The Clark County District Attorney’s Office has determined that the actions of a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) SWAT officer on March 16, 2014, were reasonable and legally justified.
According to the report released today, on March 16, 2014, an employee of Vegas Extreme Skydiving called 9-1-1 after a brief interaction with a man who had parked his motorhome on the parachute landing zone near the Primm airport. He reported that he, and two other private citizens, approached the motorhome and knocked on the door. The man inside, later identified as Mr. Tate, opened the door to the motorhome, pointed a semi-automatic handgun at them, and told them they needed to get off the "gun range." Mr. Tate also made comments that there was a bomb and the motorhome could explode.
An LVMPD officer responded to the scene and parked about 100 yards west of Mr. Tate’s RV. The officer made numerous attempts to communicate with Mr. Tate personally, and used his vehicle’s PA system as well. Mr. Tate was mostly unresponsive, but did state: "I don’t want to talk to the government. You represent the government and I have no reason to talk to you." During this time, the officer saw Mr. Tate display what appeared to be a long gun, possibly an SKS type weapon.
Nevada Highway Patrol troopers responded to assist LVMPD. They also saw Mr. Tate with the long gun, and one of the troopers heard Mr. Tate make several concerning statements, including: "I’ll show you what I got. All you want to do is get me. Well, I’ll get you first." Because Mr. Tate had an SKS type weapon, which is a semi-automatic rifle usually associated with high powered ammunition, the officers were not only concerned for the citizens in the area and themselves, but also for the safety of those traveling along I-15. The LVMPD officer requested assistance from SWAT units.
SWAT team members arrived at the location and were briefed by patrol officers. SWAT Sniper Charles Moser was in an observation position and saw Mr. Tate exit the motorhome with a long gun that he believed to be an SKS type weapon. He saw Mr. Tate operate the bolt action to the firearm. At that point, Officer Moser, fearing for the safety of other officers in the area, as well as citizens driving along I-15, shot one time, striking Mr. Tate.
SWAT team members and medical personnel attempted to render aid to Mr. Tate, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
"We learned after Mr. Tate’s death that in the days leading up to the incident he was legally trespassed from three different locations for erratic behavior," said District Attorney Steve Wolfson. "Additionally, his family shared with us that he had been displaying suicidal thoughts, including disposing of his assets and thanking his sister for her help in his life. Unfortunately, his actions on March 16, 2014, left officers with no choice but to protect innocent people in the area from imminent harm."
A Police Fatality Public Fact-Finding Review on this case was held on April 17, 2015. The determination that the officer 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.