Trending Topics

Incident analysis: Police response to carjacking rampage by armed killer

The suspect, who had killed his mother, stole a police cruiser and carjacked bystanders at gunpoint

Deadly Carjackings Las Vegas

A police vehicle with bullet holes is seen at the scene in the area of Blue Diamond Road and Durango Drive in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023, after officers from two Nevada law enforcement agencies opened fire during a pre-dawn chase through Las Vegas as they tried to stop a man who fatally shot his mother, then stole a police cruiser and carjacked bystanders at gunpoint while trying to evade police, authorities said. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Rachel Aston/AP

On December 27, 2023, officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) responded to a report of gunshots from multiple parties, including the parents of the suspect, at a little before 4 a.m. The parents got into their car and drove around to an open area located behind their house where the shots were coming from and where they believed their son was.

When they arrived, the son, armed with both an AR-15 and an AK-47, opened fire at them, killing his mother. The father retreated to his car and attempted to drive away while still under fire.

Officers arrived on scene as the father was leaving and took incoming fire from both weapons. The officers exited their squads and took cover. The suspect advanced on them, shot out the window of a running squad car, gained entry and fled the scene.

The officers pursued but lost sight of the stolen squad car, and the suspect drove to a nearby gas station, carjacking a truck. As he attempted to flee, he struck a post damaging the truck as he left.

The heroism of these officers during a chaotic pursuit and gunfight demonstrates their high level of training and commitment to protecting those they serve.

Perhaps due to the damage, he went to another gas station and car jacked another vehicle. An officer located him at that time and fired several pistol shots at him as he fled the scene. It was believed the suspect was wounded at that time.

The suspect continued until he found a van alongside the road. The suspect fired a round through his passenger side into the driver’s side of the vehicle striking the driver. The suspect ran to the passenger side of the van, just as Nevada State Police and LVMPD officers arrived.

The suspect fired another round through the passenger door at the driver and then entered the van. Officers, seeing a possible hostage, held their fire. Eventually the suspect pushed the lifeless body of the driver out and started to drive away, running over the driver. With a clear shot the officers opened fire, firing 53 rounds at the fleeing vehicle.

The officers continued to pursue the vehicle till it came to a stop. The SWAT team was called out to deal with the barricade situation. After determining the driver wasn’t moving, SWAT approached the vehicle. The suspect was located dead inside the van.

Subsequent search warrants located numerous loaded magazines of various calibers in the field where the initial call started. At other locations body armor, ballistic helmets, diagrams depicting ambushes of police, and materials for making firearms suppressors and possibly bombs were also seized.

Police believe the suspect may have been planning a mass killing event.

Officers did well in this bizarre, deadly pursuit. View the following video then let’s discuss five points to consider.

Points to consider

1. Just because your squad is locked, doesn’t mean it can’t be stolen.

We leave our squad running all the time and every year squad cars are taken as a result. Any one of the aftermarket devices that stop a squad car from being driven could have potentially kept this situation from spreading from the initial scene. They should be standard equipment on all squads.

2. Grab a long gun when possible.

I don’t know if the officer at the gas station knew the suspect was armed with a rifle. In this case he may not have had time to grab a rifle, but when the situation and circumstance allow the longer range, greater accuracy and better penetration can be a game changer in a gunfight.

3. Understand cover and concealment

Concealment and cover were available to the officer. A gas pump won’t stop a rifle round and probably not a pistol round. His squad or the steel support post on the canopy would work as cover but may not have allowed a line of sight to the threat.

4. If you can change the lighting conditions to your advantage, do it.

The use of the spotlights on the van gave the officers a better view and could work to blind the suspect. When you use that tactic, try to get away from the spotlight since it may draw fire.

5. Have you practiced hostage rescue shots and shooting through vehicles?

Would you feel confident to take a shot at the suspect with the hostage in close proximity? How much bullet deflection will the auto glass cause? You will never know if you don’t practice it.

These officers stopped a potential mass killer before he could carry out his plan. The heroism of these officers during a chaotic, rapidly evolving, mobile situation with a suspect willing to kill anyone, including his own mother, demonstrates their high level of training and commitment to protecting those they serve. Their efforts put an end to a nightmare that could have been much worse.

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career, he served as a patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., use of force and firearms instructor. He was a full-time law enforcement instructor at Alexandria Technical & Community College in Alexandria, Minnesota for 28 years. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University.