Las Vegas police shot and killed two men in unrelated incidents Monday morning, a rarity for the Metropolitan Police Department that has occurred only one other time in 20 years.
In the first shooting, an officer shot a 32-year-old man who attacked police with a pointed wooden walking stick after shots from a Taser stun gun and bean bag shotgun failed to stop him, authorities said.
Less than five hours later, police fatally shot a 23-year-old who tried to rob a bar and held the bartender hostage with a knife, police said.
The only other time Las Vegas police shot and killed two people on the same day was on Jan. 2, 2006, when officers confronted two gun-wielding men in unrelated incidents within minutes of each other.
Monday's events come at a time when the agency and the coroner's inquest process used to probe fatal officer-involved shootings are under scrutiny after two deadly encounters that sparked controversy earlier this year.
Capt. Pat Neville said officers often have to make split-second decisions during violent confrontations, and "sometimes officers have to make decisions we'd like not to make."
The first of Monday's deadly encounters happened about 5:50 a.m. outside the Speedee Mart, 3011 E. Desert Inn Road, at the intersection of McLeod Drive.
Officers responding to a domestic argument found Anthony James Brenes, who began swinging his walking stick at them in the parking lot, officer Marcus Martin said.
The officers used a Taser and a bean bag shotgun to try to stop Brenes. When those failed, an officer fired one fatal shot, Martin said. Brenes died at the scene.
According to court records, Brenes was arrested twice in the past two years for domestic battery, most recently in September.
In January 2009 he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after threatening Carl's Jr. restaurant employees with a sword, police records show.
The employees overheard Brenes telling his crying wife, Lydia Vasquez, to "shut up," according to his arrest report.
When an employee asked what was going on, Brenes pulled a sword from an orange blanket, looked at the employee "with a blank stare and brought back the sword in a spear-like fashion" as if he were going to throw it at the employee, the report said.
An employee later told police he "thought the sword was a crutch-like object before realizing it was a sword," the report said.
Brenes and Vasquez left the restaurant near University Medical Center and were stopped by police a few minutes later. When the officers told him to lie on the ground, he dropped the sword and advanced toward the officers, who grappled him to the ground and handcuffed him, the report said.
Vasquez told police that Brenes was "defending her from evil people" before she was detained for a mental health evaluation, the report said.
Brenes pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon, a gross misdemeanor, and was sentenced to two years' probation.
About five hours after Brenes' fatal confrontation with police, officers were called to the PT's Pub at 2280 S. Nellis Blvd., at the corner of Sahara Avenue, for a robbery.
When officers arrived shortly after 10:30 a.m., the 23-year-old man was inside holding the female bartender hostage with a knife, Neville said.
Three officers shot the man after he refused to comply with commands, Neville said. The man, whose name was not immediately available, was taken to the hospital, where he died.
One of the bar's customers also was hospitalized after the robber hit him over the head with a beer bottle, Neville said. Detectives were interviewing witnesses and reviewing video to determine what happened, but Neville said the officers "probably did what they had to do."
Shortly after the shooting, a tearful Ashley Irvin pulled up looking for answers. She said her mother, Pam Irvin, was the bartender.
She said her mother, who was not seriously hurt in the ordeal, had worked the same shift at the bar for years to help support her three children. She always felt safe there, she said.
"She's well known and well liked," Ashley Irvin said. "It's a shame someone would do something like that."
Monday's shootings brought the Metropolitan Police Department's yearly total to 25. Today Clark County commissioners will discuss a report from a panel that reviewed the coroner's inquest and recommended changes to the fact-finding process, which presents witness testimony and evidence from officer-involved shootings in open court.
Critics have called the hearings, which are conducted by deputy district attorneys, biased toward police. Family members of the deceased and other interested parties who want to ask questions must submit them in writing to the presiding Las Vegas justice of the peace, who decides whether to ask them to the witnesses.
Among the panel's recommendations is to appoint an independent lawyer to represent the family and question witnesses directly. A police union attorney would be able to do the same.
Commissioners formed the panel in the wake of two inquests in which juries found police justified in deadly shootings of two men: Trevon Cole, a small-time marijuana dealer who was unarmed when he was killed in his apartment; and Erik Scott, who was fatally shot outside a Summerlin Costco store after pulling his holstered handgun toward police officers.
A polarized mixture of law enforcement officials, legal experts, activists and the coroner sat on the panel.
The commission will hear from the public on Dec. 7 and decide which suggestions, if any, to adopt.
Review-Journal reporter Lawrence Mower contributed to this report. Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.