Grappling on the ground with a suspect on a dark, empty patch of desert, North Las Vegas police officer Michael Eggers reached around the suspect’s waist and unexpectedly grabbed the barrel of a gun.
Eggers held tight with his left hand as he drew his gun with his right.
He ordered Tyrise Bell to drop the weapon. The 18-year-old kept pushing it toward him, Eggers said.
Exhausted after a long foot chase, worried his backup might not find him in time, and scared at the prospect of being shot, Eggers pulled the trigger.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” Eggers testified Friday at a coroner’s inquest into Bell’s death.
Five shots fired. Four hit Bell, with the fatal shot striking his chest and hitting several major organs.
After hearing Eggers’ account of the deadly Jan. 23 encounter near Ann Road and Revere Street, a jury deliberated about an hour before ruling his actions justified. The courtroom was packed with more than 35 of Eggers’ fellow officers and about a dozen of Bell’s family and friends.
The verdict angered Bell’s mother.
“He died for jaywalking,” Michelle Johnson said.
Eggers, who was hired by North Las Vegas about a year and a half ago after five years with the Las Vegas marshals, said the incident began about 7:15 p.m. when he tried to stop Bell and another man after they jaywalked near the intersection.
The pair ignored Eggers’ commands to stop and ran in opposite directions.
Eggers chased Bell, who ran through the parking lot of a PT’s Pub and jumped over two cinder block walls on his way to the desert lot, according to Eggers and eyewitnesses.
When the officer caught up to the teen, Bell turned and punched Eggers in the face, Eggers said.
The officer tackled Bell to the ground and tried to get control of his hands.
“Sometime during that struggle, he said, quote, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ” Eggers testified.
Eggers tried to use his Taser, but it stuck in its holster. He pulled out his collapsible baton, which was not extending properly, and hit Bell twice in the back before it fell out of his hands, he said.
During the scuffle, Eggers grabbed Bell’s gun and held on until the fatal shots had been fired.
Eggers said he remembered firing three shots. Investigators determined he had fired five.
Four hit the teen, according to the coroner’s office.
In an interview with the Review-Journal shortly after the incident, Bell’s family said they never knew him to carry a gun.
On the witness stand Friday, classmate and friend Elijah Payne testified that Bell had shown him the 9 mm semiautomatic Beretta several times, including once two weeks before the fatal encounter.
An analysis of the gun also found Bell’s DNA on the weapon’s grip and barrel, Detective Paul Freeman said.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at email@example.com or 702-383-0281.