Kelly "Amber" DuPriest was strung out on methamphetamine June 7 when she drove a stolen car toward a group of Henderson police officers, ignoring repeated commands to stop.
After hearing testimony about the incident Friday at a coroner's inquest, jurors ruled unanimously that the six officers who fired at the woman did so justifiably. DuPriest, 39, died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.
Her parents, Cecelia DuPriest and Randy Krajcar, traveled from Arizona for the inquest but declined to comment on what they heard. Instead, they provided a handwritten statement: "Any time parents lose a child there is heartache. Our hearts ache for everyone affected by this tragic event."
The jury's five women and two men deliberated about 40 minutes before returning their verdict. Sara Gordon, an inactive attorney, was jury forewoman. She declined comment after the inquest.
Dr. Gary Telgenhoff, a forensic pathologist with the Clark County coroner's office, testified that DuPriest had a "very high level of methamphetamine" in her system at the time of her death. He said he has seen overdose deaths involving much lower levels of the drug.
Telgenhoff said DuPriest suffered six gunshot wounds: five in her back and one in her left arm.
Blake Youmans testified that he was in his pool in the MacDonald Highlands community watching the sunset with friends when he noticed a security officer pointing toward the vacant house next door. He said he then saw a man and woman pop their heads up from a nearby bush.
Youmans said he later heard the woman -- DuPriest -- arguing with another woman. DuPriest claimed to own the vacant house, then threatened to shoot everyone.
The witness said he was in the process of calling 911 when DuPriest and her male companion got into his car.
"It has a push-button start, and I guess I left the key in it," Youmans testified. He said he jumped in the back seat, but got out when the man put a gun in his face.
"Thank God he didn't pull the trigger," Youmans said. Investigators later learned it was a BB gun.
Officer Forest Shields said he was dispatched on a burglary call later updated to include the shooting threat.
Shields said that as he approached he scene he saw a red car being followed by a white security truck. The car swerved in his direction, Shields told the jury, forcing him to accelerate to avoid collision. Following the vehicle off the paved road into a desert area, he learned the suspects had brandished a gun.
The stolen car soon became stuck on a gravel road, and Shields ordered the suspects to show their hands as more officers arrived. He described DuPriest as "very animated."
Shields said the woman called him "Paul" and told him, "Don't come up to the car. It's a trap."
The officer said the male passenger never responded to commands to open his door and get out of the car.
Shields said he kept up a dialogue with the woman for about 45 minutes. At one point, she got out of the car and walked toward the officers. Then, Shields testified, "her whole demeanor changed." DuPriest got back into the car, closed the door, put on her sunglasses and turned up the volume on the stereo. The car's rear lights came on, and the tires started spinning.
"The car finally breaks free, and it straightens out," Shields told the jury. The car stopped momentarily before it began moving in reverse toward the officers, he said.
He said he took cover behind an officer who had his gun drawn. Moments later the officers fired.
Shields said he could not think of anything he could have done differently.
"I gave it my all," he said.
DuPriest's passenger, Carlos Pedraza, 21, suffered a minor shrapnel injury to his left wrist and was arrested on numerous felony charges. He did not testify at the inquest, but portions of his recorded statements to police were played.
The man mumbled and frequently swore during the interviews. At times he sobbed.
Pedraza said he was scared during the incident, but DuPriest told him to trust her. He said the two had been taking methamphetamine intravenously.
When SWAT officers arrived, Pedraza said, he told DuPriest he loved her.
Six officers, Juan Castro, James Dunn, Kevin Grant, Michael Schmitz, Jeffrey Wiener and Sgt. Christopher Delacanal, fired a total of 42 times.
"Isn't 42 a little excessive?" a juror asked.
Several officers said they are trained to continue firing until the threat passes.
"It was my impression that she was fixing to come and run us over," said Delacanal, who said he fired seven rifle rounds and stopped when the car did.
Dunn, who fired seven times, said he became worried when he saw DuPriest lean over and kiss Pedraza.
"It almost looked like she was giving him a goodbye kiss," he said.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.