“These cops are not taking the prerogative to …”
“Dude, they just shot him. They just killed the dude. Holy s***. They just killed him.”
Those were the words of men witnessing a shocking police confrontation near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Friday between a 20-year-old man, Bureau of Land Management rangers and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, D’Andre Berghardt, Jr., walked along Route 159 near Calico Basin, trying to flag down cyclists. Riders then reported the behavior to authorities at the Red Rock visitor center, prompting the park rangers to head out and evaluate the situation.
Cars and cyclists stopped on either side of the road as the rangers spoke with Berghardt in the middle of the street. In one of these cars was a man named Robbie and his friend. Robbie, who asked the newspaper to only identify him by his first name, watched and filmed what unfolded.
For several minutes, the rangers engaged with Berghardt. From Robbie’s perspective, exactly what was going on is hard to see as he was several yards away. At one point, the men filming said it appeared as if Berghardt was pepper sprayed.
To those observing, Berghardt didn’t appear to be armed or overly erratic at first, though whatever was said between the man and authorities is not picked up in the video footage. Eventually, the situation escalated with Berghardt walking away followed by a ranger kicking him and trying to hold him. From there, punches were thrown.
When Nevada Highway Patrol showed up and began to chase Berghardt, Robbie turned off the camera. He told the Review-Journal he thought for a moment the situation would wrap up at this point.
“At first we thought, with the NHP showing up, that it would end pretty shortly,” Robbie told the newspaper. “Then we felt the intensity had increased and that’s why we turned the video back on.”
With the footage rolling again, one of the men in the car asked why the officers didn’t “just cuff him and be done with it?”
With the rangers and Highway Patrol officers after him, Berghardt was able to run away for a moment and hopped into Highway Patrol’s SUV. Then came the gun shots.
Berghardt died at the scene.
“You know what’s ridiculous about this is, they never grabbed him,”one of the men said in the video. “They could have grabbed him. They kept letting him get up.”
Watch the footage (Content warning: some strong language):
The Review-Journal reported that officers said Berghardt reached for an AR-15 inside the officer’s SUV.
Even one of the men filming acknowledged this possibility and said it would be seen as threatening to officers.
“Well, there’s a gun in that highway patrol car,” he said. “And they probably thought he was gonna get it.”
Still, the other man said, “I don’t know why they didn’t just jump on him and pin him.”
“You know, unless they thought he had something on him, but it didn’t look like it to me,” the dialogue between the men continued.
“It’s redneck justice,” the other said.
Trooper Loy Hixson, a Highway Patrol spokesman, told the Review-Journal that officers, who have not been publicly named, “felt their lives were in danger” in the situation, leading up to the fatal shots.
The incident is under investigation by Las Vegas Police with Highway Patrol and the FBI.
In addition to providing the Review-Journal with his video, Robbie said he is giving it to police as well, hoping it will help in the investigation. From his perspective, it shows how the situation was allowed to escalate, something he thinks didn’t need to happen.
“I came away from this with a disturbed feeling that a guy is dead that shouldn’t be,” Robbie told the Review-Journal.
Others who were closer to the scene though shared a different perspective.
David Reed told the newspaper Berghardt tried to open his truck’s door. Reed noted that he heard the rangers yelling at Berghardt, telling him to stop and put his hands up. At one point, Berghardt was shot with a stun gun, but Reed said he removed the wires.
Because Berghardt failed to comply with officers’ commands, Reed said he thinks they their attempts to subdue him were adequate.
“They tried and tried,” Reed said, according to the Review-Journal. “I thought he was on drugs or something, he was that strong. He was throwing them around.”
In contrast, a cyclist, who passed by Berghardt before the confrontation, said he seemed coherent.
“Maybe he just wanted some water,” cyclist Joel Meyer told the Review-Journal, noting that Berghardt tried to stop those in his group — as he did with other groups — but they all passed him.
The newspaper reported that Berghardt was from Los Angeles but had previously lived in Las Vegas, which was about 20 miles away from where the incident occurred. A family friend told the Review-Journal he left for Las Vegas Wednesday after a fight with his mother.