Hold your fire | NevadaAppeal.com

Hold your fire

Nevada Appeal editorial board

It was inevitable the charges would be reinstated against Rolland “Ron” Weddell for firing shots at a man he was trying to arrest.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against Weddell, reversing an earlier decision by former District Judge Michael Fondi, who had said Weddell was justified because the fleeing man allegedly had committed a felony.

Fondi’s ruling had some legal validity, because — as Weddell points out — Nevada law doesn’t say people can’t use deadly force in trying to make a citizen’s arrest.

The three-justice Supreme Court panel, in the opinion written by Deborah Agosti, recognizes that Nevada law allowing people to make a citizen’s arrest implies some kind of force must be used. It would be absurd to think that “Hey, stop!” would have much of an effect on anybody.

But it wasn’t clear how much force is legal. Fondi said firing shots was legal because Weddell was pursuing a suspected felon. But the court pointed out that a felony no longer carries the life-threatending weight it once did.

An election judge wearing a campaign button is committing a felony. Could you fire at him for leaving the polling place? Clearly, no.

So the Supreme Court needed to set some precedence, and it decided deadly force was unreasonable “unless (Weddell) was threated with serious bodily injury to himself or others.”

Now, it’ll be up to Weddell to try to show there was a threat of serious bodily injury. District Attorney Noel Waters says witnesses will testify James Bustamante, the man at whom Weddell fired, was running away with his hands in the air. Weddell will allege Bustamante pulled a knife. We’ll see what happens if the matter comes to trial.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court has made a decision necessary to keep the Nevada citizenry from thinking they can run around like an Old West posse, shooting from the hip at horse rustlers or drug dealers.