In a report released today involving the death of Javier Munoz on October 19, 2016, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office has determined that the actions of the Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) trooper were legally justified and reasonable.
Mr. Munoz’s interaction with law enforcement began two days prior to his death. On October 17th, in Glendale, Arizona, he was accused of assaulting and attempting to rape a female relative just prior to stealing her car and fleeing to Las Vegas. The next day, Mr. Munoz led Boulder City Police (BCPD) on a high speed chase through a crowded school zone and other areas. The chase was called off by BCPD for the safety of pedestrians and motorists in the area. Mr. Munoz was then spotted on a dirt road where BCPD officers again attempted to stop him. He was finally taken into custody when the stolen vehicle he was driving got a flat tire and then high-centered on a berm. As he attempted to flee on foot, officers were able to take him into custody. He was transported to Boulder City Hospital for a suspected drug overdose. He was then transported to Valley Hospital for treatment of a drug overdose. His condition improved and he was released about four hours later.
Around 7:00 the next morning, October 19th, Mr. Munoz assaulted a woman and stole her vehicle while she was at a gas station. He punched her in the head, pulled her out of her car and threw her to the ground. He then grabbed her keys and got into the car. The victim attempted to stop him and pull him out of her car, but he pushed her away and put the car in reverse, dragging her along until she fell away from the car.
From there, NHP troopers observed Mr. Munoz driving recklessly and at a high rate of speed. At the time, they were unaware of the recent car-jacking he had committed. They attempted a traffic stop, but Mr. Munoz refused to stop and continued to drive even more erratically, reaching speeds over 100 miles per hour. At that point, the NHP officers stopped the pursuit for the safety of other motorists on the highway. Another NHP trooper heard the situation over the radio and positioned himself in a way that he could pick up the pursuit once Mr. Munoz passed him on the highway. When Mr. Munoz passed the second NHP vehicle, that trooper began pursuing him, running his lights and sirens. Ultimately, Mr. Munoz exited the highway, drove over a center median and came to a stop near the service bay at Findlay Cadillac.
The trooper arrived shortly after that to find Mr. Munoz attempting to steal a car from an elderly couple who had just pulled in to have their vehicle serviced. Employees and witnesses called for the trooper to come over to their location. As he approached, the trooper saw an elderly man on the ground - - between the front and back tire of the car that was being stolen - - two people trying to pull Mr. Munoz
out of the car and several other bystanders. The trooper gave commands to Mr. Munoz to "put up your hands or I will shoot." Mr. Munoz ignored the trooper and put the car in reverse, hitting a vehicle behind him. The trooper shot Mr. Munoz once, hitting him in the abdomen. The trooper then removed Mr. Munoz from the car and he was placed in custody. He was transported to the hospital and died from his injuries the following day.
The autopsy report revealed that Mr. Munoz had the following substances in his system: Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, Midazolam, THC and Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a DEA Schedule II synthetic morphine substitute reported to be 80-200 times more potent than morphine.
"Mr. Munoz was in control of a 4,000 pound weapon at the time he was shot. By his actions, this trooper saved lives." said District Attorney Steve Wolfson. "The 85-year-old victim that Mr. Munoz pulled from his car and threw to the ground was in danger of being run over at one point. The victim’s wife and several of the dealership’s employees were also in the area and at risk. Thankfully, nobody else was injured in this situation."
A Police Fatality Public Fact-Finding Review was conducted in this incident on March 20, 2017. Clark County Code mandates such a review when a police-involved death occurs, and the prosecutor preliminarily determines that no criminal prosecution of the officers is appropriate
The determination that the trooper acted lawfully in this situation is based upon the evidence available at this time. The case could be reexamined if new information comes to light.
The full report is available on the District Attorney’s Web page.