Man shot by plainclothes Las Vegas police detective had lengthy criminal record

A 48-year-old man who was shot by a plainclothes police officer Thursday night had a criminal record with 112 arrests and 11 felony convictions dating back to 1987, Las Vegas police announced Monday.

Thomas Lamar Cotton, who was shot in the left buttock, is a “longtime customer of the criminal justice system,” Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said Monday at a news conference.

Cotton is accused of trying to rob the undercover detective. His prior charges include robbery, auto burglary, drug possession, larceny, forgery and violating his parole and probation, according to Nevada court records.

McMahill said 33-year-old Metro Detective Daniel Hawkins was conducting surveillance in an unrelated shooting investigation about 9:40 p.m. Thursday when he was approached by two men in the central Las Vegas Valley.

Hawkins, dressed in plain clothing, was walking toward his car in an alley near North Jones and Carmen boulevards when Cotton and another man began walking toward him.

Cotton was armed with what looked like a revolver, but police later learned it was an air gun.

“Cotton asked Detective Hawkins what he was doing there in a very challenging manner,” McMahill said.

While Cotton had the air gun pointed at the ground, the other man began to make a “flanking maneuver” out to his side, and Hawkins believed they were going to rob him, McMahill said.

Hawkins, who has been with the department since 2006, told Cotton at least twice that he was a police officer before Cotton raised the air gun and pointed it at him.

“Fearing for his life, Detective Hawkins drew his firearm and fired two rounds at Cotton, striking him once,” McMahill said. The other bullet struck a nearby dumpster.

Cotton, who lived in the apartments adjacent to the alley where the shooting occurred, fell to the ground and was taken to University Medical Center for emergency surgery. He was at the hospital in stable condition Monday, McMahill said.

In addition to the air gun, Cotton was armed with a large, sheathed knife, police said.

McMahill said that because Hawkins was not in uniform, he was not wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting. There were no witnesses to the shooting except those who heard gunshots, and the apartment complex did not have surveillance cameras in the area, McMahill said.

Cotton was booked in absentia Friday at the Clark County Detention Center on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer.

The man who was with Cotton at the time of the shooting has not been found.

Contact Kimber Laux at or 702-383-0283. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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