anything more until Saturday morning, when he received a call from the Clark County coroner’s office notifying him of his son’s death.
“I started cussing the coroner out. Thought it was a prank … I couldn’t believe nothing he was telling me,” he said. “That’s my youngest son. I got four kids, man, and that’s my baby. That’s my junior, man. That’s my D’Andre Jr., dude.”
Berghardt Sr. said he spent the next few days in a daze. He refused to watch the video posted Monday on the Review-Journal’s website, but saw a snippet on a Los Angeles news station a day later.
He was angry about speculation his son was homeless, mentally ill or on hard drugs, he said.
One witness told the Review-Journal that Berghardt Jr. ripped Taser wires from his body and was “throwing around” the officers. Other witnesses said they often saw Berghardt walking in the area weeks before, but apparently confused him with someone else.
Berghardt Sr. said his son smoked marijuana, but used nothing harder.
“He smoked weed and every now and then he might, you know, sip on a beer,” he said. “Nobody can call me and tell me my son was on something, that was bulls***.”
Berghardt Jr. doesn’t appear to have a violent or lengthy criminal record, although he was charged with theft in 2012, according to Los Angeles court records. The case was pending.
Berghardt Sr. said his son was trying to get into the music business. On Friday night, hours after the shooting, he listened to two tracks his son recorded for the first time.
He had no idea at the time his son was already dead.
“That’s so crazy to me,” he said.
Berghardt Sr., 49, said he’s never been to Las Vegas, but he wanted his son to start a new life in the city.
“I did not want my son out here… I was scared these (expletive) gang members out here might hurt him,” he said. ” I thought he’d be safer… Had no idea, man, no idea these (expletive) in Vegas would take him away from me.”
He said the family has contacted a lawyer and planned to sue the involved agencies. He wants justice, he said.
“They want us to pay $2,000 to get my son back to L.A.,” he said. “No way, man. They’re gonna pay for that. They’re gonna pay for more than that.”
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @blasky on Twitter.