For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has released a public report detailing his findings on an officer involved shooting incident that took place on July 3, 2016 at the Annual Downtown Reno “Wing Fest”. The shooting involved a high risk situation between officers with the Reno Police Department (RPD) and Raul Saavedra-Vargas (Saavedra), who had recklessly fled an attempted traffic stop moments before driving into the crowded downtown Reno street event. Concluding that the shooting officer was justified in his actions, DA Hicks has released a 26 page report outlining the incident and his analysis. A copy of the report will be published on the DA Office’s website at https://www.washoecounty.us/da/newsroom/reports.php
According to the report, on Sunday, July 3, 2016 at approximately 1:30 p.m. an RPD Motor Officer encountered a van being driven the wrong way on a one-way street. The officer attempted a traffic stop, but Saavedra refused to stop. Instead, he fled and began driving towards downtown Reno at high speeds. The officer pursued Saavedra observing him once again travel the wrong way on another one-way street before crashing into a car traveling on Center Street. Despite the significant collision, Saavedra continued driving northbound on Center Street. Fearing for the public’s safety the officer terminated the pursuit and stopped to check on the victims that had been struck by Saavedra. Saavedra continued and turned westbound onto Plaza Street traveling towards Virginia Street and the largely attended “Wing Fest” outdoor street festival.
Two RPD officers working foot patrol at the event heard the travel path of Saavedra over the radio and began to move towards Plaza and Virginia Street. Once there, they heard the van’s screeching tires and saw Saavedra coming towards them and hundreds of Wing Fest patrons at a high rate of speed. Reacting, the officers yelled for bystanders to get down and for Saavedra to stop. The van did not slow down and swerved towards the officers and several bystanders on the sidewalk. Fearing for his own safety and the safety of the public, one of the officers fired his gun at the driver. This did not stop Saavedra.
He maneuvered the van past the Virginia Street barriers and began driving toward the Wing Fest patrons and vendor booths. Both RPD officers ran to the side of the van and yelled again for Saavedra to stop. Instead, Saavedra revved the engine and continued moving forward. Fearing for the safety of the hundreds of people in Saavedra’s path, the RPD officer again fired several more shots at Saavedra who then crashed the van into a vendor booth where it stopped. Saavedra was hit and later died from his injuries.
Consistent with the regionally-adopted Officer Involved Shooting Protocol, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office led the investigation into the shooting of Saavedra. Sparks Police Department provided secondary investigative support, and RPD provided further needed support. The investigation included interviewing a large number of witnesses, collecting physical evidence, generating numerous reports, obtaining a search warrant, photographing various scenes relevant to the incident, forensically testing collected evidence, obtaining relevant surveillance video and interviewing the officers involved in the shooting. The completed report was then submitted to the District Attorney’s Office in April of 2017, for a determination of whether the shooting of Saavedra was legally justified. No criminal charges against the shooting officer were recommended by the Sheriff’s Office.
DA Hicks’ evaluation included reviewing hundreds of pages of reports and documents including witness accounts, photographs, diagrams, video, and examination of the scene of the shooting. Based on the available evidence and the applicable legal authorities, DA Hicks has concluded that the shooting of Saavedra by the RPD Officer was legally justified.
The report notes that on July 3, 2016 while patrolling a street festival full of people, the RPD officers encountered an unhinged, potentially homicidal and highly intoxicated Saavedra operating a van in a reckless manner with complete disregard for public safety. DA Hicks stated, “The heroic and disciplined actions of the involved officers cannot be overstated nor can the public threat presented by Saavedra be denied. A tragedy was prevented.”
The report concludes that due to Saavedra’s actions the shooting officer clearly had a reasonable belief there was imminent danger Saavedra would either kill or seriously injure him or an innocent citizen. Based on the review of the entire investigation presented and the application of Nevada law to the known facts and circumstances of the incident, the officer’s actions were undoubtedly justifiable.