Nevada Law Enforcement Deaths and Illegal Guns

Between January 1980 and October 2015, 15 law enforcement officers in Nevada were murdered in the line of duty with guns that were not their own, and the perpetrator was identified in 14 of these incidents. Everytown’s analysis of FBI data and press reports shows that more than half — at least 8 of those 14 murders — were committed by individuals who were likely barred by state or federal law from purchasing or possessing firearms.

Gun violence is a persistent threat to law enforcement nationwide, and preliminary FBI data indicate that the number of officers killed feloniously with firearms in 2014 was 77 percent higher than in the prior year.Federal Bureau of Investigation, May 11, 2015, “FBI Releases 2014 Preliminary Statistics for Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty,” http://1.usa.gov/1KJ2tV4. Between January and October 2015 alone, at least four Nevada law enforcement officers were shot and injured — and one officer was shot and killed — in the line of duty.

To conduct the analysis, researchers obtained the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) database covering felonious deaths of law enforcement and updated it with additional incidents from press reports. For each incident in which an officer was killed with a firearm that was not his or her own, the researchers identified the assailant and then examined state and federal criminal records, where available, as well as contemporaneous newspaper accounts, to determine if the individual was prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms at the time of the murder.

While no single policy can completely ensure officers’ safety, strong gun laws that reduce the flow of guns to criminals can help save lives. Loopholes in our current laws make it all too easy for dangerous people who are prohibited from possessing guns to dodge background checks and buy guns from unlicensed sellers. Expanding background checks to cover all gun sales — including those initiated online — will protect cops: in states that require background checks for unlicensed sales of handguns, police are 48 percent less likely to be killed with handguns that are not their own.Everytown for Gun Safety, State Background Check Requirements and Rates of Firearm Homicide Against Law Enforcement, January 2015, available at http://every.tw/1Aj9JAy.

 

SHOOTER LIKELY PROHIBITED: 8 OFFICERS KILLED

August 15, 2015 | Carson City, NV

Jonathon Pope, 30, shot and killed Carson City Sheriff’s Deputy Carl Howell, 35, as he responded to a report of domestic battery inside Pope’s home. As Deputy Howell approached the residence, Pope came out of the house and started shooting, striking the officer. Howell was able to return fire, killing Pope, but he later died at a hospital from his injuries.Taylor Pettaway, “Funeral Service for Fallen Carson City Deputy Draws Thousands,” The Record-Courier (Carson Valley, NV), August 20, 2015, accessed October 12, 2015, http://bit.ly/1R7z6io. Pope was a fugitive from justice which likely prohibited him from possessing firearms: court records indicate he had at least one active warrant for his arrest in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, arising from his failure to comply with deferred sentencing requirements related to pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated.State of New Mexico vs. Jonathon Pope, case no. DW554807, filed on September 30, 2007 in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.

This filing in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court indicated that Pope was a fugitive. (Source: State of New Mexico vs. Jonathon Pope, case no. DW554807, filed on September 30, 2007. Warrant confirmed as active in October 2015).

 

June 8, 2014 | Las Vegas

Jerad Miller, 31, and his wife Amanda Miller, 22, shot and killed Officers Alyn R. Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 41, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and Robert Wilcox, 31, a civilian who was carrying a concealed weapon and attempted to confront the shooters. The officers were getting pizza inside a restaurant when the Millers ambushed them, shot and killed them, and covered their bodies with a Gadsden flag and a swastika. Responding officers then shot and killed Jerad Miller and Amanda Miller committed suicide.Mike Blasky et al., “Shooters Carried Arsenal, Supplies into Sunday Rampage,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 9, 2014, http://bit.ly/1SVjh3C. Jerad Miller had a lengthy criminal history, including convictions that prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms: In 2001, he was convicted in Washington of stealing a motor vehicle, a felony, and in 2011, he was convicted in Indiana of felony possession of a controlled substance and felony dealing in marijuana.State of Washington v. Jared [Sic] Dwain Miller, case no. 01-1-00160-8, Superior Court of Washington for Benton County; and State of Indiana v. Jerad D. Miller, case no. 79D04-1012-FD-00185, Tippecanoe Superior Court No. 4.

