A coroner's jury deliberated about an hour Friday night before ruling that a Henderson police officer acted justifiably when he shot and killed an ice cream truck driver near Coronado High School.
The dead woman's husband, Zyber Selimaj, was present when the jury's five men and two women returned their unanimous verdict at 11 p.m., but he declined to comment.
"Understandably, the Selimaj family is very disappointed by the current shortcomings of the coroner's inquest process," said Selimaj family attorney Mario Lovato, who attended the two-day inquest.
Officer Luke Morrison, 23, testified Friday that he had no choice but to fire his gun at Deshira Selimaj on Feb. 12.
Morrison said he fired the shot that killed the 42-year-old woman after she raised a knife in the direction of another officer who had made a failed attempt to incapacitate her with a stun gun.
"She was that close to him," Morrison said.
Morrison, who joined the Henderson Police Department about two years ago, said he would do "the exact same thing" if faced with the same situation again.
Officer Anthony Pecorella, who testified earlier Friday, credited Morrison with saving his life. He said Morrison shot the woman after she lunged at him with a knife.
"I believed at that point she was going to try and kill me with that knife," Pecorella said.
According to inquest testimony, a knife found at the scene had a 41/2-inch blade.
Selimaj, who was the mother of three sons, died at a hospital shortly after suffering a single gunshot wound to the abdomen. Two of her sons, ages 5 and 11, were at the scene of the shooting.
Pecorella was one of several officers who surrounded Selimaj at the scene. He said she had threatened to kill the officers, herself and her children at various points during the confrontation.
When Pecorella saw that other officers had drawn their firearms, he said, he decided to put his own firearm away and pull out a type of stun gun known as a Taser. He said he saw an opportunity to use it when Selimaj sat down and lowered her knife.
"I felt at that point that I could end the situation without deadly force," Pecorella told jurors.
He said he moved to within about 10 feet of Selimaj, who had failed to comply with officers' repeated commands to drop her weapon, and deployed his Taser. However, one of the device's two prongs missed the target, rendering it ineffective.
Pecorella said he heard another officer yell "watch out" as he saw Selimaj stand up and lunge forward at him. By then, the two were about 6 feet apart, he said.
"I was trying to back up, and I was thinking about getting my firearm out so I could defend myself and shoot her," Pecorella said.
Several officers testified that they are trained to shoot anyone who threatens them with a knife within 21 feet.
Morrison said he noticed that the Taser "didn't have the normal effect" when Pecorella fired it at Selimaj.
"Her eyes just got really big," Morrison said.
"She started grinding her teeth."
The officer said Selimaj immediately stood up and raised her knife toward Pecorella.
"And at that point I fired my weapon at her," Morrison said.
The officer said Pecorella had his back to the woman's ice cream truck by then and had nowhere to go. Morrison said Selimaj dropped to the ground after being struck by the bullet.
"It took immediate effect and stopped the threat immediately," the officer said.
Pecorella said he had no time to pull out his own firearm, but he added that he would have used it if he had.
Like Pecorella, officer Christopher Cyr said he decided to pull out his Taser after he saw that other officers had their guns drawn.
Cyr said he deployed his Taser as he saw Selimaj lunge at Pecorella. He said he did not hear the gunshot.
According to various witnesses, Cyr deployed his Taser at the same time Morrison fired his gun.
Cyr said he had no doubt Selimaj was going to stab Pecorella. Cyr said he would have shot her himself if his gun had not been holstered.
Jurors are allowed to question witnesses at coroner's inquests, and one man on the panel told Morrison he had come to believe that Pecorella had escalated the situation by shooting his Taser at Selimaj.
"Had he not fired his Taser, do you think she could have been talked down?" the juror asked.
"No, I don't think so," Morrison replied.
He said numerous attempts to talk Selimaj into dropping her knife already had failed.
"I can't tell you, seriously," the officer later added.
"I don't know what would have happened had he not fired his Taser."
Morrison spent three years in the U.S. Army, including a year in Iraq, before becoming a Henderson police officer.
An alternate juror asked him how many enemies he had shot in Iraq, and Morrison said, "I can't answer that."
The hearing officer, Rodney Burr, then said jurors could ask questions only about Morrison's training.
Selimaj came to the scene, at Sunridge Heights and Pecos Ridge parkways, with two of her sons after she learned that her husband had been stopped there while driving his own ice cream truck.
An officer had issued Zyber Selimaj, 65, two traffic tickets and testified that he had called for backup after the man began making suicidal threats.
Recordings of police interviews with the two Selimaj boys were played at the inquest Thursday, and both boys said their mother was threatening to kill herself that afternoon.
Henderson police officer Jeffrey Wiener whisked the boys away from their mother before she was shot. Ironically, the pastor of his church witnessed much of the incident.
The Rev. Benjamin Perez of The Church at South Las Vegas said he stopped his car about 15 feet from the scene after noticing the police officers and a woman with two children. He said he heard officers order the woman to drop her knife and let go of the children.
"My main concern was for the children," Perez said.
He said he tried to get the boys' attention in the hope that they would run to him, but Wiener waved him off.
"I guess I was in the line of fire," Perez said.
He said he watched as Wiener waved to the boys, who then ran to the officer.
Perez said he moved out of the way but continued watching the incident through his side-view mirror. He said he looked down to call his wife and didn't see the shooting.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-383-0264.