Two dispute police statements


Two women say they saw a Las Vegas police officer shoot a suspect in their northeast valley apartment complex Thursday, and dispute the police account of the incident, saying the man was unarmed.

Debbie Wheeler, 25, and Lisa Johnson, 45, told the Review-Journal Saturday their version of the shooting at the Heritage Estates Apartments, 4870 Nellis Oasis Lane, near Cheyenne Avenue and Nellis Boulevard.

They contend the shooting was a result of "mistaken identity, racial profiling and police brutality."

"I don't think Metro should get away with shooting unarmed civilians for no reason at all," Johnson said.

Wheeler was blunt in her criticism of police: "The cops are making up a story."

They haven't told their version to police.

Homicide Lt. Lew Roberts said he was interested in talking with the women.

"Those are pretty serious allegations," Roberts said. "We're conducting an investigation, and the investigation will bear out the truth once we're done."

According to a police report, 41-year-old Andrew Trujillo was shot after fleeing from police. Trujillo ignored officers' commands and ran, leading police on a foot chase through the apartment complex, the report stated. During the chase, Trujillo took a .40-caliber handgun from his waistband and tossed it away. The gun hit a wall and bounced back toward Trujillo, who picked up the gun and pointed it toward an officer, the report said.

The officer then shot Trujillo three times.

He was listed in stable condition at the University Medical Center Saturday afternoon.

The officer who shot Trujillo was identified as Blaine Martell, 31, who has been with the department since January 2006. He has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is department policy after a shooting.

Wheeler and Johnson live at Heritage Estates. Wheeler said she has known Trujillo all of her life and they were friends; Johnson said she knew him, but hasn't spoken with him in years.

Both women said they had a clear view of the shooting Thursday afternoon and that Trujillo didn't have a gun.

Wheeler said she was watching the incident unfold from a second-story balcony and could see the complex's entire parking lot. If she had been at ground-level, she said Trujillo would have been 10 feet away from her when he was shot.

Johnson said she was walking toward her apartment after a trip to a nearby Wal-Mart. She estimated that she was 25 to 30 feet away from Trujillo when he was shot.

Both Johnson and Wheeler said they she saw three officers with their guns drawn chasing Trujillo. The women said they heard officers shout to Trujillo to stop as he was running. Johnson said she heard the orders twice; Wheeler said she heard it once.

According to state law, a police officer, after giving a warning, can use deadly force to prevent an escape if there is probable cause to believe the person "has committed a felony which involves the infliction or threat of serious bodily harm or the use of deadly force" or "poses a threat of serious bodily harm to the officer or others."

Police said they arrived at the apartment complex after a man was shot in the face with a BB gun at a nearby bus stop. When officers arrived, they saw a vehicle matching the description of the one involved in the shooting with Trujillo standing next to it, police said.

Both Johnson and Wheeler said they believed the shooting was a result of racial profiling because Trujillo is Hispanic, and the suspect in the bus stop shooting was as well. Wheeler said she also suspects police thought Trujillo was involved because he is bald and has tattoos.

After their initial investigation of the shooting on Thursday, police said they suspected Trujillo was not involved in the shooting at the bus stop. Lt. Roberts said Saturday the suspect in the bus-stop shooting was Hispanic.

Trujillo was booked in absentia on a series of charges including assault with a deadly weapon, resisting a public officer with a weapon, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and carrying a concealed weapon.

Trujillo has a criminal record, including battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. In 1991, he was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to the battery.

Since Trujillo is expected to survive, Roberts said, the incident will be reviewed by the department's use of force board.

The board is made up of four civilians with no ties to Las Vegas police and three members of the department. The four citizens are randomly selected from a pool of people trained to serve on the board. The police board members include an at-large captain who does not super­vise the officer; the training captain; and a peer of the same rank who does not work with the officer.

The board can recommend discipline against officers found to have violated department policy. The discipline recommendations can range from a written reprimand to termination. The process is not open to the public.

If an officer-involved shooting results in the death of a suspect, a coroner's inquest is held. A jury determines whether the officer's actions were justifiable, excusable or criminal. Those proceedings are open to the public.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

 

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