This filing in the Superior Court of Washington for Benton County indicated that the judge order Miller’s firearm rights revoked. (Source: State of Washington v. Jared [sic] Dwain Miller, case no. 01-1-00160-8).

 

August 22, 2001 | Reno

Larry J. Peck, 50, used a rifle to shoot and kill Officer John C. Bohach, 35, of the Reno Police Department. Officers had stopped Peck for driving erratically and when he attempted to elude them they began chasing him. Peck eventually barricaded himself inside a home; as Officer Bohach approached the home, Peck shot him in the chest. Investigators were able to arrest Peck at the scene and later found a cache of weapons inside his home that included multiple handguns, a shotgun, and two bolt-action rifles.Sandra Chereb, “Nevada Officer Shot Dead during Standoff with Suspect following a Traffic Stop,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, TX), August 23, 2001, accessed August 31, 2015, http://bit.ly/1Unu4Pu. Peck’s criminal history prohibited him from possessing firearms: He pled guilty to attempting to leave the scene of an accident involving death or personal injury, a felony, in 1993 in Clark County, Nevada.State of Nevada vs. Larry J. Peck, Case no. 93C115127, Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County, Nevada. Case disposed September 1995.

In 1993 in Clark County, Nevada, Peck pled guilty to attempting to leave the scene of an accident involving death or personal injury, a felony, and was prohibited from possessing firearms. (Source: State of Nevada vs. Larry J. Peck, case no. 93C115127, Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County, Nevada.

 

May 22, 2015 | Sparks

A contemporaneous news clipping described Cameron’s extensive criminal history. (Source: Phil Barber, “Cities Mourn Slain Cop,” Reno Gazette-Journal, May 24, 1995, pp. 6A).

Donald Larry Cameron, 46, shot and killed Officer Larry Don Johnson, 44, of the Sparks Police Department as the officer was attempting to arrest him for two armed robberies he had committed that day. Responding officers then shot and killed Cameron at the scene.Karen Zekan, “5k Race to Honor Slain Police Officer Johnson,” Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, NV), September 25, 1996. Cameron was prohibited from possessing firearms: In 1991 he was convicted of robbery with the use of a deadly weapon, a felony.State of Nevada vs. Donald Larry Cameron, Case no. CR90-1932, Second Judicial District Court, Washoe County, Nevada. Case disposed May 1993. Two weeks after his release, he was arrested and charged with forgery and possession of stolen property. Just 37 days before the shooting, he had been released on parole; he was re-arrested and charged with forgery and possession of stolen property and was out on bail when he killed Officer Johnson.Ed Vogel, “Controversial Parole Commissioner Quits,” Las Vegas Review-Journal. January 10, 1997.

 

November 30, 1993 | Reno

Michael Sonner, 25, used a .38-caliber revolver to shoot and kill Trooper Carlos Borland, 25, of the Nevada Highway Patrol after Borland stopped his vehicle on suspicion of stealing gasoline from a nearby station. Sonner fled the scene but was arrested a day later after a manhunt involving nine law enforcement agencies.“In Memory of Our Fallen Law Enforcement Officers,” NHP Memorial, accessed August 31, 2015, http://1.usa.gov/1LFD93T. His extensive criminal history— including felony convictions for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer—prohibited him from possessing firearms.Michael Hampton Sonner v. State of Nevada, Case no. 26485, Supreme Court of Nevada. Case decided April 2, 1998. From the opinion: “Sonner was tried in September 1994. The jury found him guilty of one count each of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon, ex-felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a stolen vehicle, and resisting a public officer. At the penalty hearing, the state presented evidence that Sonner had been convicted of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer in North Carolina, was a fugitive from North Carolina, had robbed and raped a woman in Virginia, and had shot to death two people in Texas. His pre-sentence report showed that he had eleven prior felony convictions.”

Sonner’s appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court details his extensive criminal history. (Source:
Michael Hampton Sonner v. State of Nevada, Case no. 26485, Supreme Court of Nevada).

