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District Attorney justifies officer-involved shooting at Reno Wing Fest in 2016

(Image Courtesy Brett Rose)

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks announced that the officer-involved shooting at the Wing Fest in downtown Reno in 2016 was justified.

On Sunday, July 3, just before 1:30 p.m. an officer saw a van driving the wrong way on a one-way street. The officer attempted a traffic stop, but the driver, later identified as Raul Saavedra-Vargas, refused to stop, according to authorities.

Saavedra fled from police and drove towards downtown Reno at a high-rate of speed. The officer pursued Saavedra and noticed he crashed into a car on Center Street. Despite the crash, Saavedra continued driving north on Center.

Fearing for the public's safety, the officer ended the chase and stopped to check on the victims that had been struck by Saavedra, according to Hicks's report.

Saavedra continued and turned west onto Plaza Street, heading towards Virginia Street and the largely populated 'Wing Fest' outdoor street festival.

Two officers working foot patrol at the event heard the travel path of Saavedra over the radio and moved toward Plaza and Virginia streets. Once there, they heard the van's screeching tires and saw Saavedra coming towards them at a high rate of speed, Hicks wrote.

The officers yelled for bystanders to get down and for Saavedra to stop. The van did not slow down and swerved towards police and several bystanders on the sidewalk.

Fearing for his own safety and the safety of the public, one of the officers fired his gun at the driver, according to Hicks. Saavedra's van did not stop, and it drove past the Virginia St. barriers and began driving towards Wing Fest attendees and vendor booths.

Officers told Saavedra to stop once again, but instead, he revved his engine and continued towards police, according to Hicks.

An officer fired several more shots at Saavedra, who then crashed the van into a vendor booth where it stopped.

Saavedra was hit and later died from his injuries.

A report released from Hicks' office concluded that due to Saavedra's actions, officers clearly had a reasonable belief there was imminent danger. Based on the review of the entire investigation presented and the application of Nevada law to the known facts and circumstances of the incident, the officer's actions were ruled justified.

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