Three Las Vegas police officers testified Friday that they had no other option but to shoot their guns at an armed man who refused to put down his weapon during a downtown confrontation in February.
All seven members of a coroner's jury agreed. They deliberated about 50 minutes before declaring the killing of 35-year-old Edmundo Del Valle Jr. justifiable.
"To me, it was pretty cut and dried," jury foreman David Giardina said.
Nilly Shama of Las Vegas, Del Valle's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his 10-year-old daughter, watched the inquest Friday and said she expected the "justifiable" verdict.
"Metropolitan Police Department has a license to kill for the last 40 years," said Shama, referring to the long string of inquest verdicts that have favored Las Vegas police officers.
Shama and her brother presented dozens of written questions to witnesses during the inquest. Shama said police used excessive force, and she plans to file a lawsuit in connection with Del Valle's death.
"I will not go quietly in the night," she said.
The incident began around 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 14, when two officers spotted Del Valle jaywalking near 11th and Fremont streets. As they approached him, they noticed he had a gun in his right hand, which he held at his side.
"He would just say 'no' every now and then when I asked him to drop the weapon," Officer Ronald Rasmussen testified.
Several others officers soon converged on the scene. Rasmussen said he saw the man kneel at one point but could not see the right side of the man's body when gunfire erupted.
When asked why he did not fire his own gun, Rasmussen replied, "I didn't perceive the threat. I didn't see the gun."
The three officers who shot at Del Valle said they saw him raise the gun twice and point it at police. They said they fired at him the second time he raised the gun.
"I believed that he was going to fire upon us," said Karl Knowles, one of the officers who fired.
Knowles, 27, said he shot his rifle at Del Valle seven times.
His partner, 31-year-old Andrew Parrish, said he fired his rifle at Del Valle eight times. Both officers, who estimated they were 30 to 40 yards away at the time, said Del Valle was on his knees when he pointed his gun in their direction.
Officer James Burt, 34, estimated that he was 10 to 20 feet away when he saw Del Valle take aim at other officers. He said he fired his shotgun three times at Del Valle, who was on his knees, and two of his shots struck the man.
Investigators later determined that Del Valle had been wielding an airsoft pistol, which fires plastic BB's.
"I believed it to be an actual firearm," Knowles said.
Also found near Del Valle's body was a loaded pistol. None of the officers who testified Friday said they had seen that weapon before the shooting.
Evidence revealed that Del Valle had methamphetamine and amphetamine in his system when he was killed.
Police operate surveillance cameras in the area of the shooting, but employee Brenda Najarro testified that she touched computer equipment in the camera room while attempting to view the incident and accidentally caused the camera that was filming the confrontation to zoom in and get "fuzzy."
Najarro, a Spanish interpreter, said she was not authorized to touch the equipment and was reprimanded for doing so.
Shama described her ex-boyfriend, who was unemployed, as a good man with a good heart who "meant the world" to his daughter.
"He was not just an unknown Hispanic man with no family who cared about him," she said.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-380-8135.