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Suicide-by-cop possible goal of man with fake gun, police say

Juan Carlos Lopez-Aguilar’s gun was a fake. But police say his intention to get shot may have been real.

Las Vegas police Sgt. William Matchko shot Lopez-Aguilar, 42, in the shoulder during a confrontation Monday night in the southern valley. And at a Thursday afternoon press briefing about the nonfatal shooting, Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said Lopez-Aguilar’s making a show of acting like he was loading a real round into what police would learn was a fake gun suggests his goal may have been suicide by cop.

The incident began about 6:30 p.m. when a woman leaving the Dotty’s near Las Vegas Boulevard South and St. Rose Parkway saw a man acting strangely. McMahill said the woman tried to ask him what was wrong, and the man replied with expletives.

“I’m going to shoot some (expletive) and I’m going to kill something,” he told her.

About an hour and a half later, Lopez-Aguilar was seen walking in the middle of a road in the neighborhood where police confronted him. The neighborhood residents said he didn’t speak to them or make threats, but he had what appeared to be a chrome handgun.

Police responded to La Padania Avenue, near Las Vegas Boulevard South and Barbara Lane, after a 911 caller said just before 8 p.m. that there was a ”homeless-looking man with a gun” on her street. People told police the man was pacing back and forth and talking to himself and hitting himself in the forehead with the gun.

Police would later learn the gun was fake.

At 8:12 p.m., Matchko found Lopez-Aguilar and began pleading with him to drop the weapon.

Video taken by neighbors shows Matchko, certified in de-escalation techniques with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team, trying to talk Lopez-Aguilar down.

He pleaded with him in Spanish:

“How can I help you? Tell me. Please tell me.”

Officers saw Lopez-Aguilar point the handgun at his own head and chest and even briefly at officers, but Matchko still held back, McMahill said.

Then Matchko saw Lopez-Aguilar pull a bullet out of his pocket and appear to load the fake revolver. When he pointed at the officers this time, Matchko shot him once in the shoulder at 8:18 p.m.

McMahill was careful not speculate on the man’s mental condition during Thursday’s briefing. Las Vegas police don’t have any records showing past mental health interventions by the departments — they aren’t even sure where Lopez-Aguilar lives. But they do know that he had a relatively minor criminal history: Las Vegas police picked him up for obstruction and trespassing in February. He had a couple of arrests between 2011 and 2014 and five misdemeanor arrests in California.

Lopez-Aguilar is still in the hospital. He will be booked into the Clark County Detention Center to face two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of resisting with a weapon upon his release.

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0391. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl

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