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Family wants changes in tactics after teen’s death during police raid

Updated February 21, 2022 - 6:19 am

Police sirens make Latia Alexander jumpy.

It wasn’t always that way for the North Las Vegas mother of Isaiah Williams. She’s proud of the 4½ years she served as a police officer in East Cleveland, Ohio.

Her reaction to police sirens changed after Williams, 19, was shot and killed by Metropolitan Police Department SWAT officers executing a search warrant at an apartment in the east valley last month.

“It definitely has had me torn in between the two,” Alexander said. “Because I definitely understand the officers’ side, and then I still understand my son’s side.

Williams was asleep on a couch when the officers forced their way into the apartment in the 3000 block of South Nellis Boulevard at about 5 a.m. on Jan. 10. Police said they were searching for another man wanted in a November killing.

As SWAT officers broke out a side window and entered through the front door, Williams awoke and fired a gun 18 times, striking two officers. Five officers returned fire with 23 rounds at Williams. Metro Assistant Sheriff Andrew Walsh said three days after Williams died that the homicide suspect was not in the home during the raid, and that Williams was not a known felon.

“People just don’t understand the protection mode that you go in when you’re living in certain situations,” Alexander said. “I don’t even feel like I live in a bad neighborhood, but you never know what might happen.”

‘He respected police’

Williams was supposed to stay at a friend’s house, his mother said, but because they were out past curfew they both went to the Nellis apartment to spend the night. His friend was in the home when police entered and shot Williams.

In the living room of their North Las Vegas home a month after he died, his family said they believe Williams was afraid for his life because he did not know the people forcing entry into the home were police officers.

Alexander and Williams’ younger brother, Sean Johnson, wore shirts emblazoned with Williams’ face and the date of his death. Pillows with his image adorned their couch, where Williams’ sisters Chasity Johnson, 16, and Ta’Nya Johnson, 18, were seated. Four-year-old Sean couldn’t sit still, fidgeting with a video game controller.

“My brother, he respected the police,” Chasity Johnson said. “He knew what to do and what not to do to the police. Him hearing all the yelling and the banging he didn’t know who it was. He just thought he was getting robbed.”

Alexander and her family moved to North Las Vegas 5½ years ago.

“I’m very family oriented, and my son is very loved,” Alexander said. “So it was just devastating so I guess everybody kind of wanted to have things to remember him by. By him not physically being here no more, that’s all we have is pictures.”

The family held a rally on the Strip on Jan. 29 with signs that included the message, “LVMPD murdered Isaiah Williams.” Alexander said the goal of the event was to spread the word about her son’s death, but her long-term goal is to stop police from conducting raids like the one that led to Williams’ death.

“I understand that you may have to do them. I wish we could not do them at all, ever, because it’s dangerous,” Alexander said. “It was dangerous for the officers, it was dangerous for the victim, it was dangerous for regular civilization — everybody else in the apartments.”

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said officers knocked and announced their presence when executing the warrant.

“It was done several times, and it was done to a rear window and also at the front door,” Lombardo said this month. “So that would give the individual within the residence full awareness who was at the door, who was attempting to breach the door and that’s what took place. Unfortunately, the individual made a decision to fire upon the police officers.”

‘No clue who this guy is’

Officers Kerry Kubla, 50, and Brice Clements, 36, were struck by Williams’ gunfire. Kubla was hit in both arms and one leg, and Clements was shot in the left arm, according to Walsh.

SWAT officers used “loud” distractions, which included a flash and bang, Walsh said, while announcing “police search warrant.” Police were not at the wrong address, he said, adding that the homicide investigation led to detectives determining that the suspect would be at the apartment.

Alexander tried figuring out who the suspect was by going to the scene of the shooting and talking to people in the area, but no one she talked to knew him. She didn’t believe that her son knew the suspect.

“We actually have no clue who this guy is,” Alexander said.

Wattsel Rembert, 23, was arrested on Jan. 12 as part of the homicide investigation into the death of Nicolas Thomas, 30, who was shot at a bus stop near the intersection of Nellis Boulevard and Boulder Highway at around 3 a.m. on Nov. 18 and later died. Court records show that Rembert’s charge of open murder was dismissed on Jan. 24.

“The charges were dismissed because, at this point, there is not enough evidence to hold him for trial,” Metro’s public information office wrote in an email. “He was originally arrested as a result of a family member identifying him as the suspect however we are still gathering additional evidence and the case remains ongoing.”

Previous encounter with police

Alexander said Williams was funny, goofy and “always had jokes.”

“Everybody just loved him,” Alexander said. “That’s why he had so many friends, because he didn’t judge. No matter what you have or what you didn’t have, he was just friends with you. He always tried to help people.”

She said Williams loved to cook, and she especially enjoyed when he would make her pancakes in the morning.

“I remember playing basketball with him a lot when I was younger,” Ta’Nya Johnson said. “He was the one that got me into basketball — why I played basketball in fifth grade.”

On Dec. 17, about a month before Williams’ death, Alexander, Ta’Nya Johnson and Chasity Johnson were awoken early in the morning by North Las Vegas police banging on the door and calling for those inside to come outside.

Alexander said they were looking for Williams for “something about a robbery.” Before knowing the reason, Alexander woke up her children and frantically got dressed. As Chasity Johnson walked out the back door, police pointed guns at her, and she put her hands up and went back inside. Alexander led them out the front door, where they had guns pointed at them and they were told to line up in front of the garage.

Williams was not staying at the home at the time. Alexander described police as being “aggressive” before learning Williams wasn’t home. She said it was embarrassing to be lined up outside their home in front of their neighbors.

Seeing news reports of Minneapolis police shooting the wrong person while executing a search warrant has made her grieving process more difficult.

This month, police in Minneapolis shot and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke, who was wrapped in a blanket on a couch holding a gun. Locke was not listed on the warrant police were executing, The Associated Press reported.

“I went into shock again,” Alexander said. “It was almost like rewatching my son all over again.”

She questioned the methods police use to execute search warrants when there have been examples of it going wrong.

“It doesn’t make sense to me to keep doing the same tactics and you getting the same result that’s not a good result,” Alexander said.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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