When a Sparks police officer shot and killed Miciah Lee in early January of this year, like with any officer-involved shooting [OIS], a chain of detailed and carefully proscribed events were set in motion.
Public facts surrounding the case are scant. According to an Associated Press report, on the evening of January 6 of this year, Sparks Police Department officers responded to a report of a suicidal man armed with a gun on the 1000 block of Rock Boulevard. Police said by the time they arrived, Miciah Lee, an 18-year-old black man, had taken off in his car.
Sparks police officers pursued him and said Lee refused to stop. According to the AP report, Lee ultimately crashed his car. When officers approached, according to the Associated Press, Lee reached for a gun, and police officers shot him.
Whether the victim of an OIS lives or dies, Washoe County Sheriffs, Reno and Sparks police, and the Washoe County District Attorney work together to investigate the incident. There is no other mandated oversight.
According to the Washoe County Officer-Involved Shooting Protocol, because a Sparks police officer shot Miciah Lee, the OIS investigation team cannot be from the Sparks Police Department; therefore, the Reno Police Department conducted the Miciah Lee investigation.
As with all OIS cases, a forensic investigation team assessed the shooting scene in consultation with the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office. According to the protocol, it is strongly recommended that OIS team members are selected for having significant experience in investigations of homicide or other violent felonies.
The OIS team conducts an interview of the officer. The officer has the constitutional right to not answer questions and have an attorney present during questioning.
Investigators interview witnesses and compile physical and other evidence.
According to Washoe County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Michelle Bays, an OIS report can be thousands of pages in length, along with physical evidence.
Bays said that the District Attorney received the Miciah Lee investigation report from the Reno Police Department in early May.
Washoe County District Attorney Christopher Hicks is evaluating the report to determine if the shooting was justifiable pursuant to the state’s homicide laws, and all other applicable provisions of law.
Bays said OIS case evaluations typically take several weeks to complete unless additional investigation is needed. Staff workload and novel coronavirus-related work circumstances can also affect the time needed to make a fully measured decision.
The conclusion of the Miciah Lee OIS case is expected over the next few weeks.
“An approximate time frame for this case would be several weeks from now, and we would of course notify the family and allow time to meet with them before releasing anything to the public,” Bays wrote in an email.
Once an OIS case has been closed, a full report is made available online.
Since February 3, 2016, there have been 20 officer-involved shootings in the Reno, Sparks, Washoe County region.
Brian Bahouth is the editor of the Sierra Nevada Ally. He has been a public media journalist since 1994 and has lived in Reno since 2000. He first came to northern Nevada to be news director at KUNR, Reno Public Radio and has subsequently filed scores of reports for National Public Radio, Nevada Public Radio, Capital Public Radio and KVMR in Nevada City, California. He is co-founder of KNVC community radio in Carson City. Support his work.