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Homeless man killed by Las Vegas police was wielding swordlike blade

Updated February 23, 2024 - 7:39 pm

A homeless man who had appeared to be cutting off his left arm with a 29-inch sharp object was shot and killed Tuesday by Las Vegas police as he raised the object in his right hand and charged toward officers.

Jose Luis Saenz, 41, died after two officers fired five shots and an officer attempted to subdue him by launching a 40mm nonlethal round, Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Yasenia Yatomi said during a news conference Thursday.

The officers had answered a call for service at 12:43 a.m. in the 2500 block of South Eastern Avenue near East Sahara Avenue south of downtown, Yatomi said.

The Clark County Fire Department asked for police assistance following a report of “a male who was bleeding and appeared to be cutting off his arm,” she said.

Officer Joshua Romanski, 37, who has been on the force since 2022, watched from his patrol car as Saenz held a 29-inch sharp piece of metal that the officer believed was a sword, the assistant sheriff said.

Romanski got out of the car and as Saenz walked toward him with the object, the officer ordered him to stop but the suspect kept coming and Romanski walked backward to create a distance, she said.

Other officers arrived and ordered Saenz to drop the blade and when he did not, an officer launched the nonlethal round, which hit Saenz in the lower left leg and caused him to fall down briefly.

“The subject immediately stood up and advanced at the officers while still armed and refused to follow verbal commands,” Yatomi said.

Romanski and Officer Paul Guerrero, 26, who joined the force in 2022, fired their 9mm service weapons, with Romanski getting off three rounds and Guerrero two, striking Saenz.

The wounded man, who appeared to be unhoused, was transported by medical personnel to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead, Yatomi said.

Members of the news media were shown videos from the body worn cameras of two officers during the news conference at Metro headquarters.

Saenz is seen advancing toward the officers while raising the long blade in his right hand and bleeding badly from his left arm before officers opened fire.

The incident, the second officer-involved fatal shooting so far this year, is under investigation by the department’s Critical Incident Review Team, Yatomi said.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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