A Clark County coroner’s inquest jury on Friday found a Las Vegas patrolman was justified in shooting and killing a schizophrenic man at a fast-food restaurant.
The seven-member jury was unanimous in deciding that officer Tim Opendyk, 29, was justified in the Jan. 3 shooting of Jesse Thomas Miles, 27, of Long Beach, Calif.
Miles was shot during a scuffle with Opendyk and his partner, Officer Gregory King, 43, at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
The foreman of the jury, however, asked that County Coroner Ron Flud consider adding the term negligent homicide to the choices jurors may consider in their verdicts on deaths involving police officers. Jurors currently have a choice of finding an officer’s actions justifiable or criminal.
Hearing Officer Michael Cherry said Flud would consider the suggestion.
Opendyk said he was relieved by the verdict, which came after nearly an hour of deliberation.
Opendyk said Miles had pointed a gun at King and he was forced to shoot.Miles’ mother, Genevieve Milling of Long Beach, was bitter after the verdict, saying Opendyk and King together should have been able to subdue, not shoot, her son, who was smaller than both officers.
"Somebody is lying, because how in the world could that happen if both officers are holding his hands?" Milling said. "He (Miles) didn’t bother nobody, he didn’t hurt nobody. I think he (Opendyk) was trigger happy."
Dr. Franklin D. Martin, a Las Vegas psychiatrist, testified Miles had been in at least three mental institutions in California and had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and in need of strong prescription drugs to function.
The shooting occurred at about 6:30 p.m. inside the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at 2840 E. Tropicana Ave. Witnesses at the inquest said Miles, acting irrationally, refused to pay for food he ordered and took pieces of chicken off the plates of patrons.
The manager called police after Miles sat down in the back of the dining room.
Opendyk and King said when they arrived, Miles walked toward them and ignored their requests to show identification and take his hands out of his pockets.
King was able to get Miles’ right hand out of his pocket, and he said Miles had a .38-caliber revolver held tightly in his hand. King, standing behind Miles, grabbed Miles’ wrist and hand while Opendyk placed his finger in the hammer of the gun to keep it from firing.
Witnesses and the officers said Opendyk repeatedly told Miles to drop the gun. Miles, however, had his finger on the trigger and pointed the gun at King’s face. King testified at one point he could see down the barrel of the gun.
Opendyk said he then fired one bullet into Miles’ back but that didn’t stop him. He fired two more bullets into Miles’ back. Miles resisted for a moment longer before King knocked him down, he said.
Dr. G. Sheldon Green, the county’s chief medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Miles, said he died of three wounds to the back.