Sheriff: Man Reno Police Killed Fired at Officers

The man Reno police shot to death last week fired at least two shots at the officers as they ordered him to put his gun down, a Washoe County sheriff's spokesperson said.

Sheriff's deputies were continuing on Tuesday to interview witnesses to the fatal shooting Friday in downtown Reno, the second time this month a Reno police officer has fired on a suspect.

Officer Sean Jones, a five-year veteran in the department, fired once and killed Joseph Parsons, 62, who neighbors said had been firing shots into the air and pointed his pistol at police.

"In this case, the threat was obvious in that there was a person in a congested area of downtown Reno with a bunch of tourists around and Artown going on, and he's sitting there shooting a gun," Deputy Brooke Keast said.

Parsons fired at least two shots at officers as they ordered at him to put his gun down, Keast said. Parsons was dressed in black and had been sitting on a bench outside the building, she said.

Reno police were called about 2 p.m. to the complex at 118 West St., where records show he had been a resident on the edge of the downtown casino district

Jones remained on routine administrative leave Monday pending the outcome of the investigation. The Washoe County district attorney's office will determine whether the shooting was justified.

In 2005, Jones and five other members of the Reno police SWAT team were assigned to patrol New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He also has been a field training officer for new officers.

Earlier this month, Reno police officer Alan Weaver was placed on administrative leave after he shot an armed robbery suspect twice in a leg when authorities said the man, an former felon, pointed a gun at the officer during a foot pursuit. Ronnie Coleman, 31, of Stockton, Calif., was arrested on multiple charges related to the incident and an earlier robbery involving a prostitution scam.

Keast said officers are trained to shoot at someone if they are threatening their lives or the lives of others.

"They yelled at him to drop the gun, and he (Parsons) kept shooting," she said. "They gave him numerous verbal commands, and it was clear he was not listening."

Reno police Lt. Bob McDonald said both shootings involved "deadly force on deadly force."

In the Parsons case, officers considered using a Taser gun, which would have shocked and briefly incapacitated him, before he pointed a gun at them, McDonald said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)