WCDA Releases Findings in Officer Involved Shooting Death of Robert William Hampton III
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks announced last week that the November 5, 2014 officer involved shooting death of Robert William Hampton III was justified under Nevada law. A report detailing the incident and its findings has been made available on the DA Office website, a continuation of the transparent process in which these types of cases are reviewed in Washoe County.
According to the report made public today, in November of 2014, Robert William Hampton III,(33 at time of death, DOB 1/31/81) from California was being investigated for narcotics sales by detectives from the Washoe County All Threats All Crimes (ATAC) unit. A confidential informant (CI), who had previously been supplied heroin from Hampton, provided the information to law enforcement. In cooperation with ATAC, on November 5, 2014 the CI purchased approximately 1 gram of heroin from Hampton in a controlled narcotics buy while wearing a recording device in the parking lot of the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. Following the CI’s purchase, ATAC detectives followed Hampton hoping to obtain intelligence such as license plates of cars he was using, possible addresses of his buyers, and the location of his residence. While detectives were following Hampton, they learned that he had a large amount of heroin in his car.
Concerned with this fact, the decision was made to conduct a traffic stop of Hampton by a marked patrol unit driven by Washoe County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jason Wood. In order to protect the confidentiality and safety of the CI, Deputy Wood initiated the stop based on a traffic violation near the University of Nevada, Reno. Deputy Wood collected Hampton’s license and vehicle registration. A “wants and warrants” check of Hampton was also conducted and revealed 3 active felony warrants for his arrest. Deputy Wood, while provided officer-safety cover from two responding detectives, re-approached the vehicle from the driver’s side in order to remove Hampton and make the arrest. Deputy Wood ordered Hampton to turn off the car, twice. Hampton refused to comply.
Deputy Wood then observed the car move backwards at an angle, as if Hampton were trying to create enough space from the parked vehicle in front of him to change direction and pull back onto the street. Concerned that Hampton was trying to flee, Deputy Wood advanced towards the driver’s side door and attempted to open it. However, it was locked. After reversing 5-6 feet, Hampton then turned the front tires towards the deputy and began to drive forward. Deputy Wood ordered him to stop and began to try to distance himself from the car to avoid being struck. Hampton looked directly at Deputy Wood and rapidly accelerated toward Deputy Wood striking him on his left leg.
Fearing that he may be pulled under the car and ran over or pinned against the cars parked on the other side of the narrow street, Deputy Wood fired three shots from his handgun into the car. The car continued its acceleration across the street and crashed into a truck and stopped. Hampton sustained multiple gunshot wounds and died. A subsequent search of the car revealed evidence consistent with drug dealing, the pre-recorded currency used by the CI to buy the heroin, and a stolen fully loaded Ruger 357 revolver under the driver’s seat.
Numerous witnesses to the attempted escape, Hampton striking the deputy with his car and the shooting were located. Their accounts of the shooting were consistent with each other, with Deputy Wood’s account, and with audio and video recordings of the shooting.
Consistent with the regionally-adopted Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, the Reno Police Department (RPD) led the investigation into the shooting of Hampton. The Sparks Police Department (SPD) provided secondary investigative support, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) provided further needed support, and the Washoe County Crime Laboratory (WCCL) provided forensic services. The Washoe County District Attorney’s Office provided oversight and assistance in obtaining search warrants.
The investigation included interviewing witnesses, canvassing the shooting area for additional witnesses, collecting physical evidence, an autopsy, photographing the shooting scene, forensically testing collected evidence, obtaining relevant surveillance video, reviewing the history and dealings of Hampton, and interviewing the officer involved in the shooting. Upon completion of the entire investigation, all police reports along with WCCL forensic reports, collected documentation, photographs, witness statements, recorded audio and video of the incident, and recorded interviews were submitted to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office for a final determination of whether the shooting of Hampton was legally justified. No criminal charges were recommended by RPD.
The District Attorney’s evaluation included reviewing approximately 800 pages of reports and documents which included interviews of police and civilian witnesses. It further included the review of photographs, diagrams, video and audio recordings, and examination of the scene of the shooting. Based on the available evidence and the applicable legal authorities, it is the opinion of the District Attorney that the shooting of Hampton by Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputy Wood was justified and not a criminal act.
In his report, DA Hicks noted that “All evidence presented in this officer-involved shooting review suggests that on November 5, 2014, Deputy Wood was abruptly confronted with an imminent and legitimate danger from Hampton. This clear and immediate danger justified Deputy Wood’s response in self-defense by employing deadly force”. When describing the reasonable likelihood of Deputy Wood being pulled under the car and run over or pinned against nearby cars, DA Hicks writes, “…In that immediate moment, it was absolutely necessary that Deputy Wood use deadly force.”
Unless new circumstances come to light which contradict the factual foundation upon which this decision is made, the District Attorney has determined that this case is officially closed.
A copy of the report prepared in this case has been made available on the District Attorney’s Office website at https://www.washoecounty.us/da/newsroom/reports.php.