Published Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009 | 12:56 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009 | 6:22 p.m.
Metro news conference
One person was shot to death and a Metro Police officer was wounded in the arm Wednesday afternoon as firefighters responding to a fire came under a hail of gunfire. Investigators said late Wednesday the fire was intentionally set.
Firefighters were dispatched about 12:30 p.m. to 1230 Comstock Drive near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Washington Avenue, said Tim Szymanski, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Fire Department. Firefighters were escorted by armed Metro officers as two SWAT teams guarded their efforts to fight the three-alarm fire.
As two engines with four firefighters, each from Station 3 near Rancho Drive and Washington Avenue, pulled up to the house, a fire captain saw heavy flames and smoke pouring from the left rear corner of the 2,500-square-foot, single-story home, Szymanski said.
A man wielding a long gun then ran around the right side of the house and fired at the engine, Szymanski said, blowing out the rear window where two firefighters sat. The Clark County Coroner's Office on Thursday identified the man who was shot on Comstock as 36-year-old Bryan Hanasz of Las Vegas. He died of several gunshot wounds, a coroner's spokeswoman said.
Over the emergency radio, dispatchers heard: "We're being shot at!" The second engine also had its rear window blown out and was hit in the right front, Szymanski said.
Both engines pulled away and ordered all other units to pull back.
Metro Police, Clark County School Police, motorcycle officers and detectives all swarmed the area, Szymanski said.
"It was an unbelievable response," Szymanski said.
Metro spokeswoman Officer Barbara Morgan said Hanasz died at the scene. Sheriff Doug Gillespie said a Metro Police sergeant was struck in his back and arm, but described the injuries as minor. The sergeant was taken to University Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
No other police officers, detectives or firefighters were injured during the fire or the shooting, Gillespie said. In addition to the Metro sergeant hit by gunfire, four marked police vehicles were also struck.
"I think this afternoon is an example of the dangers public servants face every day," Gillespie said.
Las Vegas fire investigators Wednesday evening determined the fire started in a bedroom and it was arson, Szymanski said.
Hamasz has an extensive criminal history with Metro Police, said Officer Bill Cassell, a spokesman for the police department. Hanasz served time in prison in 1993 after pleading guilty to robbery, court records show. Two kidnapping charges against Hanasz of victims over the age of 65 were dropped.
Hanasz, 19 years old at the time, and Andrew Gordon, then 20, were arrested by Metro Police officers when a SWAT team stormed the same house that burned on Wednesday.
A man and woman, both in their 60s, were bound and gagged early on the morning of Jan. 25, 1993, by Hanasz and Gordon, who had targeted them after seeing a classified advertisement in which the couple was selling guns.
In addition to his guilty plea for robbery, since 1993 Hamasz has been involved in criminal activities that involved narcotics, driving violations, obstructing a police officer, battery on a police officer and robbery, Cassell said.
Neighbors told fire investigators on Wednesday that a woman lives alone in the house, but was at work at the time of the fire, which did an estimated $200,000 in damage, Szymanski said. The woman saw the fire on TV and later arrived at the scene. Relatives came to care for her, he said.
Although Hanasz is the homeowner's son, he did not live at the house.
Las Vegas Fire Department arson investigators are still trying to find the cause the fire, Cassell said.
Three pet cats were rescued from the burning house by Las Vegas Animal Control.
Homicide detectives and police officers closed Washington Avenue near Comstock Drive, Morgan said.
As a precaution, a number of schools in the area were placed on lockdown. They include Booker Elementary, Hoggard Elementary, West Middle School and A-Tech High School, and that was lifted at 2 p.m. Wednesday.