In a report released today involving the death of Jeremias Cruz on May 19, 2016, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office has determined that the actions of North Las Vegas Police Department officers (NLVPD) were legally justified and reasonable.
On that date, several 9-1-1 calls were place from the Silver Nugget, reporting that one employee was beating another employee to death.
When NLVPD officers arrived at the scene, witnesses told them a security officer, Jeremias Cruz, had dragged another employee to the loading dock and was beating him to death. One of the witnesses was also a security officer; he said he tried to stop the beating but was forced to retreat after he broke his hand fighting off the attacker. Officers were directed to the basement of the casino where the attacker was last seen.
Two officers entered the dimly lit basement and announced they were police. They gave commands to Mr. Cruz to "get on the ground." Mr. Cruz ignored their commands and instead continued to walk away from the officers. He then suddenly turned around and started walking in the direction of one of the officers. During this time, two additional officers entered the basement area to assist. Mr. Cruz continued to advance on the officers, raising both of his arms and ‘growling’ loudly. An officer gave commands to "get back." When Mr. Cruz was within 15 feet of them, one of the officers discharged his Taser, but it had no effect on Mr. Cruz who continued walking toward them. A second officer, fearing for his safety and the safety of the other officers, shot Mr. Cruz. The initial shot had no effect on Mr. Cruz, who continued to move toward officers, so the same officer fired additional shots, which ultimately stopped the threat. Mr. Cruz died at the scene.
By all reports, Mr. Cruz was ‘crazed’, ‘talking gibberish’ and ‘agitated.’ Further investigation revealed that the employee who was initially attacked, prompting the call to police, was beaten to death on the loading dock, just outside of the basement where Mr. Cruz was shot. The victim had severe blunt force trauma to his head and neck and multiple fractures on his face. He was so severely beaten that his spine was dislocated at the base of his head.
The autopsy report revealed that Mr. Cruz tested positive for Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, THC and PCP. PCP is a hallucinogenic drug that is known to cause aggressive behavior, agitation, extreme visual disturbance and more.
"In this situation, it is clear that officers made an effort to use non-lethal force to detain Mr. Cruz. Unfortunately, Mr. Cruz did not comply with commands from officers, and even after being struck with the Taser, he continued to advance on them." said District Attorney Steve Wolfson. "Having been called out for a possible murder, and witnessing Mr. Cruz’s erratic behavior, officers had a reasonable fear that he posed a serious threat to them."
A Police Fatality Public Fact-Finding Review was conducted in this incident on January 11, 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 officers 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.