November 20, 2012 - 6:32 pm
Clark County’s top prosecutor said Tuesday that five Las Vegas police officers had “no choice” when they shot and killed a 49-year-old woman after a 40-minute standoff earlier this year.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the officers’ actions were reasonable and lawful. There will be no criminal charges filed against them for the shooting of Sharmel Edwards.
Police were searching for Edwards after a man called 911 on April 21 to say a “female friend” had stolen his 2001 Cadillac after a date. Inside the car was a .45-caliber handgun.
During the standoff in a strip mall parking lot on Jones Boulevard near Smoke Ranch Road, police said they tried to persuade Edwards to surrender peacefully. When Edwards got out of the car, she pointed the handgun at the officers, who shot her multiple times at 4:17 a.m.
The five officers who fired were Melvyn F. English, Todd G. Edwards, Truong T. Thai, Matthew J. Cook and Christopher M. Grivas.
Wolfson said, “The police officers gave Ms. Edwards ample opportunity to end their confrontation in a nonviolent manner. Unfortunately, as numerous witnesses stated, she ignored the officers’ commands and exited the vehicle with a gun drawn. She left the officers with no choice.”
In a 30-page incident report available to the public on the district attorney’s website, Wolfson said the officers acted reasonably and lawfully.
A toxicology report by the Clark County coroner’s office showed Edwards was high on cocaine and had a blood alcohol level of 0.13, nearly double the legal limit for driving.
Eight civilian witnesses, who were not identified by the district attorney’s office, said police “pleaded” with Edwards to exit the car peacefully.
One witness recalled an officer saying, “If you cooperate, you will not be harmed.”
Another witness said Edwards came “barreling” out of the car and moved toward the officers before they fired, according to the report.
Police fired 18 shots at Edwards from a rifle, shotgun and handguns. Edwards was struck at least three times.
One witness said Edwards had her hands up when police fired. Seven witnesses said Edwards’ hands were not up.
Five of the witnesses said they did not see a gun. Three did.
One witness said she saw a “chrome plate(d) pistol.”
A note written by that witness after the incident said, “The way she had it in her hands was not pointing toward officer but laying in her hands. But in turning it could have look like she was point it toward them,” according to the report.
A total of 24 civilian witnesses were interviewed. Two of the witnesses said they believed Edwards fired at officers first, but the report showed only police shot their weapons.
None of the officers who fired guns provided statements to investigators.
It was the 18th fatal incident involving police that Wolfson has reviewed and found not to be criminal.
A 19th fatal incident, that of veteran Stanley Gibson, is being reviewed by a county grand jury, a process closed to the public and expected to take weeks.
Three other officer-involved fatalities have yet to be reviewed.
Two of the officers who shot Edwards have been involved in other shootings.
Grivas and officer David Hager in 2011 shot and killed 23-year-old Rafael “Ralfy” Olivas, who was walking toward them with a knife.
Olivas’ family protested the shooting and sued the department and the officers. The lawsuit is pending.
In 2006, Cook shot and wounded Jeffrey Gray, a 26-year-old man who was in a vacant house.
Cook said Gray lunged at him in an aggressive manner with what appeared to be a weapon; but Gray, who had the mental capacity of a 15-year-old boy, was holding only a cellphone.
Gray survived the shooting and denied making a threatening gesture toward the officer.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.Deadly Force: When Las Vegas Police Shoot, and Kill
Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative series