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Suspect in theft shot, killed by businessman

Originally ran here as:
"DEADLY CHASE: Suspect in theft shot, killed by businessman"
by Ryan Oliver, Reporter: crime, police
Las Vegas Review-Journal
April 25, 2002

Police say carjacking attempt makes charges unlikely against restaurant owner

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- A man who stole money from a restaurant was shot and killed by the restaurant owner as he attempted to carjack a vehicle to flee the scene, police said Wednesday night.

Police filed no charges against the restaurant owner. Homicide Lt. Tom Monahan said prosecutors ultimately will determine whether charges should be filed.

But Monahan said that based on witness statements, investigators believe the man probably was justified when he shot the suspect.

"At this point, it would appear there's no criminal act," Monahan said.

At about 5 p.m., patrol officers responded to a report that the owner of Rosarito's Restaurant was chasing a theft suspect near the intersection of Mojave Road and Charleston Boulevard.

Officers arrived to find a dead body in front of Weber Baking, on the corner of Charleston and 30th Street. The restaurant owner, whom police would not identify because he has not been charged with any crime, was standing nearby.

Monahan said witnesses told police that a man entered the restaurant, located at 11 N. Mojave Road, and ordered some food. An employee then went into the kitchen to prepare the order. The employee told police she then heard the cash register open. She looked toward the cash register, and saw the man reaching into the drawer and taking money.

The man then ran down Mojave toward Charleston, and the restaurant owner, who has a concealed weapon permit, gave chase, Monahan said.

Monahan said the restaurant owner and the man engaged in a slight physical confrontation, and then the suspect ran west on Charleston. The entire chase lasted several hundred yards.

When the suspect reached the parking lot of the bakery, he opened the door to a small pickup and attempted to pull a female driver out of the vehicle, Monahan said. The restaurant owner called for the man to stop, but he did not comply, he said.

"The proprietor of the restaurant, fearing for her (the driver's) life and safety, fired a shot," Monahan said.

The single shot from a handgun proved fatal. The suspect's identity was unavailable Wednesday.

At no point did the suspect brandish a weapon and none was seen around his body, police said. Investigators had not searched the body for any weapons or other items by early Wednesday evening, Monahan said.

A Nevada Supreme Court ruling, handed down two weeks ago, states citizens do not have the right to use deadly force to arrest or prevent the escape of a fleeing felon.

The court wrote that "deadly force is, as a matter of law, unreasonable, unless the deadly force is used in defense of self or others against a threat of serious bodily injury."

Monahan said the carjacker was in the process of committing a felony and could have seriously injured the driver of the pickup. Investigators, therefore, concluded the restaurant owner was acting within his rights.

"One potential scenario that we're looking at is that he could have pulled her out of the vehicle and then backed over her," he said.

The case is similar to an officer-involved shooting that occurred Tuesday.

A Las Vegas search and rescue officer fired a shot in attempt to stop an unarmed man from pulling a woman from her car in a carjacking. The officer missed. An internal review board will determine if his actions were justified.

Monahan said the law allows a citizen to shoot a person in the process of committing a felony as long as the threat of death or serious injury is "reasonable and perceived."

"If the carjacking hadn't happened and the owner shot him, then you have a whole different set of circumstances," he said.

Police will submit their investigative reports to the Clark County district attorney's office for a final review.


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No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms. But he, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion. James Burgh, Political Disquisitions: Or, an Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses [London, 1774-1775].

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