Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2014

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NLV Police shoot at homeless man who threw knife at officer

A North Las Vegas police officer fired a shot at a homeless man who threw a knife at him Monday outside a Burger King, but no one was hurt.

It was the second officer-involved shooting in North Las Vegas this year, according to police records.

Employees of Burger King at 2044 Las Vegas Blvd. North, near Bruce Street, called police about 6:20 a.m. regarding a man who was bothering customers and refusing to leave, Officer Justin Roberts, spokesman for the department, said.

When officers arrived, they saw the man, Earl Denham, 51, walking in and out of the street in front of the restaurant. When officers called him over to their car, Denham became irate and tipped over a shopping cart full of his belongings into the street.

An officer sprayed him with pepper spray as Denham reached for a duffel bag, Roberts said. But the spray had little or no effect on Denham and he pulled a knife from his pants, police said.

Denham allegedly held the knife above his shoulder in a threatening manner, about 15 feet from the officer who sprayed him, Roberts said.

The other officer, fearing his partner's life was in danger, fired one shot in Denham's direction. At the same time, Denham threw the knife, hitting the officer in the leg, bruising him.

Denham fell to the ground, and "they thought he was hit at first," Roberts said, but the bullet had flown across the street and hit a wrought iron fence at a mortuary.

Denham was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon and battery with a deadly weapon.

On Aug. 13, an 18-year-old man was shot by an officer at an apartment complex at 711 E. Nelson Ave., near Carey Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Last year, there were three officer-involved shootings in North Las Vegas. One suspect died, one was injured and one wasn't hit by the officer's bullet.

Two officer-involved shootings occurred in 2001 -- one was fatal.

Since last month, six North Las Vegas officers have been carrying Taser guns as part of a 90-day study into the effectiveness of these nonlethal weapons.

The officers involved in Monday's incident were not carrying Tasers. But because the man had a knife and situation escalated so quickly, a Taser might not have been the best weapon to use anyway, Roberts said.

Two officers in the Taser study have used their weapons: One used it on a man who cut a store clerk then cut himself outside the store, and another officer used it on a man who ran from the cops then began fighting with them.

"The (deployments) were successful, there were no injuries and everyone was happy except for the people who went to jail," Roberts said.

Three officer-involved shootings occurred in 2000. Two people were killed and one was not injured, Roberts said.

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