Tuesday, June 5, 2012 | 1:19 p.m.
Despite conflicting witness and police statements, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office ruled that a North Las Vegas officer acted lawfully during a fatal shooting New Year’s Day last year.
Fernando Giovanni Sauceda, 32, died from multiple gunshot wounds suffered during the incident shortly after midnight Jan. 1, 2011. North Las Vegas Police Officer Jeffrey Pollard said Sauceda pointed a gun at him while he and another officer investigated celebratory New Year’s gunfire, prompting him to shoot.
Pollard and a fellow officer, wearing green outfits with “police” marked in white letters on their chests, were driving an unmarked patrol truck when they heard multiple gunshots in a residential neighborhood, according to the district attorney’s report.
The officers told investigators they parked their vehicle and walked toward a home on Glendale Avenue, where multiple people were outside. Several people then fled to the porch, which was covered with tarps.
Pollard said as he moved the tarps, Sauceda approached him while pointing a handgun at his head. Pollard knocked Sauceda’s gun and arm away from his face, but he became fearful for his life during the struggle and fired his weapon at the victim, the report states.
Sauceda, who still clutched a handgun, began running toward the front yard. Pollard said he fired again at Sauceda to protect his partner officer.
A forensic examination determined that Pollard fired his gun 12 times during the encounter with Sauceda, according to the case review. The coroner ruled that Sauceda, who had alcohol and marijuana in his system, was struck nine times by the gunfire.
Interviews with civilian witnesses revealed confusion among partygoers when the police arrived because they were not wearing normal officer uniforms, the report states.
One witness, however, told detectives that several people announced “5-0 (police)” when the officers arrived.
The report notes Sauceda may not have heard those statements, as a pair of foam earplugs were found underneath his body. It’s unclear whether Sauceda had been wearing the earplugs, though.
In addition, evidence at the scene corroborated Pollard’s description of where he fired shots, according to the report.
The findings from the District Attorney’s Office concluded that “based upon the independent physical evidence and the statements provided by civilian witnesses,” the officers’ version of events was more credible.
“The manner in which (Sauceda) displayed his weapon clearly demonstrated an intent to inflict death or great bodily injury upon Officer Pollard,” the report states. “During the struggle, (Sauceda) may have demonstrated further intent to kill by discharging his firearm.”
Detectives could not determine whether Sauceda ever fired at Pollard during the encounter, but the District Attorney’s Office called the shooting legally justified regardless.
This is the first case review by the District Attorney’s Office involving a North Las Vegas Police shooting. In six other case reviews — five involving Metro Police and one Nevada Highway Patrol case — the District Attorney’s Office also determined the officers’ actions were not criminal.
The District Attorney’s Office began releasing the case reviews in April — an effort to provide the public with information despite the legally stalled coroner’s inquests.
Metro Police followed suit Monday when Sheriff Doug Gillespie announced the release of internal deadly force reports. Metro’s reports are from its Force Investigative Team and Office of Internal Oversight.
Gillespie vowed to release the department’s internal reports within 30 days of findings released by the District Attorney’s Office.