In the early hours of Nov. 24, 2015, a six-minute encounter with Las Vegas police would end in the death of Thomas McEniry, who was shot multiple times as he knelt on the ground, crying and asking for help.
What followed is a yearslong dispute over the facts of the case between the Metropolitan Police Department and the 32-year-old man’s family.
“He was cheated from many things,” the man’s mother, Carol Luke, said through tears Tuesday during a news conference. “And that’s why I ask that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department be held accountable for their actions.”
The department has said that McEniry, who had been pulled over that morning for driving an unregistered car, raised a gun at officers Kyle Prior, Robert Nord and Donald Sutton, prompting them to open fire. The Clark County district attorney’s office did not charge the officers in connection with the shooting.
McEniry’s relatives vehemently deny Metro’s version of events. And to mark the fifth anniversary of McEniry’s death, Luke, alongside seven local advocacy groups, demanded that Metro reopen its investigation into the officers’ use of force and that the district attorney’s office pursue charges.
“I have not even seen the faces of the men who cowardly killed my son,” Luke said Tuesday. Nor has she learned whether they received any punishment for their actions.
Protected by a state law, police disciplinary records are secret in Nevada. And because the officers were not charged, they have never faced McEniry’s family members — neither inside a courtroom nor during a routine process in Clark County called a public fact-finding review, which is held only after the district attorney’s office already has made a “preliminary determination” that a fatal police shooting or in-custody death was justified.
The process is meant to provide transparency to the public about such cases but has been criticized by advocates as favoring law enforcement, in part because officers cannot be forced to testify. Since its inception in 2013, not a single preliminary determination has been reversed following a fact-finding review.
In June, as protests over police brutality and racism erupted across the nation and in Las Vegas, District Attorney Steve Wolfson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the fact-finding review “is not a perfect process” and “is probably ripe for review to determine if any more improvements could be made.”
Metro and the district attorney’s office did not respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.
‘Cornered with nowhere to run’
The deadly 2015 encounter started when Prior tried to pull McEniry over near East Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway. McEniry refused to stop, abandoned his car and ran into a nearby apartment complex. Prior called for back-up.
Inside a fenced-off area in the complex, according to body camera footage, the situation quickly escalated as Prior deployed his stun gun.
Four seconds after that, the three officers fired a combined eight rounds, striking McEniry in his chest, back, leg and wrist.
At the fact-finding review for McEniry’s death in late 2016, Metro Detective Mark Colon, who led the investigation into the shooting, said he had not seen any indication that the officers saw a gun in McEniry’s hand before they had opened fire. An Air Soft pistol, which looks like a handgun, was later found near McEniry’s body.
Five years later, Luke remains adamant that her son did not reach for the pellet gun before he was killed. His body, she said, was convulsing due to the stun gun, and he fell backward.
“And when he tried to regain his balance, using his hands to sit his body up, shots were fired,” Luke said Tuesday.
Tearfully, she summed up McEniry’s final moments: “My son was cornered with nowhere to run, still crying and saying he didn’t do anything. He even asked Prior to stop, with tears running down his face.”