The lawyer representing the family of an unarmed man who was gunned down by park rangers while walking near Red Rock Canyon in February has asked Clark County officials to turn the case over to federal prosecutors.
D’Andre Berghardt Jr., 20, was shot and killed by two federal Bureau of Land Management rangers on Feb. 14 after the officers responded to a call about a man impeding cyclists along state Route 159, authorities said.
A video filmed by bystanders showed the officers shooting Berghardt after the man climbed into a police car.
Attorney Jacob Hafter said the Clark County district attorney’s office received the case from Las Vegas police in July, but doesn’t have the authority to prosecute.
“We hereby request that you close this file, as your office has no jurisdiction in this case,” Hafter wrote in a letter dated Aug. 26. “We further request that the file be transferred to the U.S. attorney’s office, as they have jurisdiction over the BLM agents.”
District Attorney Steve Wolfson was on vacation Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for comment. But he told the Associated Press that the district attorney has jurisdiction over any crime committed in Clark County, “regardless of whether the person involved is a federal officer, a state officer or a private citizen.”
Wolfson expected to complete his review by September, he said, and is considering holding a public fact-finding review of the shooting.
Hafter on Wednesday said Berghardt’s family deserves answers in a timely manner.
“Why does it take Steve Wolfson’s office three months to review a file?” Hafter asked. “He’s not investigating anything.”
Berghardt’s lengthy altercation with rangers was captured in a video obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal shortly after the shooting.
The two rangers tried pepper spray, batons and Taser stun guns before the shooting, but were unsuccessful.
The situation escalated after Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Lucas Schwarzrock arrived several minutes into the confrontation. Berghardt ran from the officers and tried to open the doors of two cars, authorities said.
The video later showed the rangers holding Berghardt on the ground. But he fought them off, pushed Schwarzrock away and climbed into the trooper’s patrol car.
Moments later, a ranger is shown firing several times into the car, killing Berghardt. The BLM said the second ranger, not visible in the video at that point, also fired after Berghardt reached for the trooper’s AR-15 rifle, which was secured in a locked gun rack.
Eight or nine shots can be heard. Only the rangers fired, authorities said.
It’s unclear if Berghardt committed a crime before the rangers attempted to arrest him. Witnesses who spoke to the Review-Journal said Berghardt asked cyclists for water shortly before police arrived
The Los Angles man had traveled to Las Vegas the previous day, hoping to find a job, his family said. Family members were unsure why Berghardt was walking along the highway carrying only his suitcase and a bedroll.
Hafter said Las Vegas narrowly avoided the rioting and protests seen the past weeks in Ferguson, Mo., where an unarmed black man was killed by police.
“If we’re going to ask our community to act in a responsible manner in how they respond to a shooting, we have to ask our government to respond in the same responsible manner,” he said.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-405-9781. Follow @blasky on Twitter.