For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has released a report detailing his findings on a January 25, 2016 officer involved shooting (OIS) incident. The shooting occurred in the early evening hours when officers with the Reno Police Department (RPD) contacted Sergio Alvarado-Morales, who was armed with a knife. Finding that the shooting was justified under Nevada law, District Attorney Hicks has directed that the 32 page report detailing the facts of the incident and the legal analysis applied to the case be released to the public. A copy of the report can be accessed by visiting the Office’s website at https://www.washoecounty.us/da/
According to the report, at approximately 5:10 pm on January 25, 2016, two RPD patrol officers were dispatched to a traffic collision involving multiple vehicles in the area of McCarran Boulevard and Smithridge Drive in Reno, Nevada. While responding, the officers received information that a man involved in the collision was armed with a knife and was cutting himself. In turn, the officers escalated their response to Code 3, lights and sirens. The officers approached the scene from west McCarran Boulevard and found a busy intersection including four vehicles involved in the collision in the westbound travel lane near the Smithridge intersection. Once on scene, they noted the easternmost vehicle, a grey 2005 Honda Civic, had substantial front end damage indicating it had forcefully struck the vehicle in front of it causing a domino effect with the other vehicles.
Witnesses directed the officers to the driver of the Civic, later identified as Sergio Alvarado-Morales, who was standing at the rear of the Honda Civic armed with a serrated kitchen-type knife and actively cutting his own throat. He was bleeding from both sides of his neck and the investigation would later determine that Alvarado-Morales was over the legal limit for marijuana in his system and had been acting paranoid and unpredictable to family and friends prior to the collision. He had also attempted to stab the sharp end of a screwdriver into his temple and eye socket immediately after the high speed collision, which due to the lack of skid marks and his erratic behavior he was suspected of deliberately causing.
Immediately, the RPD officers gave numerous repeated verbal commands to drop the knife. Alvarado-Morales ignored these commands. Fearing for the safety of Alvarado-Morales and other citizens nearby, one of the officers attempted to subdue Alvarado-Morales by deploying his Taser. The Taser strike had little effect on him. Alvarado-Morales then turned the knife at the officer who had used the Taser and moved aggressively towards him causing the officer to retreat and draw his firearm. Seeing this, the second officer intervened and moved closer in order to create a safer shooting scenario wherein the man wielding the knife could be incapacitated without risk to bystanders within the line of fire. This caused Alvarado-Morales, still armed with the knife, to turn and move aggressively towards the second officer. Once he’d progressed within approximately 8 feet, the officer responded by firing several rounds. Alvarado-Morales was treated at the scene and transported by REMSA medics to Renown Medical Center where he died as a result of the gunshot wounds.
Consistent with the regionally-adopted Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, the Sparks Police Department led the investigation into the shooting and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office provided secondary investigative support. The Washoe County Crime Laboratory provided forensic investigative services and the Nevada Highway Patrol investigated the traffic collision. The Washoe County District Attorney’s Office was notified in accordance with the OIS protocol and available at the scene to provide assistance with legal issues.
On April 20, 2016, all police reports, collected documentation, photographs, witness statements, and recorded interviews and all other evidence were submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office by the Sparks Police Department for review. No criminal charges were recommended. The District Attorney’s review included approximately 652 pages of reports, recordings and documents of interviews of police and civilian witnesses, forensic reports, photographs, diagrams and scene documentation.
Upon his review, DA Hicks has concluded that “based on the available evidence and the applicable legal authorities, the shooting death of Alvarado-Morales was justified and not a criminal act. The RPD officers involved were confronted with a deranged and suicidal man armed with a large knife who was cutting his own throat. Furthermore, based on the evidence suggesting he deliberately caused the collision, he had also demonstrated a willingness to harm citizens in our community. Alvarado-Morales ignored repeated commands to disarm and turned the knife on the officers on two separate occasions causing them to reasonably perceive a risk of death or great bodily injury for themselves and the citizens in the area. The shooting officer risked his own life and protected the public by allowing Alvarado-Morales to get within feet of him before using deadly force. The shooting was done in a justified manner in self-defense and defense of others. Unless new circumstances come to light which contradict the factual foundation upon which this decision is made, it is my determination that this case is officially closed”.
A copy of the report prepared in this case has been made available on the District Attorney’s Office website at https://www.washoecounty.us/da/newsroom/reports.php.