Ray Boone, KSL TV

Police shoot, kill Utahn wielding knife after car chase in West Wendover

By Katie McKellar, KSL | Updated - Dec 8th, 2018 @ 10:23pm | Posted - Dec 8th, 2018 @ 3:48pm


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WEST WENDOVER, Nev. — Police shot and killed a Utah man Saturday during a standoff after chasing him up and down a busy street in West Wendover.

The man — whose neck, shirt, and arms were drenched in blood — appeared to hold a knife to his own throat before turning it on West Wendover police officers holding him at gunpoint, according to an eyewitness' video recording.

After the man raises the knife and begins walking toward officers, five shots fired in rapid succession can be heard in the video. The man then falls to the ground.

Deputies later identified him as James Robertson, 41. He was treated at the scene, but he died from his injuries, police said. No officers were injured during the incident.

Robertson's last-known address is in Francis, Summit County, according to Elko County Sheriff's Lt. Kevin McKinney.

The shooting at a Chevron gas station on Wendover Boulevard is being investigated by the Elko County Sheriff's Office.

"The mental status, motives and actions of the driver leading up to this incident are part of the ongoing investigation," the West Wendover Police Department said in a statement issued Saturday, calling it an "isolated incident" with no danger to the public.

McKinney said the incident began after a West Wendover officer saw a black pickup truck driving "recklessly" on Wendover Boulevard around 12:45 p.m.

"The vehicle actually almost hit the officer," McKinney said.

When the officer tried to pull the truck over, Robertson didn't stop, and a second officer joined the pursuit, McKinney said.

Josh Abbott, a witness who caught the shooting on video, said he was getting gas at the Chevron when he saw the police chase begin. Abbott said the truck drove up and down the street five or six times, weaving between traffic like a "barrel racer" before crashing into another vehicle in the gas station parking lot.

"I was just in awe," Abbott said. "I was just in awe of everything that was happening."

The driver then got out of the vehicle and starting running on foot. Police chased him up a hill behind one of the gas station restrooms.

"He had a knife right there to his throat," Abbott said. "He had definitely done some damage to himself."

In the video, the man can be seen holding a knife to his neck as he backs away from officers. Officers can be heard shouting at the man, telling him to get on the ground.

Two officers can be seen pointing guns at the man, while another points a Taser.

"There was quite a bit of shouting: 'Get on the ground, put the knife down,'" Abbott said.

But Robertson didn't listen to officers' commands, McKinney said.

Police shot and killed a man during a standoff after chasing him up and down a busy street in West Wendover on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Photo: Ray Boone, KSL TV)

At one point, the man changed the position of the knife in his hand, and his "demeanor changed" to "pretty aggressive," Abbott said. "You could see he was in attack mode, for sure."

Robertson then raised the knife around and started walking toward an officer, according to the video. That's when shots were fired.

"I feel as it was justified for sure," Abbott said. "There was a threat to an officer, definitely."

However, Abbott wondered why the Taser wasn't deployed first, or why police didn't attempt any other non-lethal tactics before firing their guns.

"There could have been some steps in between to try to neutralize the situation," Abbott said.

The officers involved are on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation, McKinney said.

"It was kind of a scary situation for everyone," he said, noting the incident occurred on one of Wendover's busiest streets, near casinos and restaurants. "There's just any number of places he could have potentially injured people in this situation."

"Officers take this job to protect lives, not to take lives," McKinney added. "This is not something anybody wants to do."

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Katie McKellar

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