For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has released a detailed public report on the January 24, 2018, Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) involving the Sparks Police Department (SPD) and Humberto Vera-Munoz. The shooting occurred when two SPD officers contacted Vera-Munoz who was seen traveling at a high rate of speed throughout Sparks. A brief pursuit ensued and once stopped, Vera-Munoz exited his vehicle, produced a handgun and fired at one of the officers. Both SPD officers returned fire and Vera-Munoz was hit. He was later pronounced dead.
Finding that the officers were justified under Nevada law in the use of deadly force, District Attorney Chris Hicks has released a detailed 27 page report containing the facts of the case, photographs, witness accounts, and his legal analysis. A copy of the report will be made available on the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office’s website at https://www.washoecounty.us/da/newsroom/reports.php
Details of the report:
On January 24, 2018, Sparks Police Officers Andrew Lindsey and Bryan Wisneski were patrolling as a double unit in the area of Prater Way and Rock Boulevard when they observed a white 2011 Cadillac sedan driving at a high rate of speed on a neighborhood surface street. The officers tried to follow the vehicle but it was travelling too fast and they lost sight of it.
They began searching the area for the vehicle and located it less than a mile away. Once again, the officers tried to catch up to the vehicle, but it began to increase its speed in an apparent attempt to elude them.
The officers were able to follow the vehicle as it pulled into 1100 Place Apartments located on 15th Street in Sparks. As they continued into the complex their emergency lights and sirens remained activated indicating to the driver of the Cadillac that they were trying to conduct a traffic stop. Despite this, the driver continued to travel through the parking lot for a time until quickly coming to a stop.
According to both officers and the patrol vehicle camera system, the Cadillac came to an abrupt stop in the east end of the apartment complex. In response to this, both officers exited their patrol vehicle in order to make contact with the driver. At the same time, the driver of the vehicle, later identified as Humberto Vera-Munoz exited the driver’s side of the Cadillac.
Due to the circumstances of the call and Vera-Munoz’ abrupt actions, both officers placed him at gunpoint and began yelling commands for him to show his hands. Almost immediately, Vera-Munoz raised a pistol and fired a single shot at Officer Wisneski. The bullet missed the officer, but struck a nearby apartment building. In response, both officers returned fire. Vera-Munoz was struck multiple times and fell to the ground. The officers immediately radioed that shots had been fired and additional SPD officers responded to the scene. Vera-Munoz was provided with emergency medical treatment but did not survive his injuries.
Consistent with the regionally-adopted Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, the Reno Police Department (RPD) led the investigation into the shooting of Vera-Munoz. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office provided secondary investigative support, the Sparks Police Department provided further needed support, and the Washoe County Crime Laboratory provided forensic services. The Washoe County District Attorney’s Office provided legal assistance. The investigation included interviewing witnesses, collecting physical evidence, photographing the shooting scene, forensically testing collected evidence, and interviewing the officers involved in the shooting.
Once complete, all reports, photographs, videos, and recorded interviews were submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office in November of 2018 for a determination of whether the shooting of Vera-Munoz was legally justified. No criminal charges were recommended by RPD.
The District Attorney’s evaluation included reviewing hundreds of pages of reports and witness statements. It further included the review of photographs, diagrams, video recordings of the incident and witness interviews, and examination of the scene of the shooting. The publically released report followed this analysis.
Based on the available evidence and the applicable legal authorities, it is the opinion of the District Attorney that the January 24, 2018 shooting of Humberto Vera-Munoz by Officers Wisneski and Lindsey was justified and not a criminal act. In this case, the facts illustrate that both officers had a reasonable belief that Vera-Munoz posed an immediate threat of serious physical harm or death. After a prolonged pursuit that resulted in Vera-Munoz refusing to stop on multiple occasions, he exiting his vehicle armed with a heavily loaded pistol before firing from close range at Officer Wisneski. Clearly, Officer Wisneski acted in defense of his own life when he returned fire and was justified in doing so. Moreover, Officer Lindsey was also justified in having shot Vera-Munoz under the reasonable belief that Vera-Munoz was attempting to shoot Officer Wisneski. Unless new circumstances come to light which contradict the factual foundations upon which this decision is made, the District Attorney’s review of this case is closed.