Las Vegas police shot and killed a man early Saturday morning because he wouldn't drop what turned out to be a plastic sword.
Lloyd Napouk, 44, was walking down the street about a mile from his home when two officers made contact with him, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank said at a press conference yesterday. Sergeant Buford Kenton and Officer Cameran Gunn were responding to a report of a "white male adult looking into vehicles, walking onto patios, and carrying either a slim jim or a machete," Hank said. The person who made the report also thought the suspect may have been trying to break into a neighbor's house.
The officers arrived on the scene at about 12:17 a.m., Hank said. Body camera footage released by police and published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows what happened next:
Both officers warn Napouk to drop his weapon. "It's not worth it man," Kenton says. But Napouk, who has headphones in his ears as he smokes a cigarette, doesn't listen.
"Put it on the ground now," Gunn says. "It's all good, man. We can talk." Kenton expresses similar sentiments. "You're not in any trouble; just drop the weapon and we'll talk, OK?" he says.
Napouk refuses to obey. He raises his sword two times, and at one point walks toward the officers. The cops warn that they will shoot him if he doesn't stop, which he eventually does. "Get out of here," Napouk mumbles.
Kenton radios for backup units armed with beanbag shotguns. But the backup doesn't arrive in time. Napouk starts to slowly approach the officers again, prompting Kenton to say: "If you come one more step, you're dead." At that point, Napouk still has the headphones in his ears. It's unclear whether he can hear what the officers are saying.
In any case, Napouk doesn't obey, and the video ends with the sound of a gunshot. In total, seven shots were fired––four from Kenton and three from Gunn. Napouk was a little more than nine feet away from Kenton and almost 12 feet from Gunn when shots were fired, Hank said. Medical personnel soon arrived, and Napouk was declared dead at the scene.
Napouk's weapon was actually a plastic sword covered in electrical tape. "He called it a sword. He was very proud of it," said Hank. "He expressed…what you may characterize as some mental concerns because of how he referred to it," the assistant sheriff added, explaining that the plastic sword was "very special to him."
Hank also said Napouk had a prior "criminal history" in Alaska and Washington state. He had previously been accused of DUI, assault, "disorderly conduct, harassing communication, criminal mischief, and reckless endangerment," said Hank.
If Napouk had survived, he would have been charged with resisting arrest with a weapon, Hank said. Both officers are on paid leave while the shooting is investigated.
Regardless of Napouk's criminal history, his death was tragic and probably needless. From watching the body camera footage, it doesn't look as though he posed much of a threat to either officer. Police may not have known at the time that his weapon was really just a plastic sword, but he wasn't running toward them as if about to attack.
Napouk clearly ignored both officers' commands to drop the sword. And even after police warned him that they would shoot, he still didn't listen. However, he wasn't endangering their lives or anyone else's.
At the press conference, Hank confirmed that the officers were armed with Tasers. Stun guns, while not always reliable, can work when deployed within 15-25 feet of a target. So if both officers had tased Napouk instead of shooting him, it seems likely he would have been incapacitated.
It's important to note that an investigation will hopefully bring more information to light. The preliminary facts, though, do suggest that his death could have been avoided. Napouk may not have been cooperating with the police, but he didn't deserve to die.