Las Vegas protest shootings: 1 officer in critical condition; 1 man dead

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Christopher DeVargas

Metro Police vehicles are pictured near the 2800 block of South Las Vegas Boulevard, where officials say an officer was shot during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 1, 2020.

Published Mon, Jun 1, 2020 (7:47 p.m.)

Updated Mon, Jun 1, 2020 (4:30 a.m.)

A Metro Police officer was gravely wounded and a suspect was fatally shot in two separate incidents late Monday in the Las Vegas tourist corridor as authorities were breaking up a Black Lives Matter protest.

The officer, who was shot at 11:23 p.m. in the 2800 block of South Las Vegas Boulevard, was in “extremely” critical condition and on life support at University Medical Center, a teary Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said early Tuesday in a media briefing.

The suspect in that shooting was arrested by SWAT and K9 officers in the early hours Tuesday at an undisclosed location, Lombardo said. He didn’t provide additional details about the arrest.

About 3 miles north, police and federal officers guarding the Foley Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown shot and killed an armed suspect who had reached for one of the guns he was openly carrying, Lombardo said. The man appeared to be wearing body armor, police said.

The man was taken to University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The shootings, which are still under investigation, occurred almost simultaneously.

“This is a sad night for the (Metro Police) family, and a tragic night for our community. With these protests, which are leading to riots, one tragedy is only leading to another,” Lombardo said.

Lombardo said that as the demonstration was winding down, a confrontation between officers and protesters erupted in front of Circus Circus. Protesters began throwing rocks and bottles.

As the officers attempted to make arrests, a gunshot rang out and the officer went down, Lombardo said.

The identities of the officer and the suspects were not released. Additional details were expected later this morning.

“What has occurred is utterly unacceptable. I hope the community sees it that way too,” Lombardo said.

Protesters have been rallying for days across the country over the death of George Floyd, who was seen on video pleading that he couldn’t breathe as a white Minnesota police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.

It was the fourth consecutive day of Las Vegas demonstrations calling for justice. Even though organizers strived for peaceful protests, more than 300 arrests were made in the initial three days, and a few dozen officers were injured in run-ins with the protesters — mostly very minor.

The demonstration Monday started at Trump Tower near the Strip and Fashion Show mall. It moved peacefully north on the Strip and into downtown. But toward the end of the night the situation got heated and officers fired nonlethal rounds and released tear gas for crowd control. Soon chaos erupted, including the officer-involved shooting.

“It felt like the cops were waiting to do something,” protester Otis Campbell said after the shooting in front of the courthouse. “They wanted us to be aggressive so they can be aggressive to us ... even though they were following the rules, they were still looking at things to get us on.”

Metro’s Bolden Area Command substation took to Twitter to ask for prayers for the law enforcement community, and to ask for peace.

Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted early Tuesday that he was notified of the shootings and that state officials were in contact with authorities.

Another Black Lives Matter protest is expected 7 p.m. Wednesday at Las Vegas City Hall. Organizers in a Facebook post are stressing a peaceful gathering with “no arson, tagging, looting or vandalism of any kind.” The demonstration will be limited to City Hall, the organizers stressed.

“We will only be at City Hall having open dialogue and discussion for our people to be heard on positive solutions to bring everyone together peacefully,” the group posted on Facebook.

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