By Scott Sonner
RENO, Nev. — The man who hijacked a Nevada state trooper's cruiser and used the patrolman's shotgun to carjack another car before allegedly committing suicide appears to have died from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, investigators said Wednesday.
Initial reports from the Nevada Highway Patrol that indicated the victim shot himself multiple times were incorrect, Lyon County Sheriff's Lt. J.L. Pattison said. He said the coroner's report is not official yet, but it's clear there was only one gunshot wound.
"Unofficially, it is self-inflicted," Pattison told The Associated Press. "There is only one shot. A shotgun is pretty effective."
State troopers fired shots at the suspect as he fled in the stolen patrol car Monday afternoon near the Mustang exit on Interstate 80, about 5 miles east of Reno. But Pattison said no law officers fired their weapons at the scene where the victim shot himself near Fernley, in Lyon County, about 15 miles farther east.
"The only shooting that took place in Lyon County was the suspect that shot himself in the chest. There was no law enforcement shooting at that scene," he said.
The Lyon County sheriff's office is acting as the coroner conducting an independent investigation into the death of the victim, who was a passenger with three other people in a 2013 Ford Explorer with Florida plates that was pulled over by two troopers just before 4 p.m. Monday. The small, rural county does not have a coroner's office.
The troopers, who have been placed on paid administrative leave, were searching the car when the suspect somehow managed to make off with one of the cruisers.
Other law enforcement officials started chasing the stolen vehicle, and eventually shot out its tires, patrol officials said.
But when the suspect left in the patrol vehicle, he took the trooper's shotgun and carjacked a 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix, troopers said.
Marie Coates, of Fernley, who was driving the Pontiac, wasn't harmed. She told KOLO-TV in Reno that she was headed eastbound on I-80 when the stolen trooper's car merged onto the highway and nearly hit her. She came upon the disabled cruiser blocking the highway and a man got out and talked to a woman in another car who drove off before he approached Coates.
"That's when I noticed the gun," Coates said. She said he walked up to her and fired shots above her car. "He started screaming at me, `Get out of the car, I'm not kidding.'"
Authorities have not identified the suspect or a female passenger in the vehicle that was originally pulled over. They identified two other people in the SUV as Manuel Alejandro Rodriguez, 29, and Christian M. Magllano Alzpurua, 23, both of Jacksonville, Fla.
Both men have been booked in the Washoe County Detention Center on suspicion of selling a controlled substance, possessing a controlled substance for sale and conspiracy to violate a uniform controlled substance act. Bail was set at $150,000 for each man.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press