Las Vegas police released bodycam footage of two officers killing a mentally ill man whom they say “lunged” at them with a screwdriver and a knife on Friday.
Abel Correa, 24, had been hiding in a closet in his family’s home after a neighbor called police on him for throwing a ball hitch of a trailer through their front window.
Las Vegas Metropolitan police officers Glen Taylor, 50, and Eli Prunchak, 41, spoke to the neighbor, then walked over to Correa’s home and knocked on the door.
Correa’s brother, Gilberto, allowed them to enter the home to search for his brother. Big mistake on his part.
Once inside the home, they determined that Correa was hiding inside a closet.
With guns drawn, Taylor opened the door and Prunchak can be heard saying, “get your hands up” before opening fire.
Taylor also fires his gun and Correa collapses as a woman can be heard screaming in the background.
The video, recorded from a camera Taylor was wearing, does not capture any lunging nor does it showing Correa raising his arms.
But the shooting happened very quickly and part of the shooting was not captured because either the camera was pointed in a different direction or it was obscured by a wall and by Taylor’s own gun.
The video, posted below, shows the actual shooting, then repeats the same footage with it slowed down. I’ve also made some screenshots, which I posted below, to try and get a better grasp of what took place that morning.
It shows Prunchak near the closet door before it is opened, then backing off with his gun drawn and firing.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal determined that Prunchak had no choice but to fire because he was pinned by the couch as a man with weapons lunged at him.
The closet next to the front door of the home eventually caught Prunchak’s attention, and he called Taylor over with a whistle.
Pistols drawn, the officers approached the closet door. Taylor opened the door as Prunchak told Correa to put his hands up.
Correa’s hands were in the air, but one was holding a screwdriver and the other a wrench in an “attack position,” McMahill said.
Prunchak can be seen on the video trying to retreat backwards, but runs into the back of a couch after just a few feet.
With Correa approaching and his retreat blocked, Prunchak fired four shots, and Taylor two.
But Gilberto Correa believes the officers could have avoided shooting his brother, according to News3LV.
Gilberto said, even after watching the video, he believes the officers made a mistake.
“I don’t see him with his hands up in an attack position. I don’t see him making it out of the closet. Police are saying he lunged at them. He was over 6 feet tall, over 200 pounds. If he would have been in a lunging position when they fired at him, he would have been face down and he landed face up,” Correa said. “He didn’t give him a chance to get out of the closet. He didn’t. He just shot him, cold blood.”
Gilberto added the poor positioning of the police officers gave his brother no chance to live.
“I don’t understand why would a police officer put themselves in front of the door as they open it. To me, they just started shooting. They didn’t finish the phrase to put your hands up when you heard gunshots,” he said. “There were mistakes made by the police officers, but those mistakes cost the loss of my brother.”
“When you have an individual that’s hiding from you that you believe to be in that closet, you don’t know what the history is. It’s not uncommon for an officer to have their weapon out,” McMahill said.
Although Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said the officers did not know Correa’s history, he also was sure to tell the media that Correa had a well-documented history with police, according to the Review-Journal.
Friday’s incident was the eighth time police had been to the Berkshire Place home for calls about Correa in just the past two months, McMahill said.
On June 18, Correa’s mother called police because he was smashing things inside the home, McMahill said. She filed for a temporary restraining order soon after.
Four days later, and before the protective order could be served, officers were back at the home after neighbors claimed Correa had slashed their vehicle’s tires, McMahill said.
Correa told officers that day that his neighbors were witches and were holding someone against their will.
Officers placed the young man on a mental hold, McMahill said. A mental hold, often referred to as a Legal 2000, allows law enforcement take people who might be suffering from mental health disorders to a mental health facility for evaluation. The facility then decides whether to commit the person or release the person within 72 hours.
McMahill said constable deputies tried to serve the protective order on Correa three times between June 25 and July 1 but were unsuccessful.
The order was finally served when Metro was again called out to the house on July 6. Correa’s mother called from a neighbor’s home and claimed that he slashed the tires to her car, McMahill said. Correa’s mother did not press charges, but officers informed him that he was not allowed back at the house for two weeks per the protective order.
But officers were back at the house the next day.
Correa was seen breaking into his mother’s home, McMahill said. He was arrested for violating the protective order. Correa’s mother extended the order to last until Sept. 8 after the incident.
But Taylor and Prunchak did not know all of this — specifically the mental health concerns — when they went into the house, McMahill said.
Taylor and Prunchak were investigating a case where a man was accused of throwing an object through a neighbor’s window in which nobody was injured. They knew where the man lived and had even spoken to his brother prior to entering the home.
It was not a crucial situation where they were chasing a known felon into a home where other people’s lives were at stake. They had plenty of time to inquire about his past criminal or mental history. And dispatcher’s had plenty of time to inform them.
UPDATE August 11, 2016: The family of Abel Correa filed a lawsuit against the Las Vegas police department, claiming the man raised his arms to comply with the officer’s demands, but that made the cop fear for his life.
The Clark County District Attorney investigated the shooting and said it was justified. Read the report here.