The Metropolitan Police Department is changing its inmate transport procedures after a patrol officer, who was not wearing a body camera, shot an escaped inmate.
Officer Phong Nguyen, 25, was working overtime Wednesday at the Clark County Detention Center when he took inmate Gregory Ganci, 52, to Steinberg Diagnostic Medical Imaging at 2950 S. Maryland Parkway for an unspecified routine medical procedure.
Ganci was scheduled to be sentenced that day for his role in an April 16 robbery, and Nguyen was transporting him alone.
During a news briefing Friday at the department’s headquarters, Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank said Metro now will require at least two officers to be present during every inmate transport.
Hank also said the department was investigating why Nguyen, who joined Metro in October 2016, was not wearing a body camera as required while in uniform.
Just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nguyen was escorting Ganci, who was wearing belly chains and shackles, through the medical facility’s parking lot to his unmarked patrol vehicle.
At the same time, Hank said, two men who provide auto detailing services to some of the employees at the facility got out of a running white 2016 Chevy Silverado pickup truck. One of the men entered the facility, while the other was grabbing something from the bed of the truck, Hank said.
With the keys still in the ignition, Ganci jumped into the driver’s seat and took off through the parking lot, leading Nguyen to fire three rounds at 8:53 a.m. from his 9mm handgun into the truck, Hank said. The officer hit the driver’s side window and door, striking Ganci in his left tricep, Hank said.
Also inside the stolen truck was the owner’s firearm, Hank said, prompting immediate assistance from officers in both Metro’s downtown and northeast area commands.
In the absence of body camera footage, Hank played snippets of videos during Friday’s briefing that had been captured from a passerby’s dashboard camera and from a business east of the medical facility.
Both videos showed Ganci turning right out of the parking lot into the northbound lanes of Maryland Parkway, where he rammed a black Nissan stopped at a red light at Vegas Valley Drive several times, forcing his way through the intersection, Hank said.
A Metro prisoner transport van also happened to be waiting at the light, and two officers could be seen in both videos exiting the van, their guns drawn, in an attempt to stop Ganci.
Those officers also were transporting an inmate to the same medical facility, Hank said.
By then, Nguyen also was attempting to follow Ganci in his unmarked patrol car.
The videos show that Ganci was able to push his way through the stopped traffic, leading police on a 13-minute pursuit from the southeast valley to downtown Las Vegas.
The chase ended at Main Street and Carson Avenue when Ganci ran out of gas, Hank said.
“It could have been worse,” Hank added. “Thankfully he did run out of gas because there was a firearm within that vehicle.”
Ganci was treated at University Medical Center for the gunshot wound and was rebooked into the Clark County Detention Center sometime Wednesday night on new charges of escape by a prisoner, auto grand larceny, battery with a deadly weapon and felony evading, records show.
Sentenced to life in prison
Ganci appeared at a court hearing the next morning, and District Judge Doug Smith sentenced him to life in prison for his role in the April robbery.
Hank described Ganci as a four-time convicted felon, whose criminal history includes arrests in 2008 in California and in 2016 in Illinois for being a fugitive, he said.
Nguyen, who is assigned to Metro’s south central area command, has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the department’s review into his use of force as well as how Ganci was able to find a “window of opportunity” to escape from Nguyen, Hank said.
It was Metro’s seventh officer-involved shooting in 2018. At the same time last year, Metro had investigated three such shootings.