For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
Report Released by Washoe County DA Detailing October 22, 2017 Officer Involved Shooting
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has released a detailed public report on the October 22, 2017, Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) involving the Sparks Police Department (SPD) and Johnny B. Bonta. The shooting occurred when SPD patrol officers responded to a domestic disturbance involving a gun and encountered Bonta, who exited his apartment armed with a shotgun. During the incident, Bonta failed to follow commands to drop the weapon and was shot after raising it in the direction of officers. Three SPD officers fired their duty weapons at Bonta, who was hit and later pronounced dead.
Finding that the officers were justified in having used deadly force under Nevada law, District Attorney Hicks has released a detailed 30 page report containing the facts of the case, evidence summaries, photographs, witness accounts, and his legal analysis of the shooting incident. 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 October 22, 2017, at approximately 3:59 a.m., SPD patrol officers were dispatched to 1800 Sullivan Lane, Apartment #57 on a report of a domestic disturbance involving a firearm. Multiple officers responded. The first two SPD officers to arrive made contact with the reporting party, a juvenile female who lived at the apartment with her mother, Bonta’s wife. Just prior to the officers’ arrival, the juvenile’s mother had directed her to call 911 and report that an intoxicated Bonta was at the apartment and trying to fight. She further reported that Bonta was actively talking about a gun. She also stated that when Bonta is intoxicated he is violent and suicidal. When asked if he would fight with police, she stated, “maybe.” Additionally, the 911 dispatcher could hear arguing in the background.
When the officers were allowed into the apartment they overheard Bonta and the juvenile’s mother arguing from behind a bedroom door about a gun. They further heard Bonta talking about the gun being loaded and that he was going to take someone out. When Bonta’s wife exited the bedroom, the police removed her, the juvenile, and themselves from the apartment. By this time multiple SPD officers were staged to the rear and front of the apartment.
Shortly thereafter, an officer observed Bonta exit the bedroom and make his way to the front door armed with a shotgun. The officer relayed this information via radio to other officers on scene. Bonta then exited the apartment holding the shotgun parallel to the ground, with the barrel slightly elevated and pointing in a southern direction. He walked towards the officers staged outside the apartment. These officers noted that Bonta’s right hand was on the trigger area and his left hand was positioned on the fore-end of the barrel. Multiple officers identified themselves as police and repeatedly instructed Bonta to drop the weapon. Bonta failed to follow these instructions, but instead “pumped” the shotgun, cycling a shotgun shell into the weapon’s chamber. Bonta then bladed his stance (moved his right foot backward) and began to raise the shotgun in the direction of the officers at the front of the apartment. Fearing for the safety of officers located in the area where Bonta was pointing the shotgun and for their own lives, SPD Sergeant Erik Chavez, SPD Officer Yeadon Sturtevant and SPD Officer Arik Sitton each fired their respective duty weapons, striking Bonta multiple times. Bonta was immediately provided emergency medical assistance after the shooting by the officers and then by REMSA and fire personnel who had been staged nearby. However, he was pronounced dead on scene.
Consistent with the regionally-adopted Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) led the investigation into the shooting of Bonta. The Reno Police Department (RPD) provided secondary investigative support, SPD provided further needed support, and the Washoe County Crime Laboratory (WCCL) and Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office (WCME) provided forensic services. The investigation included interviewing witnesses, collecting physical evidence, photographing the shooting scene, forensically testing collected evidence, obtaining relevant surveillance video and interviewing the officers involved in the shooting.
All investigation reports along with WCCL forensic reports, photographs, collected videos and recorded interviews were then submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office in December of 2018, for a determination of whether the shooting of Bonta was legally justified. No criminal charges were recommended by WCSO.
The District Attorney’s evaluation included reviewing hundreds of pages of reports and documents which included interviews of police and civilian witnesses. It further included the review of photographs, diagrams, video, recordings, and examination of the scene of the shooting. This report follows.
During the evening of October 21 and early morning of October 22, 2017, Bonta was intoxicated. His demeanor was angry, emotional and hostile. Additionally, he had made at least vague threats to harm others and had armed himself with a shotgun. That is how officers encountered Bonta, when responding to a 911 call understood to be a domestic disturbance involving a gun.
When Bonta exited his apartment, he was armed with a shotgun. Multiple officers repeatedly ordered him to drop the weapon, but he did not comply. Instead, Bonta pumped the fore-end of the shotgun, an action that led the officers to reasonably believe that a shotgun shell had been loaded into the chamber of the shotgun, making it ready to fire with the pull of a trigger. Bonta further aggravated the situation by blading his stance and raising the shotgun in the direction of nearby officers. The officers realized that a shotgun’s blast is widespread and does not require precision aiming in order to strike a target and cause death or serious injury.
At that moment, the shooting officers believed that they and/or the other officers to their south, were in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. Under these circumstances, it was absolutely justified for them to use deadly force against Bonta.
Therefore, based upon a review of the investigation presented by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the application of Nevada law to the known facts and circumstances surrounding the October 22, 2017, it is the opinion of the District Attorney that the shooting of Johnny B. Bonta was justified and not a criminal act. Unless new circumstances come to light which contradict the factual foundation upon which this decision is made, this case is officially closed.