RENO — The gunfire had the makings for controversy when three white police officers shot a black man multiple times last year in a downtown Reno casino parking garage.
The trio of Reno officers said Arthur Richardson Jr. pointed his gun at them while he suggested he wanted them to kill him.
But Richardson didn’t die after they fired their 9mm revolvers a total of 14 times.
In fact, they ended up helping save his life, and he later apologized for putting them in the “precarious position of doing what they had to do.”
The unusual outcome in a so-called attempted “suicide by cop” unfolds in a 40-page investigative report clearing the officers last week of any wrongdoing in the June 2015 shooting. Casino surveillance video shows Richardson pull a .45 caliber handgun from his waist band and point it at police, their guns drawn 20 feet away with bystanders nearby.
Officer Wesley Leedy, a six-year veteran of the force, said in an interview his partner once shot a suspect, but he’d never personally pulled the trigger. Moments later, the ex-helicopter pilot for an Army National Guard medivac unit that served in Afghanistan experienced another “first.”
“I have applied first aid to gunshot victims numerous times, but it was the first time I applied first aid to a gunshot wound I personally caused,” Leedy told The Associated Press.
The officers responded to the scene after Richardson pointed a gun at another man’s head. When he refused to comply with multiple commands to show his hands and get on the ground, they eventually fired until Richardson collapsed, the report said.
Officer Aaron Flickinger kicked his gun away and Officer Christopher Good handcuffed him as some in a crowd of onlookers became agitated.
“It was apparent they did not approve of what we had just done and made it very well known,” Leedy said.
As the other officers quieted the crowd and Richardson slipped in and out of consciousness, Leedy un-cuffed him and initiated first aid. According to the investigative report, Richardson asked, “What are you doing?”
Leedy told Richardson he was “putting pressure on your wound.” He said Richardson responded, “Just let me die.”
“I’ll never forget that,” Leedy told AP on Monday.
Richardson later told detectives from his hospital bed they were “good guys.” A nurse said Richardson told her he wanted police to shoot him because he “wanted to die” but “was too afraid to do it myself.”
In subsequent statements to police, Richardson — who was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in 2000 — said he knew he’d “be in big trouble because I’m a felon.”
“My intentions weren’t to hurt anybody. My intentions were to not go to jail,” he said. “So I chose for them to kill me, and obviously that part didn’t work.”
Richardson pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including assault with a deadly weapon upon an officer and felon in possession of a firearm. He apologized in December before Judge Janet Berry sentenced him to six years in prison.
“Words can’t express the remorse or regret I feel for the intolerable acts that put me here and for the police that I respect that I put in the precarious position of doing what they had to do given their profession,” Richardson said.
“Whether it was self-loathing, self-pity, or depression, the sort of exploits that were going through my mind that night don’t excuse my actions,” he said. “Suicide by cop is not only a vulgar term, it’s a vulgar idea.”
Leedy said he was glad it was proven to be “a good shooting.”
Officers increasingly face “tough crowds” quick to judge their actions, he said. He remembers being welcomed home from Afghanistan as “a hero, no matter what I had done.”
“But then, when I take off that uniform and put on a blue uniform, it doesn’t matter what I do or what life-saving efforts I provide on a daily basis, many people believe we are truly racially motivated and corrupt,” he said. “I hope this helps show there are good officers in this town trying to make a difference.”