Updated April 15, 2021 - 12:06 pm
Clark County prosecutors formally requested an execution warrant Wednesday for Zane Floyd, convicted of fatally shooting four people inside a Las Vegas Albertsons nearly 22 years ago.
The move came a day after the Nevada Assembly voted to abolish capital punishment and commute the sentences of those on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
While the legislation faces another vote in the Senate, opponents have cited a need for the harshest penalty in heinous murder cases, like the killings for which a jury sentenced Floyd to die.
Speaking on Tuesday on the floor of the Capitol, Assemblywoman Annie Black, R-Mesquite, relayed the gruesome details of June 3, 1999.
“There is no doubt about Mr. Floyd’s guilt,” Black said before a 26-16 vote in favor of repeal. “He was given a fair trial and sentenced to death by a jury. Considering the circumstances, it was the right and proper sentence.”
District Attorney Steve Wolfson called the timing “purely coincidental” and said his office started working toward Floyd’s execution in the months before lawmakers gathered for this legislative session.
“Zane Floyd is an example of the type of murderer that the death penalty was designed for,” he said Wednesday. “It is my responsibility to move forward as the jury and citizens of this community have asked me to do to seek the warrant of execution.”
In the motion filed Wednesday in Clark County District Court, Chief Deputy District Attorney Alex Chen asked that the execution be carried out “no less than 15 days but no more than 30 days” after a judge signs the warrant.
“The defendant has exhausted his legal remedies thereby leaving no valid legal reasons against the issuance of an order to carry out the jury’s sentence of a judgment of death,” the prosecutor wrote.
Defense to seek stay of execution
Brad Levenson, a federal public defender who represents Floyd, said that the move from prosecutors would prompt defense attorneys to seek a stay of execution and other litigation in state and federal court later Wednesday.
Defense attorney Scott Coffee, who sits on the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty, spoke to lawmakers in opposition to capital punishment last month.
“The timing is interesting, and you hope it’s not political,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think this is any evidence the death penalty system is working. We are 20 years into this case with more litigation to come.”
Floyd’s crimes troubled even those in law enforcement who were dedicated to maintaining impartiality.
Crime scene analyst reflects
Surveillance footage of Floyd marching methodically through the grocery store aisles before dawn, shotgun in hand, hunting for victims, continues to haunt retired crime scene analyst Rick Workman.
“When I read about the case, with Zane Floyd meeting his end potentially, it really kind of choked me up,” he said. “It’s one of those things that you just never get over.”
Four employees — Lucy Tarantino, 60, Thomas Darnell, 40, Chuck Leos, 40, and Dennis “Troy” Sargent, 31 — died that morning.
Zachar Emenegger, then 21, was shot twice and survived after playing dead in the produce section.
In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Workman recalled arriving at the store at 6:05 the morning of the killings. He and his colleagues walked directly to the manager’s office to watch the video.
Their job was to observe the crime scene; photograph, document and diagram what they found; and collect any potential evidence for trial.
Workman spent 11 hours inside the Albertsons on West Sahara Avenue.
“I can remember to this day, vividly, how the store looked, what we did, and just the utter devastation to these victims,” said Workman, who spent six years with the Metropolitan Police Department and another 20 with Henderson police. “It’s one of the few cases that really tugs at you, your heart, your soul, just tears you down when you think about it.”
Workman prefers to use words like “the killer” or “the suspect” or other unprintable nouns when discussing Floyd.
“I hate to give him a name,” Workman said. “I hate saying his name, because he treated those victims not as people. And how could he be considered a human being with what he did?”
Darnell was shot first, as he pushed a shopping cart back into the store. Customers and employees scrambled, running for the exits, hiding among displays, climbing up ladders.
“Every time he encountered someone, he shot them,” Workman said.
Tarantino was about 20 feet from a back door, wearing headphones. She didn’t hear the shotgun blasts before Floyd found her.
A witness reported hearing her scream.
As police arrived that morning, Floyd walked calmly out of the store, kneeled in the parking lot and pointed the muzzle at his head.
Workman later checked the weapon.
“He had no intention of killing himself, because he knew it was on safe,” he said.
‘It just tears you up’
Workman has not previously spoken publicly about how the slayings affected him.
“Externally, it never really shook me up,” he said. “People probably couldn’t see it. I may not have shed a tear, necessarily, but inside it just kicks your ass. It just tears you up.”
He still thinks about the families of the victims and how they suffered, and may continue to suffer. Workman said he has concerns about the death penalty, particularly in cases where guilt may be in question.
Floyd, whose federal appeals exhausted in November after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his case, would be the first executed in Nevada in 15 years.
His attack was captured on video. He was arrested moments after the murders. Like the assemblywoman, Workman has no doubt about Floyd’s guilt.
“He should pay the price for what he did,” Workman said. “Whatever that price may be, he ought to pay the damn price.I have an opinion. I just kind of hate stating it. You can probably guess what my opinion is. He’s been living for 22 years. The families have been living with the thought of their loved ones for 22 years, and they will for the rest of their lives. I hope that the victims’ families can have any way to feel better throughout their lives if it’s possible.”