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September 2, 2014

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D.A.’s office clears officers in fatal 2013 shooting of suspected gang member wanted for attempted murder

Metro Police officers who returned fire and killed suspected gang member Roberto Torres in February 2013 were justified in their actions, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office determined.

“Mr. Torres shot his pregnant girlfriend in the head just two days prior to his death. As a result, a felony arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Torres for the crimes of attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon and battery domestic violence.” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a statement released today. “When officers attempted to arrest him, Mr. Torres pulled a handgun and fired at the officers, threatening the lives of the officers and the innocent citizens nearby.”

The District Attorney’s Office detailed its conclusions and investigation into the incident, in which police also wounded two “innocent bystanders,” in a use-of-force report also issued today. The report comes on the heels of a Nov. 15 Police Fatality Public Fact-Finding Review into the incident.

The report said:

On Feb. 8, 2013 – two days after the woman’s nonfatal shooting – Metro Officers Joseph Parra and Clyde Villanueva were conducting surveillance and saw Torres in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 4100 block of West Pennwood Avenue, near South Arville Street and West Sahara Avenue. Torres was with a man and a woman, standing near a Honda Accord. Nearby, Metro Detective Scott Thomas approached from another direction.

It was shortly after 3 p.m.

Parra and Villanueva, with handguns drawn, announced “Metro Police, get on the ground.”

Torres reacted by pulling a .25-caliber Beretta handgun from his waistband and firing a single round. Parra returned one shot that missed Torres. Meanwhile Thomas, from his vantage point, fired six rounds, striking Torres twice in the back.

The other two people, who were showing Torres the car for sale, also were shot. The woman who owned the car was shot in the ankle; her son-in-law, who complied with the order to “get on the ground,” was shot in the shoulder. Investigators later determined they were hit by rounds also fired by Thomas.

Torres, 33, was transported to University Medical Center and died.

The entire incident lasted about 30 seconds.

“The police personnel were confronted by an actual imminent danger which created in their minds an honest belief and fear that they, and others, were about to be killed or suffer great bodily injury,” the report said. “Accordingly, the officers were justified in acting upon those appearances, fears and actual beliefs.”

According to the review, Torres was a known member of a criminal street gang based in Los Angeles and previously spent time in prison for violent crimes. An autopsy report revealed Torres had methamphetamine in his blood, a stimulant “capable of causing hallucinations, aggressive behavior and irrational reactions.”

In the days after the shooting, Sheriff Doug Gillespie defended the officers.

“It was not the officers’ intention to harm an innocent bystander, but this incident does underscore the dynamics that officers see on the streets,” Gillespie said at a Feb. 14 news conference. “At times our officers run into criminals that are violent, they are well armed and are willing to engage police in combat situations.”

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