Among the hundreds of demonstrators in downtown Las Vegas on Monday night, Jorge Gomez stood out.
Like scores of others protesting the death of George Floyd during a police arrest in Minneapolis, Gomez was toting a homemade sign. Its message was cryptic and included the words “Trump,” “jail,” and “change,” along with “2A,” an apparent reference to the Second Amendment.
Unlike the other protesters, however, Gomez was carrying several guns and wearing body armor.
He had a Glock pistol on his hip and another slung across his body in what Metro Police called a “carbine conversion kit.” A third gun was tucked into a backpack, police said.
Gomez, nonetheless, made himself welcome in the diverse crowd. He silently pointed his sign at police officers monitoring the rally, sometimes from an uncomfortably close distance.
Then things took an ominous and ultimately deadly turn.
When the peaceful protest suddenly became turbulent and police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, Gomez approached officers posted outside the federal courthouse.
One of them fired a nonlethal shotgun round at Gomez to try to back him off, police said. Gomez took off running and when he raised a gun in the direction of police, four Metro officers opened fire, authorities said. Gomez fell to the ground, mortally wounded.
Days later, little is publicly known about Gomez, who was a 25-year-old Las Vegas resident.
Police said they believe he attended the protest alone. A relative declined comment, adding that the family wasn’t talking to the media.
His Facebook page was peppered with conspiracy theories about President Donald Trump and talk about recent protests.
The afternoon before his death, Gomez posted, “Be ready for war. Do not cower in the face of revolution.”
Three hours later, he made a final post: “I know people are tired and passionate, but don’t forget to take care of yourself.”
Several members of our staff encountered Gomez downtown minutes before the shooting. Here, in their words, they recollect the night:
The march had made its way to Downtown Container Park, where an energetic speech apparently signaled the end of the event. Some participants left, but a sizable crowd remained and headed toward Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. I followed and saw a group of protesters stand face-to-face with officers. That’s where Gomez stood, clearly armed.
Seeing combat as a military veteran and having experience with guns, I found it odd that someone would be so heavily armed during an event that could turn volatile at any moment. It’s not worth the extra attention, given the circumstances.
So, I turned to my colleague and pointed out to her to “keep an eye on this guy.” And we did, photographing and recording him on video. That’s when I noticed his pro-Second Amendment sign.
Moments passed and Gomez approached a police line and raised his sign in the air. Minutes later, he disappeared into the crowd. — Christopher DeVargas
The protest had ended peacefully at Container Park and organizers were telling demonstrators to go home. Officers blocked the right of way at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard as protesters tried to disperse, which angered the crowd. They told officers that they were simply trying to go home.
I saw Gomez stand in front of police, holding his sign in front of him. He was armed, which is his legal right as Nevada is an open-carry state.
Police eventually let the crowd turn on Las Vegas Boulevard South. At least 100 remained, continuing the protest while keeping a distance from officers. This continued for another 15 minutes until officers ordered the crowd to disperse. Gomez stood near me on the sidewalk in front of Hennesey’s Tavern. It looked like he was trying to antagonize the police. Some of the other protesters pleaded with him to stop. They told him he was only going to make things worse. One of the protesters physically moved me away from Gomez when they saw he was holding a gun in his hands. — Kelcie Grega
About 10 minutes before Metro Police began dispersing the last of the protesters on Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street, an upset woman frantically crying caught the attention of Gomez. The live stream I had been recording to Twitter captured the moment, as he stepped into the camera’s view to give her a hug.
The woman says her son died at the hands of police. She was wearing a homemade shirt with his picture on it and holding an urn, saying it’s all she had left. The hug from Gomez, who was openly carrying multiple firearms and dressed in tactical gear, seemed to temporarily calm her down. Gomez proceeded to stand between the crowd and line of officers forming a barricade, standing eye to eye a few feet away from an officer. The staredown lasted for about a minute. Five minutes later, officers began dispersing the crowd with pepper balls. — Yasmina Chavez
Police are controlling the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street, where hundreds of people are peacefully protesting. Gomez, open-carrying an assault rifle and a pistol, pushes closer to two black protesters who are facing off with police. Apparently agitated by Gomez’s proximity to them, the protesters turn around and lecture Gomez for not following protocols of a peaceful protest and for being armed.
“Get those guns away from us,” one protester says. He shows Gomez a sign that reads “Here for change — not a riot.”
Another young black woman advises Gomez that words of protest should come from black voices. Gomez appears frustrated that the black protesters don’t agree with him about the severity of oppression taking place. — Wade Vandervort
Officers begin firing tear gas into the crowd to get demonstrators to disperse. I run with the rest of the crowd to get out of the way. About 20 minutes later, I stop to catch my breath near Las Vegas Boulevard and Bridger Avenue, in front of the George Federal Building. I see a figure run in front of the stairs. He was silhouetted against the courthouse lights so I didn’t know it was Gomez at the time. About a half-dozen rounds were fired. The figure flails his arms and hits the ground. He stops moving. — Kelcie Grega
Police begin firing pepper bullets and deploying tear gas. Protesters scatter, many of whom are screaming. A young man throws a tear gas canister back towards police.
Gomez leans out from behind a cement pillar, taking cover at the Fremont Street parking garage. His pistol is out and low ready near his right hip. His eyes are fixed on the line of police shrouded in smoke, just yards away.
I told Gomez, “Hey man, you need to holster your weapon or someone is going to get hurt.”
He replied, “I’m not going to holster my weapon when our rights are being threatened”
I responded, almost pleading: “Yeah but, your finger is on the trigger and there’s only one thing that can happen from that point.”
The armed man turns his head slightly and gives a warning, “You need to stop talking to me right now.”
Gomez’s words are enough — I quickly leave. Less than 20 minutes later he was dead. — Wade Vandervort