4709 1 month ago
4709 1 month ago
Washoe County District Attorney Christopher Hicks announced Monday the Sparks Police Department officers who fatally shot Black 18-year-old Miciah Lee would not face criminal charges.
“Mr. Lee’s death was a tragic end to a young man’s life and this community should be saddened by it,” Hicks said in a statement. “My decision in this case is based on the law in Nevada and upon a thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident and the actions of the officers involved in the shooting.”
Sparks police also released body camera footage from the shooting the same day the investigation was published, including a compilation of scenes from the event and longer segments from the two officers who fired their weapons.
Terri Keyser-Cooper, an attorney representing Lee’s family, rejected the decision.
“In more than 35 years of civil rights litigation I have never seen the police held accountable for officer-involved shootings,” she told CapRadio in a text message. “The civil rights complaint will follow within the next two to three weeks.”
The fatal shooting of Lee, who also had a history of mental illness, became a rallying cry during local Black Lives Matter protests and the local NAACP chapter called for greater transparency in the case.
Lee’s mother, Susan Clopp, initially called police because her son was having a mental health crisis. “He’s mentally unstable,” she told a 911 dispatcher. “He said he’s going to die by cop or by himself.”
According to the report Lee fled from police in his car, which was eventually disabled during the pursuit when he ran over a concrete divider in the road. When Sparks Police Officer Ryan Patterson tried to pull him out with the help of a police canine, he saw a handgun in Lee’s lap. Patterson opened fire because he said Lee reached for the weapon.
Officer Eric DeJesus also engaged in the pursuit. He approached Lee’s car from the passenger side, then fired two rounds through the window when Officer Patterson started firing. Lee was pronounced dead at the scene and according to the DA’s report, police later discovered his handgun was unloaded.
Lily Baran is a community organizer and elementary school teacher. She’s been advocating for Lee’s family.
Baran watched the footage released by Sparks police. She believes if the officers responding to the call had used de-escalation techniques, Lee might still be alive.
“It wasn’t de-escalated, it was escalated,” she said.
As a teacher, Baran says she has a lot of students who have mental health and behavioral challenges. One key element in responding to a crisis, she says, is addressing the person by their name and speaking calmly.
“All of us know that,” she said. “Every therapist knows that, every social worker.”
In the past, it has taken up to two years to investigate shootings by police officers in Washoe County. But the decision in the Lee case was announced more quickly than most.
Washoe County DA spokesperson Michelle Bays acknowledged that community concern over Lee’s death played a role in the investigation. “That certainly was recognized,” she said.