Police officer in Las Vegas critically wounded, others in N.Y., St. Louis injured in George Floyd protests

"This has been a long night for your police department ... and a tragic night for our community," the Las Vegas sheriff said Tuesday.
Officers line up in front of demonstrators on June 1, 2020, in downtown Las Vegas.
Officers line up in front of demonstrators on June 1, 2020, in downtown Las Vegas.Bridget Bennett / AFP via Getty Images

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By David K. Li, Linda Givetash and Phil Helsel

A police officer in Las Vegas was critically wounded as others in New York and St. Louis were also injured during ongoing civil unrest sparked by last week's death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, officials said Tuesday.

"This has been a long night for your police department ... and a tragic night for our community," Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Tuesday. "With these protests, which are leading to riots, one tragedy is only leading to another."

Police had responded to the area outside the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino at about 11:30 p.m. to assist with what was described as a group of "rioters," and as officers were taking a person into custody a shot was fired from across the street, striking the officer, police said.

Full coverage of George Floyd’s death and protests around the country

"Our officers were taking rocks and bottles from the crowd ... when a shot rang out and the officer went down," said Lombardo, who called the wounded officer's condition Tuesday morning "grave."

The wounded officer was identified as Officer Shay Mikalonis, 29, who was in "grave condition" and on life support Tuesday afternoon. He has been with the department for four years.

The suspect is Edgar Samaniego, 20, who police said in a statement was "firing a handgun at the officers as he walked down the street."

Samaniego was found at a motel across the street from the shooting and SWAT officers took him into custody, police said.

He has been booked on one count of attempted murder on a police officer and two counts of unlawful discharging of a firearm, police said.

A couple hold each other in downtown Las Vegas at a rally on June 1, 2020.Bridget Bennett / AFP via Getty Images

At around the time of that shooting, at about 11:22 p.m., local and federal officers were guarding a federal courthouse, police said. They were then allegedly approached by a man in body armor carrying "multiple firearms," the sheriff said.

“During the interaction, the subject reached for his firearm and the officers engaged him," fatally shooting him, Lombardo said.

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Assistant Sheriff Chris Jones said at a news conference later Tuesday that the suspect killed was Jorge Gomez, 25, of Las Vegas, who had two Glock pistols and a third Glock pistol that was "inserted into a carbine conversion kit."

Jones said that near the courthouse just after 11 p.m. a crowd had formed and "individuals within the crowd were becoming rowdy," and were given a police order to disperse. Most did leave the area but some people, including Gomez, remained.

Gomez allegedly walked towards the courthouse ignoring orders to disperse, and a Metro police officer "fired several rounds from a low-lethal shotgun," Jones said.

"This caused Mr. Gomez to turn northbound toward the other officers who were trying to get to our downed officer," Jones said. "Those officers were threatened by Mr. Gomez as he raised his firearm towards them, and they engaged him, firing several rounds and striking him."

Gomez was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Video was shown at the news conference from before the shooting that showed what Jones said was Gomez, with the carbine slung and holding a sign.

Meanwhile in St. Louis, Missouri, four officers were shot after a peaceful protest turned violent in the early hours Tuesday. Two officers were hit in the leg, one in the foot and one in the arm, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Commissioner Col. John W. Hayden said at a news conference.

"Some coward fired shots at officers," he said. "Thankfully, they're alive. They're alive."

People had pelted officers with rocks and fireworks throughout the night before shots were fired at the police line, Hayden added. None of their injuries were believed to be life-threatening. It wasn't immediately clear whether a single or multiple shooters were involved, he said.

In New York, a state police officer and a Buffalo police officer suffered serious injuries after being hit by a truck during protests in the city. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the two officers were in stable condition.

A New York City police officer was also struck by a vehicle in the Bronx early Tuesday, police said. Officers were investigating reports of break-ins when a sergeant got out of an unmarked vehicle and was hit by a black sedan that subsequently fled the scene, police told NBC News's local affiliate WNBC.

The sergeant suffered serious injuries and was last reported to be in stable condition at a local hospital, police said. No arrests have been made and the suspect remained at large.

The president of Lieutenants Benevolent Association representing command officers in New York City wrote a letter to its members on Monday blaming politicians — including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — for wrongfully blaming the police for the rise in violence and ignoring the danger and injuries officers are facing.

Fireworks go off in front of police who were responding to protesters in front of police headquarters in St. Louis on Monday.Colter Peterson / AP

"These out-of-touch and inept politicians are obviously using the members of law enforcement as pawns," Lou Turco wrote in a letter obtained by NBC News. "The politicians see our members as being expendable, they show no concern about our safety, they show no concern about our members returning home safely to our families."

Floyd's death incited rage over the treatment of minorities, particularly African Americans, as he is viewed as the latest victim in a series of deaths at the hands of police.

Civilians have also sustained serious injuries — and even been killed — in the protests that have seen thousands arrested.

In Louisville, Kentucky, local business owner David McAtee was shot dead during an exchange of gunfire between police, the National Guard and protesters on Monday. It remains unclear whether the fatal shot was fired by law enforcement or someone else, however Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad was subsequently relieved of duty after it was revealed that the officers involved did not activate their body cameras.

New York City's police department is among those facing criticism, most recently after footage emerged on Saturday of two NYPD vehicles driving into a crowd of protesters. New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told the "TODAY" show on Monday that “anyone that looks at that has to be troubled by what they saw” and vowing there would be an investigation into the incident.

Jonathan Dienst, Tom Winter and Kurt Chirbas contributed.