Two men observing a police stop Friday watched in growing disbelief and then horror as the seemingly routine incident turned deadly when a federal ranger shot a man inside a state trooper’s patrol car.
One of the men recorded video with his cellphone as a Bureau of Land Management ranger shot and killed D’Andre Berghardt Jr., 20, near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
“Oh my God, they just shot him,” the man filming said after realizing what had happened.
The exclusive video, enhanced for clarity, was posted Monday on reviewjournal.com.
Berghardt, from Los Angeles, had been hailing cyclists as he walked along state Route 159 near Calico Basin, about 20 miles from downtown Las Vegas. Two cyclists reported the man to officials at the Red Rock visitor center about noon.
The video, shot from a car stopped on the road, shows two rangers holding Berghardt at gunpoint for several minutes as onlookers watch from cars and bicycles. Berghardt doesn’t appear to threaten the rangers but remains on his feet, apparently disobeying their orders. He didn’t appear to carry a weapon.
Several minutes into the confrontation, one ranger sprays Berghardt with pepper spray. Berghardt stumbles and grabs his face, but the rangers don’t arrest him.
“It’s really interesting that they haven’t just kind of grabbed him. I guess they really want him to be compliant before they (arrest him),” says the man filming.
The other man replies, “Yeah, it doesn’t look like he’s being very erratic. They should have just grabbed him.”
Berghardt pulls off his overshirt, turns his back to the rangers and walks toward a row of cars as they follow. As Berghardt nears an onlooker’s truck, one of the rangers kicks Berghardt and tries to detain him. But Berghardt throws a punch at the ranger, fighting him off.
A Nevada Highway Patrol trooper arrives as Berghardt dashes behind a truck and out of the camera’s view. The three officers chase him as the video cuts away. The man doing the taping briefly turned off the camera because he believed the incident was over, one of the witnesses said Monday.
“At first we thought, with the NHP showing up, that it would end pretty shortly,” said Robbie, who asked to be known only by his first name. “Then, we felt the intensity had increased, and that’s why we turned the video back on.”
The video returns with both rangers on top of Berghardt in the roadway, the trooper off to the side. But Berghardt somehow escapes from the rangers’ grasp, pushes away the trooper, and bolts for the trooper’s patrol vehicle.
“Why don’t they just cuff him and be done with it?” one of the men in the video asks.
“You’d think,” the other replies. “They keep letting him get up and run away.”
The trooper points either his firearm or a Taser at Berghardt but then backs away as Berghardt briefly stomps toward him. Berghardt hurries to the driver’s side of the trooper’s SUV and climbs inside as the trooper slams the door on him.
“Dude, this guy’s going to end up getting shot,” one says.
The camera jerks to the left as the rangers, who had apparently deferred to the trooper, reach the driver’s side of the car. As the camera stabilizes, a ranger wearing dark pants fires eight or nine shots from his handgun into the trooper’s car.
Authorities haven’t officially commented on the case, but the Review-Journal has learned that the officers say Berghardt grabbed for the trooper’s AR-15, which was locked in a gun rack in the car.
The witnesses in the video express shock as the shooting occurs.
“These cops are not taking the prerogative to …”
“Dude, they just shot him. They just killed the dude. Holy (expletive). They just killed him.
“You know what’s ridiculous about this is, they never grabbed him. They could have grabbed him. They kept letting him get up.”
The video also shows the trooper take a few steps back, lowering his head and putting his hands on his knees.
One of the men in the video acknowledges the threat if Berghardt had gained access to the car.
“Well, there’s a gun in that Highway Patrol car,” one of the men in the car is heard saying, “and they probably thought he was gonna get it.”
“They had him on the ground,” the other says. “I don’t know why they didn’t just jump on him and pin him!”
“You know, unless they thought he had something on him, but it didn’t look like it to me.”
“It’s redneck justice.”
Berghardt died at the scene. His name was released by the Clark County coroner’s office on Sunday, but little has been forthcoming from the police agencies involved. The Highway Patrol has said nothing since the day of the shooting.
Trooper Loy Hixson, a Highway Patrol spokesman, said Friday the officers “felt their lives were in danger,” but he never specified a reason. None of the officers has been named.
Hixson didn’t return a call seeking comment on Monday.
Las Vegas police are leading the investigation into the incident, with assistance from the Highway Patrol and FBI.
Robbie, who released the video to the newspaper and plans to give it to Metro, said he felt the park rangers allowed the incident to escalate.
“I think one of the rules of law enforcement is to stop a situation from escalating,” he said. “It felt, to me, like they were allowing the situation to continue and not ending it by detaining this pedestrian. It seemed like they had multiple opportunities to do that.
“I came away from this with a disturbed feeling that a guy is dead that shouldn’t be.”
David Reed, 61, said he was in a truck close to the action. Berghardt tried to open the truck’s locked door, he said.
“They were yelling at him to show them his hands, to stop,” said Reed, who was visiting from Colorado.
He said he doesn’t blame the officers for failing to subdue Berghardt before the shooting. The trooper stunned Berghardt at least once with his Taser, but Berghardt ripped the wires out.
“They tried and tried,” he said. “I thought he was on drugs or something. He was that strong; he was throwing them around.”
Few details are known about Berghardt, who was seen by joggers and cyclists the day of the shooting carrying a rolling suitcase, a backpack and a bedroll. Some witnesses said he appeared homeless.
A family friend told the Review-Journal that Berghardt had taken the bus to Las Vegas from California after a fight with his mother. Robert Williams, 39, said the family believed Berghardt left Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Berghardt previously had lived in Las Vegas with his mother, Williams said. He knew the city.
“He got into it with his mom, and I guess he got a bus ticket,” he said. “But I can’t figure out why he ended up in the desert.”
Joel Meyer, a visitor from Minnesota, was riding his bike at Red Rock on Friday. He said he was one of the last cyclists to pass Berghardt on the road before the rangers arrived.
“As I recall, he was walking in a straight line and was coherent,” Meyer said.
Berghardt tried to flag down Meyer’s group, he said, but no one stopped. Meyer said he is still wondering about that moment.
“Maybe he just wanted some water,” he said.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @blasky on Twitter.