 

October 11, 1988 | Las Vegas

A contemporaneous news clipping described Eierdam’s prohibiting criminal history. (Source: Harold Hyman, “Eierdam Once Fired Shots at NLV Cop,” Las Vegas Sun, October 13, 1988, pp. 6B)

Lester James Eierdam, 37, used a revolver to shoot and kill Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer Marc Kahre, 34, on a residential street. Kahre and another officer were following Eierdam’s vehicle while investigating reports of shots fired at the home of Eierdam’s ex-girlfriend; as they approached him, Eierdam turned and fired, striking and killing Kahre. Eierdam later shot and killed himself inside his car in front of a nearby shopping center.Laura Carroll, “Newspaper Clippings Honor School’s Slain Namesake,” Summerlin View (Las Vegas, NV), August 26, 2008; and “Marc Kahre,” James D. Hoff Peace Officer Memorial, accessed August 31, 2015, http://bit.ly/1iePqmm. He was prohibited from possessing firearms: a news report indicated that he had previously been convicted of felony possession of narcotics and given a suspended sentence of 15 years in prison.Harold Hyman, “Eierdam Once Fired Shots at NLV Cop,” Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, NV), October 13, 1988.

 

June 26, 1982 | Jackpot

Joseph F. Breslin, 32, used a .22-caliber pistol to shoot and killed Officer Denny Van Lawrence, 47, of the Elko County Sheriff’s Office after the officer had attempted to call Breslin an ambulance. Officer Lawrence had responded to reports of a car accident and found that Breslin had wrecked his car; as the officer was writing an accident report, Breslin shot him in the head.“Jackpot Shootout Detailed in Campers’ Statements,” Elko Daily Free Press (Elko, NV), July 3, 1982. Thirty years later, Officer Lawrence died from complications related to the shooting. Breslin was prohibited from possessing firearms: In 1978, he pled guilty to attempted murder, a felony, after firing a sawed-off shotgun at his neighbor, and was sentenced to four years in prison.Melinda Beck and Ron LaBrecque, “A Killer Who Slipped through the System,” Newsweek, July 19, 1982, National Affairs, pp. 28; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Joseph Breslin, Docket no. CP-51-CR-0916921-1968, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, case disposed July 1970; and State of California vs. Joseph Frances Breslin, Case no. CR10454, San Luis Obispo County Municipal Court, case disposed December 1977.

In 1978, Breslin pled guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. (Source: State of California vs. Joseph Frances Breslin, Case no. CR10454, San Luis Obispo County Municipal Court).

 

SHOOTER NOT PROHIBITED: 6 OFFICERS KILLED

April 26, 2010 | Pahrump

James Lacy Chaffin, 30, used an SKS semiautomatic rifle equipped with a 30-round magazine to shoot and kill Nye County Sheriff’s Deputy Ian Deutch, 27, outside a casino.Mike Blaskyand, “Back Home from War, Deputy Falls,” Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, NV), April 27, 2010, accessed October 12, 2015, http://bit.ly/1WXSa6A. Deutch had responded to reports of gunfire and a domestic argument between Chaffin and Chaffin’s girlfriend at his home, and he went to the casino after Chaffin’s girlfriend told police she was heading there for her own safety. As the deputy was walking towards the building, Chaffin ambushed him and shot him several times, killing him.“Slain Nye County Deputy, Gunman Identified,” Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, NV), April 27, 2010, accessed August 31, 2015, http://bit.ly/1KzgDLm. Chaffin had previously been arrested on suspicion of possessing a stolen credit card, but charges were never filed in the case. There is no evidence he had any other criminal history that would prohibit him from possessing firearms.State of Nevada vs. James Lacy Chaffin, Case no. 10-971, Pahrump Justice Court, case disposed May 2010; and Gina B. Good, "Two Dead in Lakeside Shootout: Dep. Deutch Mortally Wounded before Suspect Is Shot Down in Parking Lot," Pahrump Valley Times, April 28, 2010, last accessed October 28, 2015, http://bit.ly/1ii7Hyo.

