weather icon Clear

Suspect fleeing police dies after Taser shots

A man died early Saturday after fleeing from police who used a Taser on him several times, Las Vegas police said.

Police, who did not release the man’s name, said the incident occurred at 1:07 a.m. after a routine traffic stop in the 1000 block of West Lake Mead Boulevard, near Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Police said the man was speaking to an officer at the front of a patrol vehicle when he fled north across Lake Mead and jumped over a wall into the backyard of an abandoned home at the 1000 block of Hart Avenue, about two-tenths of a mile from where his car was stopped.

Police said officers chased and attempted to take the man into custody but he aggressively resisted them. The officers then "attempted to deploy an E.C.D. several times to subdue the suspect," police said.

An E.C.D., or Electronic Control Device, is commonly known as a Taser.

Police didn’t specify how many of the Taser shots struck the suspect, but Sgt. John Sheahan said the man was hit several times.

The man was taken into custody but soon appeared to be in medical distress. The officers rendered aid and called for medical help. He was pronounced dead later at Valley Hospital.

Police did not specify how many officers were involved. They were placed on routine paid leave, and their names will be released 48 hours after the incident, per department policy.

Taser use by local police agencies has been controversial. Several suspects have died in recent years after Tasers were used on them.

A 2008 study by Amnesty International concluded that Las Vegas led U.S. cities in deaths involving law enforcement use of Tasers. The study found that between June 2001 and August 2008, seven people died after Tasers were used on them. That figure topped Phoenix, with five deaths.

A Taser delivers 50,000 volts of electricity, which tenses muscles and in­capacitates the body.

The study said six of the seven deaths in Las Vegas followed Taser use by the Metropolitan Police Department, which began using them departmentwide in July 2004.

At the time of the study, police spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said that while people have died after being shot with the weapon, the Clark County coroner had never found Taser use to be the cause of death.

"We have no deaths caused by Tasers," she said in December of 2008. "Some of them were narcotics or heart problems."

On Aug. 25, Eduardo Hernandez-Lopez, 21, of Henderson, died after a Taser was used on him by the Nevada Highway Patrol.

On Friday, the Clark County coroner’s office said Hernandez-Lopez died from "cardiopulmonary arrest during varied restraining procedures." They labeled his death a homicide.

Troopers were alerted to an incident on U.S. Highway 95 involving an individual fighting several people.

When officers arrived, they had a physical altercation with Hernandez-Lopez, whom they described as an "irate individual." During the altercation, Hernandez-Lopez was shot with a Taser and troopers later noticed he wasn’t breathing. He was pronounced dead at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

On Saturday afternoon in the neighbor­hood where the latest Taser death occurred, Gerald Enos described what he saw from his living room window. Enos said he looked out the window about 1:15 a.m. because his Labrador was barking loudly at the sound of police sirens.

Enos said he saw two or three officers wrestling with a man in the front yard of an abandoned house across Hart Avenue, near a 15-foot palm tree, but that it was dark and he could not see much. Enos said police cars with their sirens blaring were driving toward the scene as the confrontation was occurring.

Enos said it’s unfortunate the man died, but he felt safer because of the police presence.

"I’m happy to have them do their job," Enos said.

Anyone with information pertaining to this incident is urged to call Las Vegas police’s Homicide Section at 828-3521 or Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.