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Radio troubles prompt Metro to double up officers in patrol cars


Steve Marcus

Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks during a news conference at Metro Police headquarters Monday, June 9, 2014.

Updated Thursday, July 3, 2014 | 2 p.m.

Metro Police are doubling officers in patrol vehicles again, but this time it's because the department's radio system is working so poorly.

The current radio system has been rife with troubles almost since Metro began using it five years ago. During a June 26 incident in which Officer Ryan McNabb traded shots with a suspect, McNabb was unable to communicate with dispatchers for extended periods of time, Metro said.

When Joshua Bacharach, 30, finally was detained, police found body armor, a Soviet-made SKS semi-automatic assault rifle in the back seat of his car, plus a 30-round magazine for the weapon. Also in the back seat was a Colt. .25 handgun.

Police later found body armor and an unregistered Colt .45, believed to be the gun Bacharach fired at McNabb, behind the house Bacharach had run to in an attempt to escape.

Metro said Bacharach had 29 previous arrests for various counts, including attempted robbery, attempted burglary, multiple narcotics charges, domestic violence, grand larceny and resisting a police officer.

On the night of the incident, around 10:45, McNabb was responding to a call of a suspicious vehicle parked at East Lake Mead Boulevard and North Walnut Road.

McNabb spotted a Dodge Intrepid parked on the side of the road and turned on his squad car's emergency lights. The car sped away.

McNabb followed and got closer to read the license plate, Lombardo said, when the Bacharach, holding the wheel with his left hand, reached over his body with his right and a fired a handgun backward out the window at McNabb.

Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo said the driver-side panels of Bacharach's vehicle were scarred with streaks from the bullets. Neither McNabb nor his vehicle were hit.

In total, Lombardo said, Bacharach fired five times on McNabb before finally stopping.

When Bacharach stopped, he got out of the car, Lombardo said, ran to a light pole "and started firing again. McNabb was able to return fire."

At that point, the two were at Carey Avenue and Dolly Lane. Bacharach ran behind a residence and, when he didn't respond to the commands of several officers now on scene, a police dog was sent in. Bacharach was treated at University Medical Center for injuries related to the dog attack.

Bacharach has been charged in Las Vegas Township Justice Court with attempted murder, five counts of discharging a weapon from a moving vehicle, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and disobeying a peace officer while driving.

In October 2012, Sheriff Doug Gillespie announced the department would replace a $42 million radio system installed in 2010 partly because of impaired communication between officers. Because of the problems last month, Lombardo said Metro was pushing to get a new system from Motorola operational by September instead of by the end of the year. Lombardo said he wasn't sure how long the policy of doubling up officers would be maintained.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Wednesday that McNabb was outfitted with a body camera, one of several Metro officers testing the equipment in the field. The video is so clear and startling, Gillespie said, some people in the department were shaken by what they saw.

The video has not been released as the case is still under investigation.

Another officer-involved shooting update

Lombardo also updated the media on another officer-involved shooting, this one around midnight June 25.

That night, police responded to several 911 calls reporting a woman with a knife who was yelling at the Manor Suites extended-stay apartments in the 7200 block of Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Officers Amanda Frey and Sergio Mphillips told the woman outside a second-floor to drop the steak knife with a 5-inch blade. Instead, Lombardo said, "officers observed her take down the window screen on (an apartment) and climb in, holding the knife."

Officers ran up the stairs and found the woman, identified as Mimi Diane Goldberg, stabbing another woman on the couch. Mphillips fired his weapon. "This caused (Goldberg) to stand upright and turn to (the victim’s 5-year-old daughter) who emerged from another room."

Lombardo said Mphillips thought Goldberg was going to stab the girl; the officer fired at Goldberg five more times. Goldberg ran into another room, was taken into custody and rushed to University Medical Center. She died of her gunshot wounds.

The female victim suffered cuts to her ear, biceps and chest, Lombardo said. The cuts were not life-threatening.

Goldberg and the victim were neighbors, but Lombardo said he did not know if they were friends. Lombardo said Goldberg had a history of mental health issues.

Both McNabb and Mphillips are on leave pending Metro's use-of-force review of the shootings.

Training 'paying off'

So far this year, Metro police have been involved in 11 shootings versus seven in the same period a year ago.

Of those 11, said Lombardo, who is running for sheriff, six shootings resulted in deaths.

Three years ago, Metro's officer-involved shootings were analyzed and critiqued by the U.S. Justice Department. Several changes in training and internal review have since been incorporated into the department.

Reality-based training has been a big focus of the department, which takes officers through realistic situations – both simulated and with actors – they might encounter on the job.

Lombardo noted that of this year’s 11 shootings, all of them involved officers dealing with suspects in possession of either a knife or a gun – three knifes, eight guns and one replica gun.

In the past, he added, "shootings our officers have been involved with may have been a mistake of fact." That means officers sometimes shot, thinking a suspect was armed but later found to be unarmed.

"It's my assessment our training is working," he surmised.

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