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Attorney details tense moments before arrest in reporter’s killing

As murder suspect Robert Telles was holed up inside his home on Wednesday, veteran criminal defense attorney Ozzie Fumo received a call for help from Las Vegas police.

They wanted him to persuade the county official to surrender in the death of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German.

Authorities allege that Telles, Clark County’s public administrator, fatally stabbed German last week outside the journalist’s northwest valley home.

Telles had been the focus of German’s work exposing public wrongdoing, and the investigative reporter was pursuing a potential follow-up story about Telles, who lost a re-election bid in June, in the weeks before he was killed.

Fumo, a former Nevada assemblyman who ran for district attorney and a seat on the Nevada Supreme Court, was familiar with Telles on the campaign trail.

Telles, 45, was questioned by homicide detectives for several hours Wednesday while investigators searched his home, about 6 miles from where German was found dead.

After the interrogation, police took Telles back home. He was wearing what appeared to be a white hazmat suit and flip-flops because police had confiscated his clothing. He refused to speak to reporters.

Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Dori Koren told reporters on Thursday that Telles had been returned to his home while investigators consulted with the Clark County district attorney’s office to secure an arrest warrant, “ensuring a solid case, building evidence.”

Later, police arrived in tactical gear and surrounded the home while Telles remained inside. The area was cordoned off with yellow tape.

Fumo got the call at 6:23 p.m.

A woman from Metro’s negotiation team was on the other end of the line.

“We’re outside his house,” the woman said. “We have probable cause to arrest, and he’s barricaded himself in. Will you talk to him?”

The call lasted 48 seconds.

As he made the 22-minute drive in his blue Tesla Model Y from his office on Las Vegas Boulevard to the home on Spanish Steps Lane, Fumo contemplated what he would say to the man suspected of killing a 69-year-old reporter whom Fumo had known for years.

“I was thinking supportive things,” the attorney recalled on Thursday. “‘Everything’s going to be OK.’ Whatever I could do to help him feel comfortable. I didn’t want anybody else to get hurt. I just didn’t want any more people hurt. I thought if I could de-escalate the situation by calming him down, that might be the best way to do it.”

Fumo said his wife advised him to do and say whatever Metro asked.

“Do you want me to call him?” Fumo asked the negotiator.

“No, because we’re on the phone, and we don’t want to lose that call,” the negotiator replied.

She asked him to park as close as possible and said officers would take him to Telles’ house.

But when Fumo was a few minutes from the standoff, Metro called back.

“We took him into custody without incident,” the woman said.

Fumo turned around.

“I was glad everybody was OK,” he said.

The lawyer said he did not know why police called him to help with the standoff.

Police announced the next day that Telles’ DNA was found at the scene of the fatal stabbing.

Fumo and Telles, both Democrats, had known each other for years, since Telles was a student at UNLV’s Boyd Law School and Fumo taught classes.

Telles was elected to the public administrator’s position in 2018, and he kept in touch with Fumo after taking office.

He reached out to Fumo after German’s first story about the public administrator was published.

“He was upset and sad by it,” Fumo said. “But more sad than angry. That’s why this surprised me. … He didn’t say anything about Jeff specifically. I would never have seen this coming.”

Telles last communicated with Fumo via text message in late July, after the newspaper reported about a bar complaint against Fumo that he said was ultimately dismissed. The story was not written by German.

“I’m sure plenty of people are reaching out about that lame bar complaint,” Telles told Fumo. “I’m sure you’ll beat it. I’m sorry you’re going through what you’re going through.”

Police said Telles suffered self-inflicted wounds inside his home before he was arrested. He was taken into custody in a stretcher and driven to a hospital by ambulance. Telles appeared in court Thursday with bandages on his forearms, and a judge ruled that he would be held without bail.

Fumo told the Review-Journal he would not represent Telles in the murder case.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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