Police investigate fatal shooting in attempted home invasion

When Gary Swanciger heard someone running on his property Monday morning, he opened the blinds in his kitchen and saw a man in a black coat and hat jump over his backyard fence.

A few minutes later, he heard more commotion at the front of his house.

Swanciger walked out of his garage and saw two Las Vegas police officers standing over a handcuffed young man on the ground.

The officers told Swanciger to go back inside.

At the time, Swanciger had no idea that several intruders had attempted to break into his neighbor’s house shortly before 8 a.m., culminating in a homeowner firing at least one round, Las Vegas police said.

The body of a person described by police as a “Latin male” was found in a residential yard on the 2300 block of Westwind Road, near Sahara Avenue and Jones Boulevard.

The identity of the person was not released by authorities Monday.

It was the second time in three days that a homeowner in the Las Vegas Valley had grabbed a weapon during an attempted burglary and fired at an intruder.

Swanciger said his neighbor, whom he identified as retired Dr. Joseph Piracci, was defending himself after burglars broke into his house twice in two consecutive weeks.

“He was protecting himself,” Swanciger said. “He obviously felt threatened.”

Police said the homeowner involved in the shooting Monday is 72 years old, but a database search shows Piracci is 71. He did not return calls for comment.

As Swanciger peered over the backyard fence he shares with Piracci, several men gathered in Piracci’s backyard. A Metropolitan Police Department forensic truck was parked on Westwind.

According to county property records, Piracci lives at 2330 Westwind Road, in a two-story, 2,510-square-foot house built in 1974.

The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners’ website shows that Joseph Eli Piracci has an active medical license that was issued in 1978 and expires in June.

Police said the homeowner who fired a gun was recently burglarized.

On Monday, the homeowner fired as the suspects were entering his bedroom, police said. They said the suspects were “armed.”

Arriving officers encountered one suspect attempting to flee the area in a vehicle. The suspect’s vehicle collided with a police patrol car.

That suspect was taken into custody after a short foot pursuit, police said.

A second suspect was last seen fleeing east into a nearby neighborhood. He had not been arrested as of early Monday afternoon.

Officers searching the homeowner’s property found a person dead in the backyard.

When police spokesman Bill Cassell was asked early Monday afternoon whether the homeowner had fatally shot the man, he said, “At this point, that is part of our ongoing investigation.”

Police said charges against the homeowner are not expected.

Anyone with information concerning this crime is urged to contact the Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Section at 828-3521 or Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@
reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

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