Las Vegas police had a plan to end an hour-long standoff with an unarmed Gulf War veteran: One officer would fire a non-lethal beanbag shell at the window of the man's Cadillac, and another officer would follow-up with pepper spray to force the man from the car.
But that plan went awry when another officer fired a military-style assault rifle into the car, killing 43-year-old Stanley Lavon Gibson, police said Friday.
"Almost immediately after the beanbag round penetrated the rear passenger window, a second officer discharged seven rounds from an AR-15 rifle, striking and killing Gibson," police said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Las Vegas and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada noted that Gibson was the 12th person slain by police this year. Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., said they were reviewing calls for an investigation of police department policies and practices.
Gibson's friends and family say he was a troubled veteran suffering from cancer that he blamed on his Gulf War service, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. Witnesses said police stopped him while he was driving his Cadillac slowly through an unfamiliar apartment complex with his emergency flashers activated like he was lost.
The shots fired at 12:57 a.m. Monday started with a 911 call at 11:23 p.m. Sunday about two men trying to break into an apartment.
Police previously identified the four patrol officers involved in the shooting as officers Jesus Arevalo and Malik Grego-Smith, Sgt. Michael Hnatuick, and Lt. David Dockendorf. They are on paid leave pending a departmental review.
Public scrutiny of officer-involved deaths using Clark County coroner's inquests as a fact-finding process have been suspended since August 2010. The Las Vegas police has sued in state and federal courts to block the implementation of revisions to the process that officers say subjects them to unconstitutional questioning. NAACP and ACLU leaders said they didn't believe Las Vegas police can properly investigate themselves.
On Thursday, Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, the elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, endorsed the idea of a Justice Department probe. He pleaded earlier for patience from the public and promised a thorough internal investigation.
Gillespie said he didn't see an outside review as an adversarial process.
"If more innovative methods come from this, everyone will benefit," he said.