A 60-year-old man guns down a burglary suspect, and authorities say he appears
to be justified.
A gunbattle in a Las Vegas home early Tuesday left an intruder dead and the
60-year-old homeowner shaken but unharmed, police said.
The Tuesday morning shootout unfolded as the
two men stood just a few feet from one another in the den of the homeowner's
residence in the 3200 block of South Tenaya Way at Desert Inn Road.
"It was quite an exchange of
gunfire," said Las Vegas police Lt. Wayne Petersen. "Amazingly, they
weren't very far apart at all. They were standing maybe six to eight feet
In the past three years, at least eight robbery
or burglary suspects have been shot or stabbed after they broke into valley
businesses and homes. All but one of those shootings by home or business owners
have been ruled justified by authorities.
"I was born and raised in Las Vegas, and
it does seem like (now) you do see a lot of situations like this," said
Ronald C. Bloxham, Clark County chief deputy district attorney. "I think
the public is starting to protect themselves more and more."
Tuesday's events started at 5:15 a.m. when the
60-year-old, sleeping alongside his 61-year-old wife, was awakened by the sound
of their dogs barking. Petersen said the man retrieved a handgun, then went
downstairs to investigate.
The man opened the door to his den and was
confronted by an armed intruder standing just feet away. The two immediately
started shooting at one another, prompting the homeowner's wife to call 911.
"The suspect fired three shots, the victim
eight," Petersen said.
The intruder, tentatively identified as a
20-year-old Las Vegan whose name has not been released, died at the scene. A
second intruder fled the house, driving off in a silver Jeep as Las Vegas patrol
"The vehicle didn't have any plates, and
that was what really caught the officers' attention," Petersen said.
Patrol officers tried to stop the Jeep, but the
driver sped off, prompting a high-speed police chase. Officers pursued the man
to a Taco Bell parking lot at Charleston and Decatur boulevards, where officers
used their patrol cars to trap the Jeep in the parking lot.
Petersen said Laron D. White, 19, of Las Vegas
was arrested in the parking lot. Petersen said White had a cut on his arm, which
authorities believe resulted when White and the dead man broke a rear window
while entering the Tenaya Way home.
The dead suspect was found by police inside the
residence, a firearm still in his hand. Petersen said it appears the man had
been arrested numerous times on burglary and battery charges in the past 18
months. Police were unable to locate any prior record for White.
White is charged with burglary, robbery, home
invasion and felony murder. Petersen said police are trying to determine whether
White or the deceased man are tied to a handful of similar robberies that
occurred in the neighborhood of Tuesday's shooting.
Bloxham said state law dictates that an
individual in such a circumstance has a right to use lethal force if he believes
his attacker poses an imminent threat to his safety or the safety of others.
Regarding Tuesday's shooting, Bloxham said, it appears the homeowner was
justified in killing the intruder.
"If all those facts we've heard are in
line with what happened, then the person had every right to use deadly
force," Bloxham said.
Although such cases locally have ended up in
favor of home and business owners, Bloxham and Petersen cautioned that the
decision to use deadly force against an intruder can backfire and lead to tragic
"It all depends on the
circumstances," Petersen said. "Engaging an armed suspect in a
gunfight is risky. It turned out for the best in this instance, and the
homeowner escaped unharmed, but this could have been a very tragic crime. We
could have been responding to two dead, and they both could have been innocent
Greg Block -- a Huntington Beach, Calif., law
enforcement firearms instructor who also teaches at one of the largest civilian
handgun schools in the country -- said deciding whether to keep a firearm in
your home and business is an individual decision. Before doing so, you should
educate yourself about firearm use and safety. He also recommended becoming
familiar with state law regarding deadly force and enrolling in the appropriate
firearms safety classes.
"It is up to the individual, but I always
say it is better to have a gun and never use it than to wish you had one when
you really need it," Block said.
In the past three years, there have been
shootings in the Las Vegas Valley in which home and business owners fatally shot
intruders. Below is a summary of some of the cases:
- During a July 1997 robbery at Crown Tire
Service, 2804 E. Lake Mead Blvd. in North Las Vegas, robber James Smith
pulled a gun and shot a store manager in the hand. After stealing the
store's money, Smith started to flee on foot when he was shot three times by
store employee Carlo Ohanian. As Smith hit the pavement, an accomplice in a
getaway car panicked. He put the car in reverse and ran over Smith's head,
killing Smith instantly. Authorities determined that Ohanian's actions were
- On Oct. 16, 1998, an employee at Tropicana
Pizza, 4310 E. Tropicana Ave., shot to death Las Vegan Gregory Floyd, 16, as
Floyd and an unidentified man tried to rob the restaurant. The employee was
- On Oct. 25, 1998, Las Vegas homeowner Tom
Gaule, 42, fatally shot Jason Lamb, 26, and Ricky Tripp, 35, when Gaule
found the pair robbing his residence. Gaule was convicted of voluntary
manslaughter and sentenced to probation. Police and prosecutors said Gaule
chased Tripp down the road and shot him.
- In November of 1998, Niorge Marquez-Cobas,
25, was fatally shot by a homeowner after Marquez-Cobas and another man
attempted to rob the victim at a residence in the 4700 block of Owens Avenue
near Lamb Boulevard. The shooting was justified.
- In October 1999, Patrick Booker, 18, of Las
Vegas was shot to death after he and another man broke into an apartment in
the 2900 block of North Rainbow Boulevard near Cheyenne Avenue. The
homeowner disarmed one of the men, then shot Booker. No charges were filed.
- On May 13 of this year, police say Yosvani
Lopez, 24, was killed when he and another man carried out a home invasion in
the 900 block of North Ironwood Drive in Las Vegas near Washington Avenue.
Police have identified a second suspect in the case -- Carlos Coello, 31, of
Las Vegas. Police said Lopez and the second man, both carrying guns, entered
the home and tied up two victims. One victim freed himself and stabbed
Lopez. The victim then took Lopez's gun and fired at the other suspect.
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