Nevada trooper dies after being hit in Vegas freeway chase
LAS VEGAS (AP) — People are mourning the death of a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper, who was struck by a vehicle police said was driven by an armed carjacking suspect trying to elude troopers on a busy freeway near the Las Vegas Strip.
Trooper Micah May, 46, died Thursday, Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. His “heroic actions and contributions to the State of Nevada will never be forgotten,” the Democratic governor said.
U.S. and state flags will be lowered to half-staff on Monday to honor May, Sisolak said Friday.
The vehicle that struck the officer was disabled by crashes from NHP vehicles, and the driver was shot and killed by law enforcement officers who converged on the Interstate 15 crash.
Authorities identified the slain suspect as Douglas Claiborne, 60.
Claiborne, originally from Iowa, was once arrested while traveling through an airport in Texas, and lived on plentiful trust fund money in various places in and around Honolulu, said Victor Bakke, his longtime criminal defense lawyer in Hawaii. He also was sometimes homeless.
Claiborne had a severe methamphetamine addiction that became worse in recent years, Bakke said in a telephone interview. He said he was surprised by reports from authorities that Claiborne had a gun and stole a car.
The attorney said videos he saw of the chase showed the vehicle in which his client died resembled a car he used to own in Hawaii.
“If I had to guess, I’d say he was high out of his mind and hadn’t slept for days,” Bakke said. “Maybe he thought it was his car.”
The highway patrol said the incident began with a chase on surface streets in North Las Vegas and May was struck a little before noon Tuesday as he deployed a tire-deflating device across lanes of Interstate 15.
Las Vegas police are investigating the shooting. They have not identified officers who fired shots or released details about their police agencies. The NHP said Claiborne was armed.
May is survived by his wife and two children. During 13 years with the Highway Patrol, he received awards for apprehending impaired drivers and a departmental Medal of Valor in 2014, the state agency said in a statement.
The Dodge Charger patrol car that May drove was decorated with messages and flowers Friday, parked outside the highway patrol office in Las Vegas.
”This is a time of enormous grief for our agency, his family, and our communities,” the NHP statement said.
Bakke said he knew Claiborne for 20 years and characterized him as generous, likable and eccentric during periods of sobriety. His connection with Claiborne was first reported by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.
Bakke acknowledged Claiborne was a convicted felon with arrests for robbery, assault, making a terror threat, a scuffle with a roommate and felony drug charges.
The attorney said he believed police and troopers had to respond to Claiborne as a threat and said he and Claiborne’s family wanted to help May and his family, possibly through a fund.
Bakke recalled representing Claiborne in April 2015 when he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Hawaii to conspiracy to commit bribery in a prison smuggling case.
Claiborne admitted his involvement in smuggling methamphetamine, cigarettes and other items into a Hawaii state prison where he had been serving a sentence for a conviction on a probation violation in an attempted assault case.
Bakke said Claiborne served more than two years in prison and he became erratic and his physical and mental condition deteriorated following his release from federal custody in October 2019.
“Once that structure ended, that’s when he really started to go downhill,” Bakke said, adding that he had not heard from Claiborne for several months.