A motorcycle officer shot a man in the back after he fled during a traffic stop Thursday afternoon, said a woman who witnessed the shooting.
Las Vegas police said the man was trying to pull out a gun or a knife as he was running from the officer.
Brandi Burks, 19, said she was standing outside her apartment complex on Cheyenne Avenue, west of the Michael Way intersection, when the shooting happened.
Motorcycle officers had been patrolling the street heavily on Thursday, pulling over speeders, Burks said.
Capt. Randy Montandon said a patrol officer saw a man driving a silver Pontiac rental car make an illegal turn at Cheyenne Avenue and Jones Boulevard about 2:24 p.m. The officer then witnessed the driver make several illegal lane changes, Montandon said.
Montandon said the officer pulled the man over on Cheyenne near Michael Way. The situation escalated when the officer did a records check on the man and discovered he was the subject of an outstanding warrant for misdemeanor violations.
Burks said she saw the incident unfold. The motorcycle officer stopped the man's vehicle on the far right lane of eastbound Cheyenne, just before Michael Way.
The officer asked the driver to step out of the vehicle. The man stepped out and began running in a northwest direction across Cheyenne. The officer told the man to halt, she said, but the man kept running.
"You could tell he was scared," she said.
As the man was running, he kept grabbing his pants, as if to hold them up, Burks said. She did not see a gun, and did not see the officer fire a Taser.
She saw the officer fire his gun at the man when he reached the sidewalk. The man went down, and officers handcuffed him.
"They shot him in the back," she said. "He was just running."
Montandon said the suspect became combative when the officer asked him to get out of his car. A struggle ensued, Montandon said.
The suspect fled west on Cheyenne. The officer unsuccessfully tried to stop him with a Taser.
"As the officer was chasing the individual giving him orders to stop, the individual reached into his pants pocket, front right, and retrieved what appears to be a .45-caliber handgun," Montandon said.
The officer then fired multiple shots to the suspect's torso and arm. Montandon said the suspect was taken to University Medical Center and is expected to survive.
Montandon also said the officer saw the suspect attempt to pull out a "large folding knife."
Montandon said the suspect is white and in his late 30s or early 40s.
Police did not release the suspect's name, which they were attempting to verify Thursday night. Montandon said the officer used his handgun as a last resort.
"The officer used verbal commands" to persuade the individual to surrender, Montandon said. "He then went to a nonlethal option, using a Taser."
Montandon said he is not sure why the Taser didn't stop the suspect. The prongs might have fallen off the suspect's body as he fled, he said.
The name of the officer who shot the suspect will be released 48 hours after the incident, as per department policy. The officer will be placed on routine paid administrative leave.
Police Thursday night could not respond to the details of Burks' account.
Las Vegas police spokesman Jacinto Rivera said the department's use of force policy is based on court cases that have established three standards for justification of use of force: the severity of the crime, whether the suspect is a threat to the officer or others and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to avoid arrest by fleeing.
Thursday's shooting and the witness account of it have similarities to the fatal July shooting of 32-year-old John Paul Hambleton. Hambleton fled two Las Vegas police detectives after they tried to arrest him on nine counts of sexual assault with a minor.
After firing a Taser unsuccessfully, engaging in a foot chase and becoming involved in a brief scuffle, officers said, Hambleton grabbed a detective's Taser and pointed it at him. Hambleton was about 10 feet away when a detective shot him in the back.
A Clark County coroner's inquest jury ruled that the shooting was justified.
Burks said Thursday night that she told officers at the scene that she had witnessed the shooting, but they ignored her.
Rivera said officers would like to talk to Burks and any other witnesses about what happened. He encouraged them to call the department's homicide section at 828-3521.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department's Web site, Thursday's shooting was the 16th officer-involved shooting this year, up from 14 in 2008.