The young man and his girlfriend drove to the Pennwood Avenue apartment complex hoping to sell a car.
What the couple could not have known, however, was that the man who responded to their online ad was a dangerous fugitive sought by Las Vegas police officers the afternoon of Feb. 8.
When 33-year-old Roberto Antonio Torres left his apartment to look at the car, which was parked on the nearby street, officer Joseph Parra, 34, and Detective Scott Thomas, 50, followed.
Torres, wanted on an attempted murder charge after he shot his girlfriend in the face earlier that week, was armed with a handgun. And when he saw the officers, he fired at them, police said.
The officers fired seven shots in response. Torres was struck several times and died.
The woman received “superficial injuries,” and it’s unclear whether she was struck by the officers’ gunfire, police said. But at least one of the officers’ shots struck her 22-year-old boyfriend in the shoulder.
The boyfriend, who was not named by police, remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Thursday that the shooting was an unfortunate reminder of the dangers facing police and the violent criminals residing in Las Vegas.
“I can assure you that it was not the officers’ intention to harm an innocent bystander,” said Gillespie, who does not typically hold news conferences after police shootings.
Neither Parra nor Thomas was injured in the shooting at the 4000 block of Pennwood. And their actions, based on the preliminary evidence, were appropriate, Gillespie said.
Officers are trained to respond to deadly force with deadly force, he said.
“At times, our officers run into criminals that are violent, they are well-armed, and they are willing to engage police in combat-type situations,” he said.
In each of the three officer-involved shootings this year, suspects have fired at officers, Gillespie said.
And the recent outburst of violence hasn’t only been directed at police.
There have been 19 homicides in 2013, compared with six homicides at this date last year.
Although homicides have been down the past two years compared with the agency’s numbers in the mid-2000s, Gillespie said the number of assaults has not dropped at the same rate.
The totality of violence in Las Vegas is a major concern, Gillespie said.
“In a number of cases, a bullet to the left or a bullet to the right turns that into a homicide,” he said.
Torres shooting his girlfriend was a prime example. Although the woman’s condition was unknown Thursday, police said they did not think her injuries had been life-threatening, and it was unclear whether she was still hospitalized.
Gillespie said he didn’t have a concrete reason for the uptick in violence but added that his officers will be analyzing the cases and looking for ways to prevent trends.
One of his suggestions was for gun owners to store and lock their weapons. Many of the armed criminals in the valley — such as Torres — are felons not legally able to own guns.
“If you don’t have a gun safe, I would recommend you purchase one,” he said.
Gillespie said that the shooting was still an ongoing investigation and that evidence was being collected.
Thomas and Parra have been placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal review of the shooting.
Parra is a patrol officer assigned to Bolden Area Command. He was hired in 2007 and Friday’s incident was his second fatal shooting.
In 2010, Parra shot 45-year-old Brian Shelton after Shelton approached officers with a knife. Shelton had devised a plan to be killed by officers so his family could sue the Metropolitan Police Department, according to testimony at the Clark County coroner’s inquest.
Thomas, hired in 1995, was assigned to the career criminal section in the robbery/homicide bureau.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.