Washoe County DA finds Rolando Brizuela shooting was justified under Nevada law

The old Washoe County Courthouse in Reno, NV - image - Brian Bahouth

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has determined that the July 17, 2018 Sparks Police Department Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) of Rolando Brizuela, from Sparks, by officers with the Sparks Police Department was justified under Nevada law.

Consistent with ongoing public reporting on all OIS cases, District Attorney Hicks has released a detailed 37-page report containing the facts of the case, photographs, identification of those involved, witness accounts, and his legal analysis.

Copies of all completed OIS reports are available on the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office’s website.

According to a press release, this conclusion is based on an extensive review of the entire investigation presented and the application of Nevada law to the known facts and circumstances surrounding the shooting incident. Unless new circumstances come to light that contradict the factual foundation upon which this decision is made, this case is officially closed.

Report Introduction:

The following narrative is the introduction from the Rolando Brizuela OIS report. The Reno Police Department conducted the OIS investigation:

On July 17, 2018 at 8:43 p.m., Sparks Police Officer (“SPD”) Brian Sullivan responded to a suspicious circumstance call involving reporting party Gabrielle Guardon-Castillo and her neighbor, later identified as Rolando Brizuela. Guardon-Castillo described in the call that she had arrived home on London Circle with her three-year-old daughter when Brizuela began intently staring at her.

She then observed Brizuela attack a young man on a skateboard, ultimately taking the skateboard while the young man ran away down London Circle. Guardon-Castillo was too scared to exit her vehicle or enter her residence and contacted 911.

The 911 operator advised her that an officer would meet her at Sparks Middle School to escort her home. Guardon-Castillo further advised the 911 operator that she believed Brizuela to own a firearm.

Officer Sullivan met Guardon-Castillo at Sparks Middle School. Guardon- Castillo relayed what had happened with Brizuela and explained that multiple neighbors have had issues with him.

Officer Sullivan then escorted Guardon-Castillo back to her residence on London Circle. While en route, SPD dispatch advised Officer Sullivan that there was another 911 call from the area. At 8:54 p.m., 16-year-old Nicholas A. reported that he was skateboarding towards his house when an older Hispanic male in a white tank top (later identified as Brizuela) pushed him to the ground. Brizuela then punched Nicholas in the face and took his skateboard. When Nicholas tried to retrieve the skateboard, Brizuela’s wife, Rosa, came out and yelled at Nicholas to run away before Brizuela grabbed a gun. Hearing this, Nicolas A. left the area and called
police.

Officer Sullivan arrived on London Circle and exited his marked patrol vehicle. He observed Brizuela in his front yard at 1753 London Circle wearing a white collared shirt with his sleeves rolled up. Brizuela was staring at Officer Sullivan, and Officer Sullivan suspected he was the
male involved with both Guardon-Castillo and Nicholas based on his appearance and demeanor.

Officer Sullivan asked Brizuela if he was getting along with everybody to which Brizuela immediately responded, “Are you going to shoot me?”

Officer Sullivan responded back that he was not going to shoot Brizuela and that he was there to talk to somebody else. Brizuela followed up by saying he was standing in front of his house and he had a right to be where he was.

Officer Sullivan then asked if Brizuela had gotten into a fight with a guy on a skateboard, to which Brizuela replied, “No. How did you know that?” Officer Sullivan explained to Brizuela that he was there because of a report that somebody had gotten into a fight with a guy on a
skateboard, but since that person was not Brizuela, that he was going to walk down the street. The two then separated and Officer Sullivan continued to Nicholas’ residence.

Officer Sullivan met with Nicholas at his residence on London Circle. Nicholas relayed the incident with Brizuela to Officer Sullivan and advised that he wished to file a complaint. Officer Sullivan then met up with Officer Eli Maile, who had responded to London Circle as a cover officer. Officer Sullivan updated Officer Maile regarding the statements of Guardon-Castillo and Nicholas. The decision was made to secure Brizuela immediately in handcuffs pending further investigation into the robbery of Nicholas’s skateboard.

At 9:10 p.m., Officers Sullivan and Maile approached Brizuela’s residence at 1753 London Circle. The front of the house has a front patio area with a lattice fence. Officer Sullivan approached the front door when he noticed Brizuela in the front patio area. Brizuela demanded Officer Sullivan leave his property. Officer Sullivan explained to Brizuela that he needed to talk to him and positioned himself on the top step leading to the front door. Officer Sullivan continued speaking with Brizuela but he ignored Officer Sullivan. Officer Maile then took over verbal communication while Officer Sullivan knocked on the front door.

Brizuela began yelling at Officer Sullivan to stop knocking on the door. Brizuela’s wife Rosa answered and began opening the door. Brizuela yelled at Rosa to close the door and not let officer Sullivan inside. Officer Maile continued to talk to Brizuela in an effort to calm him down.

Brizuela then reached underneath a patio cushion and drew a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic firearm to his side. Officer Maile yelled “Gun!” and both officers drew their firearms in response.

Both officers repeatedly yelled commands at Brizuela to drop the gun, which Brizuela ignored. Officer Sullivan was positioned on the step towards the front door while Officer Maile was in front of the entrance gate to the patio. Brizuela accused the officers of being thieves, to
which Officer Maile responded that they were not.

Brizuela then yelled, “Go ahead, Shoot! Shoot!”

Both officers responded by yelling at Brizuela again to drop the firearm. Brizuela racked the slide of the firearm which raised the concern for the officers as they continued to order Brizuela to drop the weapon. Brizuela continued to ignore commands to drop the gun and began to raise the firearm towards the officers. Both officers responded by firing at Brizuela.

At 9:13 p.m. Officer Sullivan advised dispatch of the officer involved shooting. At Officer Sullivan’s direction, Officer Maile went inside the residence to check on the welfare of Rosa, who was unharmed. Officer Sullivan advised responding officers that the adjacent residence at 1751 London Circle needed to be checked for safety reasons as well.

At 9:15 p.m. several SPD officers arrived on scene and provided medical aid to Brizuela. The Sparks Fire Department and REMSA personnel arrived shortly thereafter and attempted life saving measures but determined that Brizuela had suffered fatal injuries. At 9:29 p.m. REMSA EMS supervisor Andrew Massey contacted Dr. John Sorenson who was working at Renown
Medical Center. Massey consulted with Dr. Sorenson and obtained approval to pronounce Brizuela deceased. It was determined that his body would not be transported from the scene.

Consistent with the regionally-adopted Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, the Reno Police Department (RPD) led the investigation into the shooting of Brizuela. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) provided secondary investigative support, and the Washoe County Crime Laboratory (WCCL) provided forensic services. The investigation included interviewing witnesses, collecting physical evidence, photographing the shooting scene, forensically testing collected evidence, reviewing body camera footage, and interviewing the officers involved in the shooting.

On March 23, 2020, all investigation reports along with WCCL forensic reports, photographs, body camera footage, and recorded interviews were then submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office for a determination of whether the shooting of Rolando Brizuela was legally justified. No criminal charges were recommended by RPD.

The District Attorney’s evaluation included reviewing over 1,000 pages of reports and documents, which included interviews of police and civilian witnesses, photographs, diagrams, body camera footage and examination of the scene of the shooting. This report follows.
Based on the available evidence and the applicable legal authorities, it is the opinion of the District Attorney that the shooting of Rolando Brizuela by Sparks Police Department Officers Brian Sullivan and Eli Maile was justified and not a criminal act.