Reno police credited with heroism in chicken-fest shooting

RENO — Reno police officers likely saved many lives when they fatally shot a potentially homicidal California man who drove a mini-van into the middle of a chicken wing festival on a crowded downtown street last Fourth of July weekend, the Washoe County district attorney said Thursday.

“A tragedy was prevented,” Chris Hicks said, calling the officers heroes as he released a 26-page summary of the investigation into the killing of Raul Saavedra-Vargas of Morgan Hill.

One officer jumped into the van after the suspect had been shot four times in the chest and was able to slam the vehicle into park just as it crashed into a vendor’s booth while more than 100 people dove for cover, Hicks said.

Several witnesses compared the chaotic scene on a hot Sunday afternoon to the killing of six people when a woman deliberately drove her car onto a downtown Reno sidewalk on Thanksgiving Day 1980, the report said.

“The heroic and disciplined actions of the involved officers cannot be overstated nor can the public threat presented by Saavedra be denied,” Hicks said. “The officers’ actions were undoubtedly justifiable.”

Officer Marshall Eason fired a total of six shots, four that struck and eventually killed Saavedra-Vargos, the report said.

Saavedra-Vargos, who is referred to in the report as Saavedra, has a long criminal history, including evading a police officer and at least three DUI convictions, Hicks said.

The investigation led by the Washoe County sheriff’s office with assistance from Sparks police determined Saavedra had been in an argument with his girlfriend the night before and she told him she was going to fly back home to California.

He was driving her minivan on July 3 when he first struck another car while driving the wrong direction on a one-way street and fled a motorcycle officer. That officer alerted others that the suspect was heading for Virginia Street, where thousands had gathered for the chicken wing cook-off.

Officers patrolling the festival soon encountered the “unhinged, potentially homicidal and highly intoxicated” suspect, the report said.

Eason ordered him to stop, but he swerved toward the officer and nearby bystanders. Eason fired his gun at Saavedra, but he barreled past a barrier onto the closed North Virginia Street toward the festivalgoers, the report said.

“Chaos ensued. People began to scream and attempt to flee the area,” said the report, which included surveillance video of people “falling to the ground and being stepped on.”

Eason and Officer Bryan Schuster chased the van into the crowd. Eason managed to get next to the passenger-side window and again order Saavedra to stop. But Saavedra revved the engine and drove on, so Eason fired additional shots.

Schuster didn’t shoot, the report said, partly because he was concerned he’d be firing toward the crowd on the other side of the vehicle.

But Eason fired a final time, and Schuster “was able to open the passenger door, jump into the van and slam the car into park just as it crashed into a vendor’s booth,” the report said.

Numerous witnesses said they feared for their lives. Several of them referenced the 1980 incident involving Priscilla Ford, who was the only woman on Nevada’s death row when she died in 2005.

Witnesses estimated Saavedra was driving 70 mph or faster when he ran through the barrier on the closed street.

“The gist of their statements involved a genuine fear that Saavedra was trying to rundown citizens,” Hicks said, adding that several witnesses “commended the actions of the officers as heroic, life-saving and necessary.”

ad-high_impact_4
Local
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like