Vargas: Shoot-don't-shoot — Las Vegas officers confront armed suspect holding wife hostage

By Joe Vargas

On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 11, Las Vegas police officers were confronted with a life-or-death scenario. The police body camera video of the encounter was released this week.

Las Vegas officers arrived at the scene of a domestic violence call at a service station convenience store to find Phillip Pitts, 41, restraining his wife and holding a gun.

Nearby, the couple’s 10-year-old daughter watches the entire scene unfold.

At close range, the first officer on scene immediately sees Pitts has a 9mm handgun and attempts to take cover behind a vehicle. Simultaneously, he informs units on the radio he has a subject with a gun. The officer orders Pitts numerous times to step away and put the gun down.

“Sir put the gun on the ground, please…” the officer pleads. There is no indication Pitts is compiling.

Emotion is high. The victim is screaming. Pitts is not responding to commands. The officer asks the victim to try and get away.

The echo of sirens can be heard getting louder in the background. Another officer arrives on the scene.

Pitts now is holding the gun at his wife’s abdomen. Approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds after the first officer arrives, a second officer makes the decision to stop the threat and fires four shots from his weapon.

Pitts goes down and his wife steps away, apparently wounded by one of the shots. One of the officers secures the suspect’s firearm and proceeds to render first aid.

Pitts later is declared dead and his wife was treated for non-life threatening injures. Their 10-year-old daughter was unharmed.

The Las Vegas Police Department held a news conference giving the play-by-play of what occurred as they know it now.

Police officers often train for scenarios like this, either through role playing or shoot-don’t-shoot video simulators. However, nothing can simulate the adrenaline and emotion of real life.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department news conference.