May 2, 2022 - 11:51 am
In extensive detail and with graphic images, police officials on Monday outlined the 42-minute car pursuit that culminated with the fatal injuries to a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper, and the subsequent officer-shooting death of the carjacking suspect who struck the officer last summer on Interstate 15.
Dash and helicopter cameras captured the moment veteran trooper Micah May was hit by the suspect as he was laying down spike strips near the Neon Gateway.
May ran into the middle of the highway and threw the sticks to deflate the fleeing vehicle and turned to run back, according to video shown at suspect Douglas Claiborne’s fact-finding review.
But about the same time on July 27, Claiborne made a “hard left” turn into May at 58 mph, Las Vegas police detective Jason Leavitt said.
A critically injured May was lodged through the stolen car’s windshield until troopers — who had been pursuing Claiborne, 60 — crashed into the car about 1½ miles later, after the Sahara Avenue exit.
After Claiborne was stopped, three parole and probation officers and a trooper opened fire into the car when they said the suspect reached for the trooper’s gun, Leavitt said. In a graphic photo shown Monday, the left arm of an immobile Claiborne was seen reaching across his body toward May’s gun belt. May’s legs were strewn on the suspect’s lap.
Claiborne was shot 18 times, but the trooper was not hit by bullets despite his proximity, according to Leavitt and autopsy records.
Claiborne had evaded seven previous stop sticks attempts during the roughly 30-mile chase that also took him through North Las Vegas surface streets, Leavitt said.
Asked why troopers had not stopped Claiborne before he hit May, Leavitt said he could not comment on another agency’s policies, but noted that pursuing troopers had not been trained in the “pit maneuver” — a law enforcement technique in which a cruiser hits a vehicle causing it to spin out.
The Metropolitan Police Department investigated the shooting and presented the findings at the fact-finding review, which is held after the Clark County District Attorney’s Office makes a preliminary determination that no charges will be filed against officers who kill someone.
Claiborne died at the scene while May died two days later at University Medical Center, where he was flown by a Metro helicopter.
A toxicology report showed that Claiborne had drugs in his system, including 9,000 nanograms of methamphetamine.
Blood levels of meth between 200 and 600 nanograms per milliliter can “also illicit restlessness, confusion, hallucinations, circulatory collapse and convulsions,” according to the report prepared by NMS Labs in Pennsylvania.
Officials at the time said Claiborne had intentionally struck May. Asked about it on Monday, Leavitt said that could not be certain because it was impossible to find out what Claiborne was thinking at the time of the crash.
The series of events unfolded after Claiborne carjacked a construction worker in the south Las Vegas Valley.
The victim, who had left his keys inside his Hyundai sedan, told police that he found a man in the driver’s seat, Leavitt said.
When he confronted him, Claiborne threatened him with a “butcher-style” knife and took off, driving over the victim’s foot and hitting another car at the construction site, Leavitt said.
Minutes later, two northbound I-15 motorists told 911 operators that a driver, who turned out to be Claiborne, was holding a knife and driving recklessly, Leavitt said. One of the witnesses, who thought Claiborne was a woman, said that he “appeared to be crying.”
Troopers spotted the car heading south in the far north valley, and tried to stop it, Leavitt said. North Las Vegas police momentarily took the lead when Claiborne exited the freeway and drove on surface streets. The Metro helicopter hovered above.
After several U-turns, wrong-way driving and evading stop sticks, Claiborne again entered the highway and headed south, Leavitt said.
Metro officers abandoned the pursuit, and troopers again took the lead, Leavitt said.
Video shows Claiborne swerve right and then left shortly before he hit May.
“I believe he just ran over an NHP officer,” an officer in the Metro helicopter said. “He’s stuck on the hood.”
Dash cam footage captured frantic screams from troopers who witnessed the crash.
They were still under the impression Claiborne was a woman based on the earlier description.
“Can we block her? Can we block her?” a trooper screamed. “Hit her, pinch her, stop her.”
After troopers bumped into the stolen car several times, Claiborne spun into a stop.
A staccato of gunfire rang out a few seconds later.
May was flown to University Medical Center within seven minutes later, Leavitt said.
The trooper’s handcuffs and body camera were left behind and pictured on the stolen car’s floorboard, next to broken windshield glass and a pack of Camel cigarettes.
Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.