Mom defends suspect in shooting incident

Few words were spoken in court about Terry Rogaczewski or his case, but that didn’t matter to Colleen Lutz.

Rogaczewski’s mother made the early morning drive from Los Angeles to be in Las Vegas Justice Court last week knowing that Rogaczewski’s hearing would be delayed.

But she said that was her first opportunity to see her son’s face in months.

"I didn’t want to miss seeing him. It’s been since October," she said.

Then her smile left her face.

"He’s half his size."

Rogaczewski is facing nine felony charges for his bizarre series of actions Nov. 3 outside the Town & Country Manor III, a weekly motel on Boulder Highway.

Las Vegas police say the 39-year-old attempted to carjack two vehicles in the motel parking lot at gunpoint, emptying the clip of his .40-caliber handgun into a fleeing Cadillac.

When two Las Vegas police officers approached him, police say, he pointed the gun at them. Rogaczewski was shot several times by the officers and was hospitalized before being jailed.

A motive for the shooting puzzled family and friends.

Not only did Rogaczewski have a spotless criminal history, he was a highly decorated paramedic, lifeguard, park ranger and security officer in several states and the Virgin Islands. He also was known for his whale-saving efforts in California and Japan.

"This was way beyond anybody’s scope of reality for Terry," said longtime family friend Paul Long, 63, who accompanied Lutz to court. "This is just unheard of."

Lutz, who declined to talk about her son in the weeks after the shooting, wants to speak now. She shed more light on events leading up to that night:

"He’d been drinking earlier in the after­noon, celebrating one of his friends from L.A.’s birthday," she said.

But Rogaczewski got into an argument with his boyfriend of about a year at the party. The fight became so heated that police may have been called, Lutz said.

When the couple returned to their room at the Town & Country Manor, the fight continued.

His boyfriend took a change of clothes and left, Lutz said.

Lutz said Rogaczewski took the drugs Xanax, for anxiety, and Ambien, as a sleep aid.

Both of the drugs had been prescribed to him, and he took them in an attempt to fall asleep, she said. What happened next is unclear.

The next thing her son knew, he was in a hospital bed recovering from gunshot wounds, Lutz said.

"He has no good recollection of what happened. None," she said.

Lutz said the combination of drugs and alcohol must have done something to her son, whom friends described as a normally light drinker.

She doesn’t know why he would have fired his gun at random cars. He could have believed he was trying to prevent his boyfriend from leaving. Or maybe he thought he was working as a security guard, she said.

"My only thought is that he believed he was doing his job," she said.

Lutz disputes that her son, even in a dazed state, would have pointed the gun at police.

She said detectives told her the gun was empty by the time officers arrived.

Rogaczewski’s boyfriend, through Lutz, declined to comment. But he apparently still is committed to Rogaczewski, Lutz said.

"It’s not over," she said of their relation­ship.

Her primary concern is hiring a lawyer to represent Rogaczewski, who is being represented by a public defender. Lutz doesn’t dislike the lawyer, but said she wants someone with more time for her son.

Her second concern is getting Rogaczewski help for his arm, which she said is "dead" and remains in a sling.

Doctors at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center told Rogaczewski he should consult a neurosurgeon, but that’s hard to arrange from a jail cell.

After court Thursday, Lutz displayed a half dozen letters her son received commending his work in various cities.

She said Rogaczewski is depressed and saddened.

He devoted his life to helping people, but will likely never work in his field again with a felony conviction.

He was slated to start a new job as a civilian security guard at Nellis Air Force Base the morning after he was shot, Lutz said.

"That’s his fear, that he won’t work again. He needs and wants to do whatever it takes to get his reputation back."

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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