When John Haines, drunk, suicidal and armed with two pistols, marched toward the house with his wife and toddler son inside, the Las Vegas police officers surrounding him thought the worst.
“We weren’t going to let him back in the house and have a possible murder-suicide,” officer Charon Griswold testified Friday at a coroner’s inquest.
Almost simultaneously, Griswold and five other officers opened fire on Haines, who fell in a planter at the front of his house and later died at University Medical Center.
After hearing a full day of testimony from the officers, neighbors and Haines’ wife, a jury deliberated about 30 minutes before ruling the police were justified in the Feb. 18 shooting at 7712 Golden Talon Ave., near Elkhorn Road and Buffalo Drive.
The trouble began after a fight between the 30-year-old Haines and his wife, Sarah. The couple had gone to dinner after Haines returned from a week-long out-of-state trip, but when he wanted to go out and continue drinking at the bar, Sarah Haines told him not to come back home that night, she testified.
He went to a local bar and returned about 10:30 p.m. After another argument, John Haines sat on the sidewalk next to his car and put one of his two pistols on his lap, she said.
Concerned for her husband, who had bipolar disorder and had been suicidal, Sarah Haines called 911.
At the time of his death, John Haines had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent and a “significant amount” of methadone, a narcotic pain reliever, said Dr. Lary Simms, who performed the autopsy.
Each depressant would amplify the effects of the other, he said.
When police arrived, they tried to convince John Haines to drop his guns and surrender so he could get mental health treatment, officers testified.
He refused, mentioned committing suicide by cop and pointed his two handguns at his head, they said.
Officer Jeremy Landers, who has special crisis intervention training to deal with the mentally ill, talked to John Haines for 10 to 15 minutes.
“I would have stayed out there all night talking to him,” he said.
But when he stood up, took a deep breath and headed for the front door, Landers and the other officers had to act, they said.
“I was concerned as soon as he got into that house he would kill everybody inside,” officer Jason Hardwick said.
The six officers fired a total of 22 shots from three handguns, two shotguns and an AR-15 assault-style rifle.
John Haines had seven gunshot sounds, including one to the head.
The officers involved were Lt. Randy Sutton, Landers, Griswold, Hardwick, Christopher Sjoblom, and Marc Ashbock.
They all said there was nothing they would have done differently.
“I really wish he had put the guns down,” Sjoblom said.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.