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Homicides up 50% in 2021, but police stress progress on cases

Updated March 26, 2021 - 1:11 pm

Homicides in Las Vegas are up 50 percent this year, but investigators have identified suspects in almost every killing.

According to records maintained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Metropolitan Police Department homicide detectives had investigated the deaths of 30 people as of Wednesday, compared with 20 at the same time last year.

Among those killed, three were in murder-suicides, four were classified as self-defense and two were children under 9 who were abused, according to Review-Journal records.

“Yes, we are seeing an increase, not just this year,” Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said Wednesday. “This started in June 2020 with about 11 homicides a month, which is an uptick. It’s not something that’s unique to the valley. Across the U.S. we’re seeing the same uptick.”

Review-Journal records differ from the homicide log maintained by Metro because the department does not include instances when police fatally shoot someone.

Recent homicides

Spencer said that in all but one case this year, a suspect has been identified, including an early morning robbery that turned deadly Monday.

Kashif Brown, a 24-year-old father of three young children, had started to pump gas at the station at Valley View Boulevard and Alta Drive while on his way to a job as a landscaper. An unknown person approached Brown and shot him before running away. No arrests had been made as of Wednesday, but Spencer said investigators have identified a possible shooter.

Metro’s homicide log did not include the death of 6-year-old Giuliana Johnson, despite the Clark County coroner’s office determining in January that the child died from a gunshot wound and her manner of death was a homicide.

The death of Ayiana Wess, 18, also was not included in the homicide log, and it remained unclear Wednesday whether the woman was shot accidentally or intentionally. A female juvenile was detained in connection with the death, but her name was not released and it remained unknown if she faced charges due to her age.

‘A lot of factors’

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told the Review-Journal recently that he attributed the increase to anxiety, frustration and economic hardship during the pandemic. He countered the increase in killings with evidence of a decline in overall crime last year.

“If you look at major city (police departments) across the board, 55 or 56 of them, only eight agencies had a decrease in crime across the board,” Lombardo said. “We were one of them.”

Spencer echoed Lombardo’s message when discussing recent murder-suicides and escalating domestic disputes.

“There’s a lot of factors that could be influencing these deaths, with COVID, unemployment, financial issues,” he said. “There’s a lot of extra stress inside households.”

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

This story has been updated to correct the number of homicides that Metro has investigated so far this year.

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