For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has released a comprehensive public report on the August 19, 2016 Officer Involved Shooting incident involving the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and the Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP). On that date, WCSO deputies and NHP troopers were confronted by Kyle Zimbelman, who led them on a high-risk vehicle pursuit, drove his vehicle at officers, striking one Deputy, and fired multiple rounds at them from a .40 caliber handgun. Finding that the involved deputies and troopers were justified in their actions, DA Hicks has released a 50 page report detailing the incident and subsequent investigation and analysis of the case. A copy of the report can be accessed on his office’s website at https://www.washoecounty.us/da/newsroom/reports.php
The reports finds that on August 19, 2016, a WCSO deputy observed a U-Haul truck following another truck too closely on eastbound Interstate 80 near the Patrick exit east of Mustang. The driver of the U-Haul would later be identified as Kyle Zimbelman, who at the time was wanted on a felony warrant and in possession of nearly two pounds of Methamphetamine. Based on the traffic violation, the deputy attempted to initiate a traffic stop.
Rather than pulling over, Zimbelman led law enforcement on a 35 minute pursuit spanning approximately 30 miles traveling on both eastbound and westbound Interstate 80 and northbound Interstate 395. Responding law enforcement attempted to stop the U-Haul 3 times using spike strips on Interstate 80 and Interstate 395. Each time Zimbelman maneuvered the U-Haul around the spike strips, at one point driving westbound in the eastbound travel lanes of Interstate 80.
Zimbelman exited Interstate 395 at the Golden Valley exit in Stead and proceeded north on North Virginia Street. As Zimbelman approached Stead Boulevard, where a fourth set of spike strips had been deployed, he turned west on a dirt road towards a residential area. A WCSO unit executed a specialized pursuit maneuver designed to stop a fleeing vehicle, which spun the U-Haul around 180 degrees. Zimbelman responded by shifting the truck into reverse and began to drive backwards. At that time, his passenger seized a chance to jump out of the U-Haul and immediately surrendered to law enforcement without injury. His passenger later explained to law enforcement that Zimbelman repeatedly said “I’m going for life” due to the quantity of drugs he possessed and that he believed Zimbelman wanted to commit “suicide by cop”.
Zimbelman continued a short distance in reverse, until two WCSO units were able to pin the U-Haul with their patrol vehicles. Multiple deputies and troopers approached the now stopped U-Haul on foot, surrounded it and ordered Zimbelman out. Zimbelman ignored their commands, stepped on the gas and began ramming the vehicles pinning him in, creating separation between the U-Haul and the patrol units. Zimbelman then speed forward at a high rate of speed, striking a WCSO deputy who was attempting to get him into custody and nearly striking additional deputies, troopers, a Sheriff’s K9 and his passenger. In response to this immediate threat of being hit by the U-Haul, several officers shot at Zimbelman. Zimbelman continued speeding forward, but crashed the U-Haul into a nearby unoccupied NHP unit a short distance away.
Zimbelman again attempted to drive the U-Haul, but due to the collision, he was unable to do so. The deputies and troopers again surrounded the U-Haul and ordered Zimbelman out. Zimbelman continued to ignore their commands and grasped a Glock .40 caliber handgun from inside the U-Haul and fired multiple times at the deputies and troopers until the gun was empty. One Deputy took cover behind a patrol vehicle that was struck multiple times by Zimbelman’s shots. In response to this new deadly threat, several WCSO deputies and an NHP trooper returned fire. Once the gunfire subsided, deputies were able to safely pull Zimbelman out of the U-Haul and check him for injuries. Deputies determined that Zimbelman had been hit during the gunfight and immediately began to perform life-saving measures until responding medical personnel took over.
Zimbelman was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy would later determine that Zimbelman died of gunshot wounds and had significantly high levels of Methamphetamine in his system.
Consistent with the regionally-adopted Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, the Reno Police Department (RPD) led the investigation and the Sparks Police Department (SPD) provided secondary investigative support. The WCSO – Forensic Science Division provided forensic services and this office provided legal guidance and expertise at the scene, including assistance in obtaining search warrants.
The investigation included interviewing all witnesses, collecting physical evidence, photographing the scenes, forensically testing all collected evidence, obtaining and examining all available video evidence and reviewing all facts and circumstances related to the incident. Upon completion of the investigation, the case was submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office in May, 2017 for a final determination of whether the shooting of Zimbelman was legally justified. No criminal charges were recommended by RPD.
The District Attorney’s evaluation included reviewing nearly 900 pages of reports and documents, as well as a review of interviews of all law enforcement and civilian witnesses. It further included the review of all photographs, video and audio recordings, and examination of the scene of the shooting. The end result was a comprehensive analysis of the entire case.
Based on the available evidence and the applicable legal authorities, it is the opinion of District Attorney Hicks that the shooting of Kyle Zimbelman was justified and not a criminal act. According to DA Hicks, “The facts clearly show that the deputies and troopers involved, as well as the public in general, faced imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm on multiple occasions, and by different means.”
The evidence showed that Zimbelman, undoubtedly motivated by the felony warrant against him and the significant quantity of drugs he possessed, repeatedly failed to stop the U-Haul. Instead, he ignored multiple commands to end his dangerous flight, only to hit one deputy and attempt to run over others, as well as his former passenger. He further posed an immediate and deadly threat to those deputies and troopers attempting to gain his surrender by picking up a gun and firing at them multiple times until his weapon was empty. Zimbelman’s actions that day left law enforcement with no choice but to use deadly force to protect their lives and those around them.