Updated November 30, 2023 - 8:37 pm
Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Abbate and trooper Alberto Felix were struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver Thursday morning while assisting another motorist on northbound Interstate 15 near D Street.
The driver was later arrested, and Las Vegas police provided details about the fatal collision at a news briefing Thursday afternoon at Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. Court records show the driver has a long history of traffic violations in the Las Vegas Valley, including a prior DUI arrest.
Abbate joined the department in 2013 and was promoted to sergeant in November. Felix joined in 2019 after serving in the Air Force, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol.
The troopers had stopped on the highway at 3:23 a.m. to check on a motorist who appeared to be asleep at the wheel when another vehicle struck the troopers and drove away, according to Metro Deputy Chief Branden Clarkson.
Late Thursday afternoon, police identified Jemarcus Williams, 46, as the driver who struck the troopers. He faces two counts each of reckless driving resulting in death, DUI resulting in death and failing to stop at the scene of a crash.
One trooper died at the scene, Clarkson said, and the other was pronounced dead at University Medical Center.
A search for the suspect’s vehicle, described as a white Chevrolet HHR, led authorities to an apartment complex near J Street and Monroe Avenue, and the suspect was taken into custody.
The deaths were being investigated by Metro’s homicide section, Clarkson said.
I-15 northbound at Charleston Boulevard and ramps from U.S. Highway 95 to I-15 northbound were closed for several hours Thursday before being reopened to traffic around 4 p.m.
History of traffic violations
Southern Nevada police have ticketed Williams for about a dozen alleged traffic violations since 2007, city and justice court records show.
In 2007, he was charged with DUI in Las Vegas and later pleaded no contest. He was also caught driving without a license four times during the next three years.
In 2020, he pleaded no contest to failing to yield the right of way. Las Vegas Municipal Court reduced the charge to a parking citation.
Most recently, in May, police ticketed Williams for driving with expired license plates. He pleaded no contest in the case.
Wolfson visits scene
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he had visited the crime scene and been given a walk-through of the events leading up to the crash.
“It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy to have these troopers lose their lives in the manner they did,” Wolfson said.
“Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of our fallen Troopers,” the Nevada State Police said in a statement.
Gov. Joe Lombardo also released a statement after the deaths.
“I’m profoundly saddened by the deaths of two of our brave Nevada State Troopers, who were killed early this morning in Las Vegas,” the statement read. “This is a devastating loss for Nevada law enforcement, the city of Las Vegas, and our entire state. As we mourn these troopers, we will never forget their bravery, courage, and sacrifice.”
Pursuant to Nevada policy, Lombardo directed both the U.S. flag and Nevada state flag be lowered to half-staff immediately until sunset on the day of interment to honor the fallen troopers.
Apartment complex surrounded
Before the driver was arrested, police had surrounded an apartment complex, and law enforcement vehicles lined streets near H Street and Monroe Avenue in connection with the deaths, according to a police source, while a nearby school, Wendell P. Williams Elementary, was placed on a soft lockdown that was lifted by 10 a.m.
The troopers’ deaths occurred a little more than two years after another state trooper, Micah May, was killed on the interstate near Sahara Avenue.
May died in July 2021 after he was struck by a carjacking suspect driving on the freeway. May was struck by the suspect’s stolen vehicle while deploying stop sticks on I-15 in an attempt to halt a car chase that spanned portions of the freeway and surface streets. May later died at University Medical Center from his crash injuries.
In September, a stretch of the highway was dedicated in May’s name with memorial signs installed in each direction of I-15 near Sahara.
At the time, May was only the second Nevada trooper to die in the line of duty in nearly three decades, according to data maintained by the FBI.
On March 27, 2020, Sgt. Ben Jenkins was fatally shot on U.S. Highway 93 after Jenkins pulled over to assist a driver. Ruth resident John Dabritz is charged with murder, third-degree arson, grand larceny of a motor vehicle and grand larceny of a firearm in connection with the death.
Contact Jeff Burbank at email@example.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X. Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on X @rickytwrites. Review-Journal data editor Michael Scott Davidson, staff writer David Wilson and digital content producer Tony Garcia contributed to this report.