After deliberating about 45 minutes, a coroner's inquest jury ruled Friday that a Las Vegas police officer was justified in the August fatal shooting of a California man who police say pulled a gun and tried to grab an officer's gun during a scuffle.
The jury returned a 6-1 verdict that Sgt. David Valenta, 36, acted justifiably when he shot and killed Anthony Antwan Davis, 24.
Davis of Lancaster, Calif., was outside a Spring Pointe apartment on Aug. 3 when Valenta and another officer arrived to investigate gang activity in the complex near Pecos Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.
Davis' family and friends filled three rows of the courtroom Friday and submitted several questions about witness' testimony. The judge dismissed the jury at one point to explain the procedure of coroner inquests and reprimand the group for whispering.
At times, members of the group would mumble "That's a lie" as witnesses spoke.
The family refused to comment about the ruling Friday afternoon.
Valenta, who has worked in the department's gang crimes bureau for two of the 12 years he has been on the force, said Davis was trying to flee.
"It started as a consensual stop and gestures were made that made it not so," he said.
Valenta said the man started to "race walk" and moved his left hand to his waistband to reach for a gun. After tackling Davis, the officer said he hoisted his gun to Davis' temple while another officer entered the scuffle.
"At that point, he can feel the cold hard steel of my gun up against his head and he can tell I'm not playing," Valenta said. "My whole world was focused on getting his gun away."
Detective Darren Schwartz, the other officer at the scene, testified Davis somehow freed his right hand and moved to cock his gun before trying to grab Schwartz's gun.
Valenta said he exhausted all other measures before fatally shooting Davis in the head.
Several witnesses argued that Davis wasn't combative during the scuffle.
Roxanne Lewis said she watched events unfold on her doorstep. Her voiced cracked and she began to cry while telling the jury what she saw.
"This is ridiculous. He never even moved," she said.
Other witnesses questioned how Davis could free his hand or manipulate his gun during the scuffle. Witnesses also questioned whether Davis actually belonged to a gang.
Valenta said he wouldn't change the chain of events.
"This is the first time in my 12 years (on the force) that I've had to shoot," he said. "I have replayed this a million times in my head, and I would absolutely not change a thing."
Contact reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.