Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2014

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Metro officers’ gunshots in Laughlin melee probed

A Metro Police sergeant will remain on paid leave until ballistics tests determine if the gunshot he fired at a Hells Angels member during a deadly brawl Saturday in Laughlin hit anyone.

Police are also investigating an accidental firing of a handgun by an officer when he was trying to move a biker. The bullet did not hit anyone.

Homicide detectives are investigating the shot fired by Sgt. Gary Hood at the motorcycle gang member at Harrah's Laughlin, but police officials say preliminary evidence indicates his bullet hit a kitchen grill.

Hood, 54, saw a number of Hells Angels going into the hotel as a confrontation between members of the Hells Angels and the Mongols was escalating. Hood went into Harrah's and saw three Hells Angels trying to leave, Deputy Chief Ray Flynn said.

Hood drew his handgun, and police say one of the Hells Angels pulled a gun and raised it toward Hood. The sergeant then fired one shot at the man. Hood then glanced at the two other men and saw that they had run away. When Hood looked back toward the man he just fired at, he saw that man had also fled, Flynn said.

A Hells Angels member was later found in the parking lot dead of a gunshot wound from a .45 caliber bullet. Hood's handgun is a .45 caliber weapon, Flynn said.

Police also found a .45 caliber bullet in a kitchen grill.

There was no indication when the ballistics tests would be concluded because many tests related to the investigation must be performed, Flynn said.

Three bikers died during the fight inside Harrah's about 2:15 a.m. Saturday during Laughlin's annual River Run. Two Hells Angels -- Jeramie Dean Bell, 27, of California and Robert E. Tumelty, 50, of California -- were found shot to death. Police did not say which one was found in the parking lot. A Mongols biker -- Anthony Salvador Barrera, 43, of California -- was stabbed to death.

Another 12 people were hospitalized after the fight, which involved between 70 and 100 people. The two gangs have been feuding for 20 years and police had information that the Mongols might attack the Hells Angels to try to enhance their status. But it was the Hells Angels who rode down the street in a large group and started the Laughlin confrontation.

The accidental firing of a handgun by a Metro officer occurred just outside of the hotel.

Officer David V. Miller, 33, an officer for about four years, had his gun drawn as the confrontation was being broken up by police and bikers were trying to flee from the hotel. Several bikers were face down on the ground. A handgun was near one biker, who continued to talk with another nearby biker before officers told him to be quiet.

"Given the circumstances of the situation and with weapons on the ground, it was appropriate for the officer to address the threat with his handgun drawn," said Lt. Vincent Cannito, a department spokesman.

Cannito said Miller told the man, who had not yet been handcuffed, several times to stop talking. The officer believed the man was formulating a plan to fight with the police as officers were attempting to control the numerous bikers they had ordered to lie on the ground.

A video shows Miller pulling the man by the belt away from the area and struggling with him. The gun then went off and the bullet struck the ground.

"When you watch the video, you can see that at all times, even though he is struggling with the individual, the officer is trying to keep the gun out of the direction of the individual," Cannito said. The video has been shown many times on television news broadcasts.

The man was not hit by the bullet.

Officers are taught not to put their finger on the trigger of a gun unless "addressing a threat," Cannito said.

But he added there were several bikers in the area not handcuffed yet and several weapons in the area.

Internal affairs will investigate the accidental firing of the handgun.

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