A coroner's inquest jury ruled Friday that a Las Vegas police detective was justified in the fatal shooting of a sexual assault suspect during a foot chase last month.
A jury of seven deliberated for about 90 minutes before returning the unanimous verdict in favor of Jeremy Hendricks, an 11-year veteran of the force.
Hendricks shot John Paul Hambleton, 32, in the back as he ran from the detective and his partner the afternoon of July 1 in a northwest Las Vegas neighborhood near Rancho Drive and Alexander Road.
Hendricks, 30, and his partner, Detective Angie Christensen, met Hambleton at the El Jen Convalescent Hospital and Retirement Center, 5538 Duncan Drive, to question him about his two-year sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl. Police planned to file nine counts of sexual assault with a minor against him.
Hambleton initially denied the relationship and was cooperative, but then he suddenly ran from them, Hendricks testified.
The detectives chased Hambleton, who was shot twice with a Taser electronic stun gun but got up and kept running, he said.
Hendricks said he and Hambleton scuffled on their knees before standing up.
That's when Hambleton grabbed Hendricks' Taser and pointed it at the detective, he testified.
"I was 100 percent sure I was going to get tased," he said. "He drove it toward me. This immediately turned into an attack on me."
He said the men were face to face about 10 feet apart as the detective reached for his gun. He said he couldn't clearly recall how Hambleton turned away from him.
"I would speculate that he saw my firearm and turned around," Hendricks said. "In that split second, in that lag time, he had turned and I pulled the trigger."
The detective testified that the man was gripping the Taser with two hands and muttered, "Just (expletive) kill me."
Hambleton's mother, sitting in the courtroom gallery, covered her face as Hendricks detailed the final moments of her son's life.
The shooting took place about a quarter-mile from the convalescent home.
Neither Christensen nor four witnesses who observed from their cars testified that they saw Hambleton point the Taser at Hendricks or hear him say he wanted to be killed.
Cynthia Reed, who was driving north on Helen Avenue with her husband, testified she saw Hambleton running from the detective when he was shot.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know he was shot in the back," she said. "He was running. He was running way."
Hambleton was not armed, but Hendricks said he knew from his investigation that the Las Vegas man had a military background and posed a threat.
"That was a definite concern," Hendricks said. "I was not interested in getting shot with my own gun."
Contact reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.