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October 17, 2021

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Video: Man fatally shot by NHP troopers pretended to have gun



A screen shot from body-camera footage shows a man exit his vehicle and pretend to draw a gun before he was shot dead by Nevada Highway Patrol troopers, Sunday, Oct. 3.

Click to enlarge photo

Adrian Zarate-Cervantes

A 41-year-old unarmed man was fatally shot by two Nevada Highway Patrol troopers last Sunday after he pulled his hands from his waistband as if drawing a gun, the department said Thursday. 

Troopers Michael Abbate and Mark Willner have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by Metro Police, NHP Col. Anne Carpenter said in a news briefing in which body camera footage was also released. Abbate and Willner both joined the highway patrol in 2013 and it is the first officer-involved shooting for both, Carpenter said. 

The troopers responded after a domestic violence incident was reported from a moving vehicle at Lake Mead Boulevard and Los Feliz Street at 7:22 a.m. The shooting happened at Lake Mead Boulevard/State Route 147 at mile marker 11, Carpenter said.  

Adrian Zarate-Cervantes, the man killed, would have been arrested for kidnapping, domestic battery and assault with a deadly weapon on a protected person. He had two previous DUI charges in 2014 and 2011, Carpenter said.

Zarate-Cervantes was the one to call 911 and told dispatchers that his wife, who was not named, claimed he was kidnapping her. The woman took the phone and stated their location, Carpenter said. 

Abbate located the vehicle at 8:19 a.m., Carpenter said, and observed the woman waving her arms out of the vehicle. He attempted to pull over Zarate-Cervantes, who sped away after the two were stopped and Abbate began walking toward the car. 

Zarate-Cervantes quickly pulled over again and by 8:22, Willner had arrived at the scene, Carpenter said. The troopers gave “clear and calm” vocal commands for Zarate-Cervantes to exit the vehicle, a gray sedan, with his hands up, Carpenter said. 

Zarate-Cervantes exited with his hands in his waistband and “made a motion that could not be mistaken for anything other than drawing a firearm,” and pointed it at Abbate, Carpenter said. Abbate fired his weapon, causing Zarate-Cervantes to hold his stomach. But a few seconds later, Zarate-Cervantes motioned for his rear waistband and pretended to draw a firearm again and pointed it this time at Willner. 

Both troopers fired a single shot and Zarate-Cervantes fell to the ground, Carpenter said. The victim was directed to exit the vehicle, and the troopers rendered first aid to Zarate-Cervantes. 

It was later discovered that Zarate-Cervantes did not have a weapon in his possession, Carpenter said. 

“However, the actions of the suspect indicated to the troopers he was drawing a weapon,” Carpenter said. “And both troopers believed at the time of the incident that the suspect intended on killing them.” 

Carpenter said the troopers responded in a manner “consistent with the department’s policy, training and established case law,” and urged the public to listen to commands being issued by an officer. 

It’s the second officer-involved shooting by an NHP trooper this year, Carpenter said.