Police Windshield Shooting Draws Focus On Metro
The video from inside the Metro police squad car was dramatic.
An officer is speeding after suspects and tells a dispatcher the suspects are shooting at him.
That’s when the officer pulls out his handgun and fires at the vehicle, dozens of feet ahead of him, through his windshield. He fires again.
When the truck pulled over, the officer fired more rounds into the truck. One of two men in the vehicle, who are suspects in a homicide, was dead.
And many questions arose from the shooting. Are suspects shooting at police more often these days? Though the officer was praised by the department, was that practiced police procedure? Was it necessary?
Meanwhile, in the courtroom, Las Vegas police were dealt a blow when a judge chastised them for fighting to keep sex trafficking records from the media. That followed a ruling months ago that forced Metro to release body camera footage of the October 1 shooting.
Metro’s Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, second in command of the police force, joins KNPR’s State of Nevada Tuesday to talk about that and more.
On the July 11 officer-involved shooting:
“While it is not necessarily the ideal situation. He felt like he was able to place his rounds where he needed to place them and was able to effectively hit one of those suspects and take the other one into custody. And it removed some really bad people from the streets of Las Vegas and that’s what we ask our cops to do.”
McMahill defended the officer’s actions despite the fact that Metro has a policy forbidding officers from firing from or at a moving vehicle.
He said the two people involved in the incident had just “executed” someone at a car wash a few minutes before the chase began.
However, McMahill also said the shooting is under review at the moment and those reviewing the case will ultimately decide whether the officer’s decisions to shoot out of the windshield of his patrol car was right or wrong.
On the rise in the number of officer-involved shootings:
“We were very proud of the number, dropping the number of officer-involved shootings down to 10, while we were keeping our officers in the community safe at the same time. These last couple of years have been a significant challenge for us – no doubt and we continue to look at that.”
In 2016, there were only 10 officer-involved shootings. That is compared with 25 officer-involved shootings in 2010. Metro asked the Justice Department to come in and make recommendations on lowering that number.
Since that DOJ investigation and report, the number of officer-involved shootings declined. However, the past few years they’ve gone back up. In 2017, there were 22 shootings and this year Metro has already fired 16 times with four months of the year left.
McMahill said the increase in homicide numbers and officer-involved shooting numbers are due in part to the surge in criminals from California moving to Southern Nevada.
He said gang members from Los Angeles are moving here for the same reason other people are moving here – lower cost of living and cheaper home prices.
However, those gang members are going into rival gang territory in a way they wouldn’t have done in Southern California. McMahill said those interactions are leading to conflicts over women, drugs and gang affiliation.
He said seemingly minor disputes are escalating to homicides and shootings.
On releasing records:
“We’re a transparent and accountable organization. A lot of the information that comes in on these public record requests… they come in and they ask for everything. We don’t capture the information a lot of times the way they ask us to release it.”
McMahill gave the example of the body camera video from the October 1 shooting. He said there is a massive amount of data that needs to be reviewed before it can be released.
He said watching hours and hours of body camera footage of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history is difficult for the detectives who have been assigned the task.
Plus, there are concerns about redacting information and making sure the victims’ names, addresses and personal information isn’t released.
In addition, McMahill said many records in police headquarters are still on paper and decades old. So, it isn’t as easy as typing in a few keywords to find something.
Despite those limitations, McMahill admits Metro needs to do a better job of providing the records to attorneys and the public. He said it is something the department is actively working on.
Kevin McMahill, undersheriff, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department