November 19, 2009 | Las Vegas

Saul Williams, Jr., 20, and Prentice Marshall, 18, were charged with murder for the shooting of Las Vegas Metro Police Officer Trevor Nettleton inside his home during a botched robbery. Authorities say Williams and Marshall approached Nettleton inside his garage and attempted to rob him; a firefight ensued, and though Officer Nettleton was able to return fire with his service weapon, he was shot and killed.David Ferrara, “Man Pleads Guilty in Metro Officer’s Slaying,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 22, 2015, http://bit.ly/1P9bqJX. Note that Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie deemed Officer Nettleton’s death as occurring while on-duty because he resorted to deadly force. See: Antonio Planas, “Death Penalty Considered,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, November 21, 2009. Although in April 2009, Williams pled guilty to attempting to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, a gross misdemeanor,State of Nevada vs. Saul Williams, Jr., Criminal case no. C250459, Clark County District Court, disposed April 2009. there is no evidence he or Marshall had criminal records that prohibited them from possessing firearms.

February 2, 2006 | Las Vegas

Amir Rashid Crump, 21, used a Kalashnikov-style rifle to shoot and kill Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sargent Henry Prendes, 37, as the officer was responding to a domestic violence call at Crump’s residence. Sargent Prendes had been called to the home to investigate reports that Crump had been beating his girlfriend with a stick in his front yard and had been breaking windows on vehicles parked nearby. As the officer approached Crump’s home, Crump fired more than 50 rounds from his Kalashnikov-style rifle, striking and killing Sgt. Prendes.Brian Haynes, “’Our Worst Nightmare’: LV Officer Slain in Gun Battle”, Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 2, 2006. There is no evidence that Crump had a criminal history that would have prohibited him from possessing firearms.

January 27, 1997 | Sparks

After a minor traffic collision on Interstate 80, James Dennis Brown II, 35, shot and killed Agent Anthony Minetto, 49, of the Nevada division of the Immigration and Nationalization Service. According to news reports, Minetto had accidentally bumped into the back of Brown’s car while driving along the highway; the pair pulled over to the side of the road and briefly exchanged words before Brown walked back to his car, produced a .22-caliber pistol, and shot Minetto several times. Brown then picked up Minneto’s .40-caliber service pistol, shot Minetto once more, and then shot and killed himself.Louis A. Schack, “Two Dead in Murder-Suicide after Traffic Dispute,” Daily Sparks Tribune (Sparks, NV), January 28, 1997, pp. 1, 8. Additionally, the article confirms Minetto was on duty at the time of the shooting. Though Brown had previously been convicted of driving under the influence in 1992 and had been arrested again for DUI a few months prior to the shooting, there is no evidence he had a criminal record that would have prohibited him from possessing firearms.Phil Barber, “Gunman Threatened to Kill Deputy during DUI Arrest,” Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, NV), January 29, 1997

June 25, 1990 | Las Vegas

Jose Echavarria, 29, and Carlos Gurry, 27, were charged with killing FBI agent John Bailey with a .38-caliber handgun inside a bank during a botched robbery. Agent Bailey had been inside the bank conducting an investigation into interstate wire fraud when Echavarria attempted to rob one of the tellers. Bailey tried to subdue Echavarria but he slipped away, grabbed the pistol he had brought to the bank, and shot and killed the agent.“New Version Revealed of Bank Heist-Slaying,” Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, NV), June 29, 1990, pp. 3A. Gurry had previously been convicted in Clark County, Nevada, for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, but that conviction did not prohibit him from possessing firearms. There is no evidence that Echavarria had a criminal record that would have prohibited him from possessing guns.State of Nevada vs. Carlos A. Gurry, Case no. 90C095399-1, Eighth Judicial District Court, State of Nevada.

June 1, 1984 | Smith Valley

Jesus Mariezcurrena, 57, used a rifle to shoot and kill Lyon County Sheriff’s Deputy George Rice, 33, during a 24-hour siege of Mariezcurrena’s home. Police were responding to reports that Mariezcurrena was firing a rifle in his front yard towards a nearby school. As Deputy Rice approached Mariezcurrena’s home, Mariezcurrena leaned out his window and shot Rice in the head, killing him.Dave Sanford, “Murder with Deadly Weapon Charge Follows Smith Siege,” Mason Valley News, June 8, 1984, pp. 1, 3. Though Mariezcurrena had previously been committed to a psychiatric hospital in Nevada, there is no evidence that his commitment prohibited him from possessing firearms.State of Nevada vs. Jesus Echart Mariezcurrena, Case no. 2859-1/4, Third Judicial District Court, State of Nevada, Lyon County. Case disposed March 1985.

Nevada Law

Nevada Law