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Boy dies from gunshot wound during east Las Vegas standoff

Updated July 13, 2017 - 2:58 am

A boy is dead after a gunshot wound to the head that police said was self-inflicted. It happened inside an east valley home Wednesday afternoon, just as officers were trying to arrest him.

It’s unclear if the gunshot was accidental or an act of suicide. It took at least four hours for the boy to receive medical care, because when the shot went off, police thought it was intended for officers and ducked for cover. They evacuated the family from the home, called in SWAT and set up a barricade response, trying to negotiate with the boy from outside.

It wasn’t until a SWAT team made entry late Wednesday that officers realized the boy had been wounded. The boy was taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center as distraught relatives screamed in shock. He died at the hospital.

“Clearly it’s not the desired outcome that we had,” Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Jay Rivera said near the scene late Wednesday, commenting on the delayed medical response. “We would have hoped that the negotiators would have established contact with him, would have been able to reason with him, and that he would have come to his senses and come out peacefully. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened tonight.”

Rivera said officers did not enter the home sooner because they had no way of knowing the boy had been hurt.

“An individual running from us and attempting to hide is not a clear indication that someone just harmed themselves,” he said. “For the safety of our officers, as well as the suspect, and based on our experience, time is usually in our favor.”

Before the gunshot, the boy and two others were suspected of burglary in a community near East Tropicana Avenue and Wetlands Park Lane, Rivera said.

A neighbor called police about 2:30 p.m. from the 5000 block of Droubay Lane, a small residential street. Rivera said the neighbor was frustrated; the area had been “plagued” with recent burglaries.

As the neighbor waited for police, he decided to take action himself. He tried to stop the boys, but they scattered. He held on to one, age 11, until officers arrived. Rivera said that boy is now in custody.

Soon after, officers learned where one of the other boys who ran off lived — a home on the 4900 block of Miners Ridge Drive. With the mother’s permission, police stepped inside and searched the house. Officers did not find the boy inside but found evidence of prior burglaries, Rivera said.

A few minutes later, officers noticed the boy hiding in the backyard, near an oleander bush, and chased him, Rivera said. They quickly lost the boy, who had actually ran around to the front yard, then re-entered the same home through a window and, for unknown reasons, began loading a gun in a bathrooom, Rivera said.

The boy didn’t realize at least two officers were still inside the home.

“They confront him right away, order him to put the weapon down,” Rivera said. But instead, the boy ran into a connected bedroom, where officers heard one round discharge.

The round did not injure police, and officers did not return fire. That’s when the barricade response began.

At the hospital late Wednesday, the boy’s family pleaded for answers. Metro and staff only allowed two relatives to come into the hospital, including the boy’s mother. About 10 others paced outside on the sidewalk, wondering, waiting.

About 11 p.m., a pastor came outside and spoke with them. They huddled together, heard the news, then quietly separated. One woman held her hand over her mouth. One man said he was going to throw up. Another man walked across the hospital driveway, sat down, stared, and smoked a cigarette.

Several others began making phone calls.

“He was shot in the head,” one man said into his cellphone. “The head.”

The third boy has not been apprehended, Rivera said late Wednesday. He noted Metro still had a “very strong police presence” in the area, which would continue through the night.

The coroner’s office will name the boy who died. Police continue to investigate.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter. Rachel Hershkovitz contributed to this report.

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