Review of Las Vegas police shooting reveals a life spun out of control

The Las Vegas police officers had met the man holding an elderly woman hostage outside a dingy weekly motel before. And they were familiar with the butcher knife he held at her throat.

Weeks before officers Russell Ellsworth and Brandon Oris shot and killed Daniel Hathorne in November, they arrested him for threatening his girlfriend with that same eight-inch blade.

The details were revealed Friday in the second public fact-finding review of a police shooting, which replaced the much-maligned Clark County coroner’s inquest.

The first fact-finding review was held in February and concerned the Dec. 12, 2011 shooting of Stanley Gibson.

The new process does not have a jury, is not held in a courtroom, does not include testimony from citizens or the involved officers and is not legally binding. Friday’s review was held in a mostly empty Clark County Commission chambers.

Homicide Det. Chris Bunting, who investigated the shooting, was the sole witness called to speak at the review of Hathorne’s Nov. 2, 2012 shooting outside the Siegel Suites at 3825 Cambridge St., near Twain Avenue and Maryland Parkway.

In the weeks before the incident Hathorne started using methamphetamine and other drugs, his longtime girlfriend told police. Hathorne, who had maintained steady employment through most of their relationship, stopped caring about work. She called police after he threatened her in August, but didn’t end the relationship even after his arrest.

She told police Hathorne became increasingly paranoid and anxious in the three weeks before his death. The day before the shooting, he was stopped by officers after he ran from a convenience store and began throwing items from his pockets.

Although the officers didn’t find anything illegal, Hathorne admitted to using drugs and told them he felt depressed. He was reevaluating his life, he said.

But life would not improve for Hathorne.

Later that night, Hathorne was locked out of his room at the Siegel Suites after he stopped paying rent. But he broke into the apartment through a window a few hours later.

The following morning, the manager of the complex saw Hathorne had returned and asked him to leave. He pushed her out of the apartment, threatened to take hostages, and told her to call police. She did.

When police arrived, Hathorne ran from the apartment and did exactly what he said he would do: He took a 66-year-old woman hostage, a knife to her neck.

He refused officers’ commands to drop the knife or release the woman. When Ellsworth and Oris had a clear line of sight, they fired a combined seven shots, five of which hit Hathorne. The hostage situation lasted only about 90 seconds.

Two butcher knives were found at the scene. A toxicology report revealed Hathorne had significant amounts of methamphetamine and other drugs in his system when he died.

A rambling note written by Hathorne was found by police after his death.

Bunting said the note had a theme of reconciliation. Hathorne acknowledged he wasn’t living up to his own standards or those of his family.

The note conveyed a sense of “letting go” of his girlfriend, Bunting said.

Neither Hathorne’s girlfriend or any relatives attended Friday’s review.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283. Follow @blasky on Twitter.