Few at the Metropolitan Police Department understand the deadly potential of domestic violence like officer Greg Watkins.
His sister, former Las Vegas officer Kathryn Michelle Walters, and nephew Max Walters, were killed in Boulder City in January in a murder-suicide. Their killer was police Lt. Hans Walters, who set his family’s home on fire before shooting himself.
Watkins spoke to reporters after a ceremony Thursday at Las Vegas police headquarters to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The grieving process isn’t easy, he said. There are many questions in the aftermath of a domestic killing, but few answers.
“It hurts,” Watkins said. “You can look at anything in retrospect. Maybe I could have done this, maybe I could have done this. But the fact of matter is, maybe you didn’t know.”
Although the Walters’ killings were a harsh blow for the police department, overall domestic violence death numbers in Clark County continued to drop.
There were 16 domestic homicides from July 31, 2012, to June 1, according to Elynne Greene, supervisor of victim services detail for Las Vegas police. Their names were added to a memorial plaque Thursday as friends and family of the victims — the survivors — placed white roses in a vase.
The victims’ ages ranged in age from 87 to 5. Men, women and children were victims.
“Domestic abuse can occur in many ways, and all forms can turn deadly,” Greene said.
But the numbers have been dropping. There were 17 names added to the plaque last year, 30 the year before, and 39 added in 2010. In 2009, 50 names of victims were added to the plaque.
Police attribute the decline in killings to a variety of community outreach programs and a police “lethality assessment program” implemented several years ago.
The program uses a questionnaire to help police identify domestic violence victims who are at a significant risk of being killed by their abusers.
Police ask victims questions such as whether the abuser has ever threatened to kill the victim, tried to choke the victim or threatened the victim with a weapon. Based on the answers, police can gauge the victim’s risk of being killed.
Those victims are quickly connected with Safe Nest, an organization dedicated to helping them.
Greene said she looked forward to the day when zero names would be added to the plaque.
“One victim is too many,” she said.
Watkins advised people to report any suspicion of domestic abuse to police. Officers can provide insight and information about domestic violence, and connect victims to programs and services.
Police can “show you and assist you how to do it. Whether it’s getting you a phone, whether it’s putting you in a safe program where you can bring your family with you,” he said.
“The biggest thing is to get away from that situation. And we can show you how to do it.”
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @blasky on Twitter.