James Todora was involved in multiple, tempestuous encounters with his ex-wife and law enforcement in the days before he was fatally shot by a Las Vegas police officer last summer.
Details about those encounters, and Todora’s drug use, surfaced Friday morning at a public fact-finding review of the shooting at the Clark County Commission chambers.
The county holds a fact-finding review after the district attorney’s office has preliminarily deemed a police shooting justified. The hearings are meant to provide the public with the evidence that led to the decision and provide the public with an ombudsman to ask questions of investigators on its behalf.
Todora, 54, was fatally shot by Metropolitan Police Department officer Brian Kroening, 32, on the morning of July 10. Kroening did not testify at Friday’s hearing.
Officer Carlos Luna pulled Todora over when he saw that the driver’s side brake light on the man’s truck was out. Kroening and officer Evan Hogue, 28, arrived to support Luna after Todora became confrontational.
The traffic stop escalated, and Todora grabbed a handgun from the front passenger seat and fired a round over his left shoulder. That round passed through the truck’s frame, smashed a back window and grazed Hogue on the right side of his neck just under his ear.
Luna ran for cover, and Kroening opened fire from his position just outside the truck’s front passenger seat.
Todora was shot from behind and hit in his elbow, right shoulder blade and the right side of his buttocks. He died on the scene.
The fact-finding review revealed a number of interactions between Todora, his ex-wife and police in the days before his death.
Todora had just broken up with his girlfriend and was in the process of moving, Detective Ryan Jaeger with Metro’s force investigation team said at the hearing.
On July 5, Todora got into a fight with his ex-wife. He scared her so much that she drove off with one of his handguns in the truck, hitting him with the door frame, Jaeger said. The detective said police who responded to that incident had to handcuff Todora because he was acting so erratically.
A handwritten letter about Todora’s grievances with police was found in the man’s truck. The letter, which was shown at the hearing, was peppered with vulgarities and lacked proper punctuation.
“To the 4 Enterprise cops that I flagged down 3 days ago you should be fired,” the letter read. “… What because I don’t have boobs you handcuff me … if you were here I would do the world some good and take you worthless f−−−s with me.”
Todora’s ex-wife filed for a temporary protection order, but Todora was never served a notice about it. Before he encountered police on the day he died, he was again at her house, banging on the door, Jaeger said.
THC, the intoxicant in marijuana, and oxycodone, a narcotic pain medication, were found in his body during an autopsy. Prescription bottles for antidepressant medications were among several pill bottles found in his truck.
Todora’s ex-wife told police that his behavior changed dramatically after he began smoking “spice,” Jaeger said. Spice is the term used for dangerous synthetic drugs that often cause erratic behavior and medical episodes.
No one from the public, other than a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter and photographer, attended the hearing.
Another fact-finding review will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday. It will focus on the fatal shooting of Bryan Bauer by Henderson police on July 4.
Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournalcom and 702-383-0391. Find @WesJuhl on Twitter.