Washoe County DA decides the officer involved shooting of Maurice Alfonso Garcia was justified under Nevada law

The Mills B. Lane Justice Center in Reno, NV - photo: Brian Bahouth the Ally

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has determined that the February 4, 2018 officer involved shooting of Maurice Alfonso Garcia by deputies with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office was justified under Nevada law.

Earlier today, District Attorney Hicks released a detailed 52 page report containing photographs, identification of those involved, witness accounts, and his legal analysis.

With this decision, the case is considered officially closed. The Washoe County District Attorney has ruled on 24 officer-involved shootings since September 2014.

Whenever a police officer shoots a citizen, whether the individual lives or dies, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, 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 (OIS) Protocol, when a Sparks police officer shoots a person, for instance, the OIS investigation team cannot be from the Sparks Police Department. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office or Reno Police Department conduct the investigation.

A forensic investigation team assesses 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. A report is delivered to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office.

The District Attorney then evaluates the evidence to determine if the shooting was justifiable under the state’s homicide laws, and all other applicable provisions of law.

In the 24 officer-involved shootings since 2014, none have resulted in criminal charges being filed against a police officer. In brief, under Nevada homicide laws, if an officer fears for their life, whether an actual or perceived threat, they are authorized to use deadly force.

See an interactive map of officer-involved shootings.

From the introduction of the Maurice Alfonso Garcia report:

On February 4, 2018 Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (hereinafter “WCSO”) deputies responded to 560 Budger Way in Lemmon Valley on the report of a battery with a deadly weapon, stabbing that was quickly updated with information on a man chasing another man with a knife. Investigators learned that Maurice Alfonso Garcia (hereinafter “Garcia”) lived in a trailer home at 560 Budger Way with his older sister Olita Garcia (hereinafter “Olita”). Garcia had moved in with his sister a few weeks before this incident. That night, Olita was at a Super Bowl party hosted by her friend, Ramon Torrecillas (hereinafter “Torrecillas”), while Garcia went to a separate party. Garcia drank alcohol at the party and was driven home by a friend after arguing on the phone with Olita over his drinking and employment. Olita was upset because Garcia was scheduled to start a new job in the morning. Olita arrived at the Garcia residence around 11:00 p.m. accompanied by Torrecillas. Garcia was already home.

Torrecillas waited outside while Olita went inside to talk to Garcia. A short time later, Olita invited Torrecillas inside and introduced him to Garcia. After a brief discussion in the kitchen, Garcia began arguing with Torrecillas and acting as if he wanted to fight. Olita told her brother to go to bed and Garcia left the kitchen. Moments later he returned armed with a knife and chased Torrecillas and Olita out of the trailer and into the front yard. Garcia then chased Torrecillas down the street, as Olita followed and tried to calm her brother. In the ensuing altercation, Garcia stabbed Olita in her left breast area and Torrecillas in his abdomen and arm. Garcia then walked back to the trailer and locked himself inside. Olita and Torrecillas regrouped in the trailer’s yard, but Garcia came out again, still armed with a knife, and chased Torrecillas down the street again. He then returned to the trailer a second time and again locked himself inside. During the confrontation with her brother, Olita called 911 to report her injury and told the 911 operator that Garcia was chasing Torrecillas with a knife and that she had been stabbed. This prompted dispatch to broadcast a battery with a deadly weapon priority call and several WCSO patrol units began responding.

Deputies Justin Wike (hereinafter “Wike”), Richard Spaulding (hereinafter “Spaulding”), and Ashley Goodman hereinafter “Goodman”) were dispatched to the call and arrived on scene within minutes (Video surveillance footage and audio recordings collected from the scene captured much of the encounter between Olita, Torrecillas and Garcia and the WCSO Deputies and Garcia). They immediately contacted Olita outside the trailer, where they confirmed the stabbing and determined Garcia was inside the trailer. The deputies then went to the front porch, announced their presence, and ordered Garcia to exit the residence. Yelling through the door, Garcia cursed at them and told them to go away. Deputies Spaulding and Goodman began walking around the trailer in search of the back door while Deputy Wike waited near the porch. However, they quickly returned after hearing Deputy Wike issuing verbal commands to Garcia.

As the deputies waited for a response to their commands, Garcia suddenly cracked the door and pointed the barrel of a pistol at Deputy Wike. In response, Deputy Wike retreated and fired numerous rounds through the door at Garcia. However, the rounds had no effect and the deputies all took positions of cover. From his position, Deputy Wike could see Garcia pacing past the door within the residence. He then saw Garcia again point the pistol in his direction. Deputy Wike fired his pistol at Garcia a second time, which again had no apparent effect. Meanwhile, Deputy Chad Ross (hereinafter “Ross”) had arrived on scene and positioned himself in the roadway in front of the residence.

Without warning Garcia exited the front door with his right hand raised and his left hand concealed behind his back. The deputies repeatedly ordered Garcia to show his hands, but he did not comply. Garcia then turned towards the interior door. As he turned, Deputy Goodman saw that Garcia was holding a pistol behind his back. She and the other deputies continued to order Garcia to drop the gun. Instead, Garcia squatted in the doorway and told the deputies to tell his sister that he loved her. He then suddenly stood up and raised the gun in the direction of Deputies Goodman and Ross. Fearing for their own lives and the lives of the other deputies, all four deputies fired at Garcia, striking him multiple times in the right shoulder, abdomen and thigh. The deputies immediately secured the scene and provided initial care to Garcia. Medical personnel arrived shortly after the shooting and transported Garcia to the hospital where he underwent surgery and survived.

During a subsequent interview at the hospital, Garcia told investigators that he pointed the gun at Deputy Wike and the other deputies intending that they kill him (commonly known as “suicide by cop”). The gun used by Garcia was ultimately found to be an air-soft style pistol, which he (Garcia) was unaware of at the time.

Consistent with the regionally adopted Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, the Sparks Police Department (SPD) led the investigation into the shooting of Garcia. The Reno Police Department (RPD) provided secondary investigative support, and the Washoe County Crime Laboratory (WCCL) provided forensic services. The Washoe County District Attorney’s Office provided legal guidance and search warrant assistance.
The investigation included interviewing witnesses, collecting physical evidence, photographing the shooting scene, forensically testing collected evidence, reviewing video footage, and interviewing the officers involved in the shooting.

Upon completion of the entire investigation, all police reports along with FIS forensic reports, collected documentation, photographs, witness statements, recorded audio and video of the incident, dispatch recordings, and recorded interviews were submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office on April 23, 2019, for a final determination of whether the shooting of Garcia was legally justified. No criminal charges against Deputies Spaulding, Wike, Goodman, and Ross were recommended by SPD. The District Attorney’s evaluation included reviewing approximately 1000 pages of reports and documents, which included interviews of police and civilian witnesses. It further included the review of all photographs, video and audio recordings, 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 Maurice Alfonso Garcia by WCSO Deputies Spaulding, Wike, Goodman, and Ross was justified and not a criminal act.