RENO — Sheriff’s officials released more details Thursday about a fatal weekend police shooting of a man driving a van toward a chicken wing cook-off in downtown Reno, including that he’d been in a minor collision before he was killed.
A Washoe County sheriff’s office statement said Raul Saavedra-Vargas was from Morgan Hill, California, and that he refused to stop the vehicle Sunday after an earlier fender-bender while he drove the wrong way on a one-way street.
The statement said a Reno police motorcycle officer tried to stop 24-year-old Saavedra-Vargas in the white minivan, but he continued driving the wrong way on another street.
As the van approached Virginia Street, at least one Reno police officer shot into the vehicle, which crashed at the Biggest Little City Wing Fest. The main downtown street was closed to vehicle traffic and crowded with pedestrians at the time, the statement said.
No motive or theories about why Saavedra-Vargas continued to drive was provided.
“We’re hoping through the course of the investigation we can determine a motive,” Washoe County sheriff’s Deputy Jeff McCaskill told The Associated Press.
Autopsy results are pending, with blood toxicology tests expected to take several weeks.
A witness, Anthony Spencer, told KOLO-TV that officers on both sides of the van fired shots.
After the van crashed into the vendor tent, police pulled the driver to the ground and began administering CPR, Spencer said.
“You could tell his intention was not to floor it through the crowd,” Spencer said.
The sheriff’s office statement said three Reno police officers were involved in the shooting, and that all were placed on administrative leave pending completion of the investigation.
No officers or other people in the area were hurt, the statement said, including two people in a vehicle involved in the earlier crash.
However, Stacy Keller, a vendor who had a booth across the street from the shooting scene told KOLO that a woman in a neighboring booth was burned by hot fryer oil while people scrambled to get away.