Richard Nolton Sr. had a lethal amount of methamphetamine in his system when Henderson police responded to his home on July 3, but it was a single bullet from a SWAT officer's rifle that killed him that morning.
Six of the seven jurors who participated in a coroner's inquest Friday declared that the officer, Brian Pollard, acted justifiably when he fired the shot into Nolton's neck.
Juror Paul Cunningham, an unemployed Henderson resident, said evidence presented during the inquest made it clear to him "that there was not really any other way to end this."
Five women and two men sat on the jury. Cunningham said one woman elected not to sign the verdict form because she believed police "should have different ways of dealing with mentally ill individuals."
Evidence presented during the inquest indicated that Nolton, 42, had suffered from depression and anxiety for years. His wife told police he had tried to commit suicide about three months before his death.
No one from Nolton's family attended the inquest, but jurors heard a recorded statement that his wife gave police shortly after the incident.
The woman, Velma Nolton, said she called 911 on the morning of July 3 after her husband, whom she called "Big Richie," put a pair of scissors to her neck and threatened to kill her. She said he later threatened her with a knife.
"Big Richie has severe depression issues and anxiety," Velma Nolton told police.
She said she learned three months earlier, after her husband attempted to kill himself, that he had been using methamphetamine.
On the morning of his death, Richard Nolton told his wife he was not going to jail, and he repeatedly said, "They're not going to take me out of here alive."
Velma Nolton, 42, said she and her husband had been married for 15 years and had been a couple for 26 years.
She said the family's stress level had increased during the previous year and a half. Her husband lost his job, and her mother and grandfather were seriously ill.
Velma Nolton went outside to meet police when they responded to her 911 call around 7 a.m. Her mother and the couple's two teenage sons remained inside the residence at 618 Severn St., near Horizon Drive and Greenway Road.
Her mother and the couple's 13-year-old son soon left the home, and police made phone contact with Richard Nolton, who promised to bring his 15-year-old son out. The older boy, known as "Little Richie," had a broken leg.
Witnesses said the father and his son, who was using crutches, came out of the house and returned back inside several times. The teenager refused to leave his father's side.
Although it was the middle of summer, Richard Nolton kept putting on warmer clothing, including a snow parka with a hood. He told police not to bother using their stun guns, because the devices would not penetrate his clothing.
The man urged police to shoot him, and officers saw a knife protruding from his pocket. Later he emerged from the house with a handgun.
Officers said Richard Nolton appeared agitated and was waving the weapon around while his son tried to hold down the arm that held the gun.
At one point witnesses saw Richard Nolton hug his son before pushing him away. A shot rang out as the two separated, and Richard Nolton fell to the ground.
Cynthia "Diane" Kirkland and her husband, Tim, live nearby and watched the incident over a block wall in their backyard, which runs alongside Severn Street.
Diane Kirkland said she heard police tell Richard Nolton to drop his weapon and put his pit bull back in the house. At first she could not see the weapon, but she later noticed a gun in Richard Nolton's hand and heard him tell officers, "Just shoot me." She also heard Little Richie scream, "Don't shoot my dad."
Tim Kirkland said he never saw Richard Nolton raise the gun.
"He might have been waving it a little bit," the neighbor said.
Officer Bret Hyde said he watched as Richard Nolton gave his son a one-armed hug. He then heard the man tell his son he loved him.
"It seemed like he was saying goodbye to his son," the officer testified.
Pollard, a 16-year veteran of the Henderson Police Department, has been a SWAT officer for the past 12 years. He estimated he has responded to 1,800 high-risk calls without ever firing a gun.
He testified that the Noltons' 15-year-old son became his primary concern as he responded to the scene on July 3.
"I just felt like the kid was in danger -- grave danger," the officer said.
As Pollard approached the front of the house, he saw the father and son struggle over the gun. As the pair separated, the officer testified, he saw the gun rise up in the direction of his fellow officers.
"I feared that if he got that gun up on target that he was going to shoot," Pollard said.
At that point, he had a clear shot at Richard Nolton's head, and he took it.
The officer said he has reviewed the incident in his mind hundreds of times since it happened and has concluded, "There was nothing else that I could do."
Investigators later determined that Richard Nolton was brandishing a BB gun.
Dr. Lisa Gavin, a pathologist with the Clark County coroner's office, testified that Richard Nolton had a lethal level of methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death.
The fact that he continued to function with that amount of the drug in his body led her to conclude that he had developed a tolerance to the substance through long-term use.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710.