22 Las Vegas police shootings in 2018 leave a dozen dead

Updated January 6, 2019 - 8:51 am

Las Vegas police killed 12 people in 2018, one of the deadliest years on record for the department.

That figure is comparable to the one in 2007, when the Metropolitan Police Department also saw 12 fatal officer-involved shootings.

It also accounts for more than half of the 22 times Metro officers opened fire on people in the Las Vegas Valley last year.

Most confrontations with police last year were brazen. Nearly everyone whom officers fired at was armed with either a knife or a firearm.

Three individuals were not, but of those, one was holding a plastic machete, another was holding an empty handgun-replica BB gun, and another was holding a shovel. The man holding the plastic machete died.

“Officers have increasingly been met by armed subjects who are unafraid to use violence,” Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank told reporters in August, which saw eight Las Vegas police shootings, the most for any month last year. “While our officers attempt to de-escalate these calls peacefully, sometimes the end result is dictated by the suspect.”

In an interview last week, Capt. Jamie Prosser, who oversees the division that investigates uses of force, noted that of the fatal shootings last year, “only two of those were officer-initiated activities,” meaning an officer had initiated a traffic stop. The other 10 stemmed from calls for service.

“In those situations, citizens couldn’t handle it, so they requested the police response,” Prosser said.

For each Las Vegas police shooting last year, anywhere from one to seven officers opened fire. By the end of the year, 38 Metro officers had at some point been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Las Vegas police in the past have refused to comment on officers’ disciplinary records. It remains unclear how many of those 38 officers returned to work and when.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in December that the officer who shot the woman holding a shovel in 2018 left the department two months later, resigning ahead of an administrative hearing on his job, according to Steve Grammas, president of the Las Vegas police union. The woman survived.

At the time of the shooting, the officer, Ondre Wills, was 23. He had been with the department for two years.

A few days later, Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman said Wills had opened fire before backup arrived, breaking protocol.

Zimmerman also noted that police had a history with the woman Wills shot, Sommer Richards, 34. Crisis intervention officers, who typically respond to situations in which people might be suicidal or under the influence of drugs, had responded to her address seven times in 2017 and once again just two days before the shooting.

Only one of the 38 officers who opened fire last year was injured. A subject armed with a knife sliced open his hand in August. The officer was OK. The man died.

And while Metro considered 10 of the police shootings it investigated last year to be non-fatal, two of them ended with suicides by the subjects whom police were confronting.

North Las Vegas saw two officer-involved shootings last year, one of which was fatal. Henderson saw three, two of which were fatal.

In 2017, a combination of 28 different Las Vegas police officers opened fire 22 different times, tying the amount of Las Vegas police shootings in 2018. Two of those officers in 2017 were injured but survived — one was shot, another fell while responding to the initial call.

The year prior, Metro saw a total of 10 officer-involved shootings, and in 2015, Metro saw 16.

In the wake of a Review-Journal investigation into Las Vegas police shootings in 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated Metro for about eight months.

The resulting investigation in 2012 revealed that Metro had few internal mechanisms to recognize shooting trends and hold officers accountable for their actions. The investigation also found that Metro’s training was inconsistent, so the agency proposed a series of 75 recommendations for change.

“Since then, we have been proactive about analyzing our use of force,” Prosser said last week. “We are trying to learn from every single incident, seeing if there’s something we could have done differently with our officer approach.”

In January 2017, the Justice Department largely praised Metro for its “notable and sustained efforts” to reduce its number of police shootings and increase its transparency and engagement with the community.

That year, 10 of the 22 people shot by Metro officers would die from their injuries.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Rio Lacanlale contributed to this report.

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