The Clark County district attorney’s office avoided its usual wording when it released a report on Wednesday about the controversial shooting of a homeless man last year by a former North Las Vegas police officer.
Most fatal officer-involved-shootings reviewed by the district attorney are ruled “reasonable and justified.”
But the actions of then-Officer Raymond Lopez, who quit the force amid the controversy of the shooting, “cannot be deemed criminal,” according to the office’s findings.
Robinson, 38, was shot and killed in a dark lot near Tonopah Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard in March 2014 by Lopez.
Details of the shooting were revealed during a public hearing held on June 8.
In that hearing, police said Lopez told detectives he stopped Robinson because he thought the man was coming out of a vacant house. About a minute after he stopped the man, Lopez fired four shots into Robinson, killing him. Lopez said approached Robinson with his flashlight in hand, but Lopez drew his pistol because Robinson was not following his commands and so that his “other hand could be free.” The pistol has an attached flashlight.
Lopez pushed Robinson up against the house with that free hand, police said, then backed up a few feet.
He then saw “the glint of a blade” and fired four shots. Three bullets hit Robinson in the head and a fourth hit his shoulder. Officers found a fixed-blade knife in Robinson’s back pocket.
There were no witnesses to the shooting besides Lopez himself.
With little forensic evidence and Lopez as the only witness, the district attorney’s office asked for a review of the case by the Force Science Institute, a Minnesota-based company that studies and evaluates use of force incidents.
The institute said investigators asked Lopez “incomplete questions,” and recommended that police interview Lopez again.
Lopez declined to be interviewed again, according to police. He quit Jan 15.
Due to the lack of evidence, the district attorney’s office couldn’t disprove Lopez’s version of events, and were “unable to prove that the actions of Officer Lopez were in fact unjustified,” the report said.
“Based on the limited information we had in this case, it was important to determine if the officer’s explanation of events could be validated,” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in the news release. “Making sure that we provide a thorough and accurate analysis in every officer involved shooting is our priority.”
Wolfson did not return requests for comment about the ruling or the choice of wording Wednesday afternoon.
Robinson’s family filed a federal excessive force lawsuit against the police department, Lopez, and then-police chief Joseph Chronister in November. That case was put on hold until recently and will soon enter the discovery phase.
Anthony Ashby, the family’s attorney in the case, did not return requests for comment Wednesday.
North Las Vegas declined to provide details of his employment history or complaints filed against him.
Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at email@example.com or 702-383-4638. Find him on Twitter: @ColtonLochhead