Washoe Co. D.A. finds Dec. 2016 deadly Reno OIS outside Gold Dust West justified
RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) —
The December 2016 Officer Involved Shooting in which a 38-year-old man was killed by a Reno Police Officer was justified, according to a report released by the Washoe County District Attorney's Office on Friday, Jan. 19.
It happened on Dec. 21, 2016, when two RPD patrol officers were called to the Gold Dust West Casino by security personnel who had identified a wanted suspect inside their property.
During the officer’s contact with Raymond James Salaiz Jr., the incident turned deadly when Salaiz attempted to flee in his vehicle, striking both officers and dragging one of them with the door of the car.
The officers responded by firing their weapons, striking Salaiz twice before he crashed his car into a passing motorist.
Salaiz was treated at the scene and transported to Renown Medical Center where he was eventually pronounced dead.
The OIS protocol was initiated and the case was submitted to the D.A.'s office.
Finding that the involved officers were justified in their actions, District Attorney Chris Hicks has released a 35 page report on the shooting that includes details of the investigation and the legal analysis applied to the case.
A copy of the report can be found here: https://www.washoecounty.us/da/newsroom/reports.php
Facts of the Case:
In the early evening on December 21, 2016, a Gold Dust West Security Supervisor contacted RPD to report a wanted subject inside the casino. The subject, latter identified as Salaiz, was recognized from a flier distributed to casino security personnel by the Sparks Police Department (SPD). Salaiz was wanted on a warrant issued out of Elko and was being sought by SPD for questioning related to a burglary and arson investigation.
A short time later, an RPD patrol officer arrived and met with security, who pointed Salaiz out. The officer made contact with Salaiz and asked for identification. Salaiz told the officer that he did not have identification but verbally identified himself with a fictitious name and date of birth (Salaiz’ true identification was later found in a wallet in his pants pocket). When the officer attempted to verify the name Salaiz gave him through the 911 dispatch center, no match was found. Salaiz then told the officer his identification was located in his vehicle. The RPD officer, who was waiting for backup, agreed to accompany Salaiz to retrieve the identification and the two men walked to the casino parking lot. Once at the vehicle, a second RPD officer arrived to provide backup. Salaiz entered his vehicle and sat in the driver’s seat, ostensibly looking for his identification. After a brief search, he told the officers he could not locate it. In response, the second officer to arrive went into the casino and spoke with a casino manager who was able to provide a copy of a California Identification Card provided by Salaiz previously used to issue a Casino Player’s Card. The employee also provided the officer with a copy of the flier sent by SPD which contained a photograph of Salaiz.
The second RPD officer returned to the parking lot with the flier and observed the first officer situated at the driver’s side door speaking with Salaiz. As he approached, he communicated to the first officer that Salaiz was in fact the wanted person from the flier. When Salaiz overhead this, his demeanor quickly changed and he attempted to shut the driver’s side door. The first officer was able to grab the door and keep it from shutting all the way, while also watching as Salaiz grabbed his car keys. The officer responded by drawing his firearm and placing Salaiz at gunpoint while giving him commands to get out of the car. Salaiz ignored the commands as the officer attempted to kick the keys away from him. Meanwhile, the second officer drew his Taser, intending to use it to stop Salaiz from starting the vehicle and escalating the situation. However, Salaiz was able to start the vehicle and place it in reverse before the Taser could be deployed. Salaiz then abruptly backed the vehicle up, striking both officers as he accelerated. The first officer was struck by the front of Salaiz’ vehicle and knocked to the ground. The second officer, who had been attempting to deploy his Taser, was drug backwards by the open driver’s side door. When the officer who had been knocked to the ground looked up, he saw the front of Salaiz’ vehicle pointing directly at him and could hear the second officer screaming. This caused him to believe Salaiz had run over the other officer, who had been drug by the car door. This officer also heard Salaiz’ place the vehicle into gear and immediately drew his service weapon and fired multiple rounds into the vehicle where he believed Salaiz to be located.
Salaiz accelerated his vehicle as the first officer fired his weapon. The second officer, who was also on the ground and believing that he was going to be run over by Salaiz, was able to push himself away from the vehicle, quickly stand and fire at Salaiz. Salaiz continued northbound through the casino parking lot at a high rate of speed, eventually crashing into a westbound vehicle travelling on a nearby street. The impact of the crash pushed the passing vehicle off the roadway. Additional RPD officers and REMSA paramedics arrived on scene to assist. The scene was secured. REMSA transported Salaiz and the two officers to Renown Regional Medical Center and treated the female driver of the passing car. Salaiz had been shot twice and later succumbed to his injuries. One of the officers subsequently required surgery due to an injury sustained during the altercation. An autopsy determined cause of death to be gunshot wounds and a toxicology report identified high levels of methamphetamine in Salaiz’ system.
Consistent with the regionally-adopted OIS Protocol, the SPD led the investigation. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office provided secondary investigative support, and the Washoe County Crime Laboratory provided forensic services. The investigation included interviewing witnesses, collecting physical evidence, photographing the shooting scene, forensically testing collected evidence, and interviewing the officers involved in the shooting. The case was submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office on October 31, 2017 for a determination of whether the shooting was legally justified. No criminal charges were recommended by SPD. The District Attorney’s evaluation included reviewing over 2400 pages of reports and documents which included interviews of police and civilian witnesses, photographs, diagrams, video surveillance and examination of the scene of the shooting.
Based on the available evidence and the applicable legal authorities, it is the opinion of the District Attorney that the shooting of Raymond Salaiz was justified and not a criminal act. When facing apprehension on the warrant, Salaiz clearly took whatever actions necessary to escape from the police, including utilizing his vehicle as a deadly weapon. His attempts to flee exhibited complete disregard for the safety of both officers and innocent bystanders. Despite multiple opportunities to comply with the officers attempts to de-escalate the situation, Salaiz placed the car in gear and proceeded to accelerate with the officers in his path, knocking them both to the ground and causing them to reasonably believe that they were in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. Further, each officer believed that the life of their fellow officer or members of the public were in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury. Therefore, both officers had the right under Nevada law to use deadly force against Salaiz in defense of themselves, as well as others in the discharge of their legal duty. Based on these findings, the District Attorney’s case is officially closed.