NATIONAL NEWS

Driver arrested after 2 troopers killed in Las Vegas freeway hit-and-run was impaired, police say

Nov 30, 2023, 10:48 AM | Updated: Dec 1, 2023, 10:05 am

Nevada State Police and other law enforcement officers embrace in the parking lot after the body of...

Nevada State Police and other law enforcement officers embrace in the parking lot after the body of a state trooper was taken into the Clark County Coroner's Office in Las Vegas, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. Two troopers who were assisting a motorist early Thursday morning were hit by a vehicle and killed, according to Nevada State Police. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two Nevada state troopers in Las Vegas who had stopped to help a driver on the state’s busiest freeway were killed in the pre-dawn hours Thursday when an impaired driver struck them, authorities said.

Las Vegas police Undersheriff Andrew Walsh said at a mid-day news conference that they had arrested the driver, who fled after hitting the two officers and evaded authorities for hours before the car involved in the hit-and-run crash was found at a nearby apartment complex.

“Right now during this very tragic time, the Nevada State Police is going to need that love and support from the community more than ever,” Walsh said.

The state police on Thursday identified the officers as Sgt. Michael Abbate, who joined the agency in December 2013 and was recently promoted to sergeant, and Trooper Alberto Felix, who joined in 2019 after service in the U.S. Air Force.

Police identified the driver as Jemarcus Williams, 46. Court and jail records did not list on Thursday night an attorney for Williams who could speak on his behalf.

Williams faces charges of reckless driving, DUI and failing to stop at the scene of the crash, according to court records. Because the alleged crimes left two people dead, the charges include a sentencing enhancement that could add decades to Williams’ punishment if he is convicted.

Around 3:30 a.m., the two officers had stopped to check on a driver who was asleep behind the wheel on Interstate 15 near downtown Las Vegas when a white Chevrolet HHR struck them both, police said.

The driver did not stop, said Deputy Police Chief Branden Clarkson. But he said investigators found the car unoccupied at an apartment complex around 8 a.m. He did not say how the suspect was found.

One trooper was pronounced dead at a hospital. The other died at the scene.

Williams is due to make his first court appearance Friday morning.

Video released by the police department showed the bodies of both troopers being escorted to the coroner’s office by about two dozen officers on motorcycles, their blue-and-red police lights flashing.

Outside the coroner’s office, the law enforcement officers were joined by dozens more to salute as the bodies, which were covered with American flags, were carried inside by uniformed state troopers.

Gov. Joe Lombardo, who said he was “profoundly saddened” by the deaths, ordered all U.S. flags in Nevada to be flown at half-staff until the troopers’ funerals.

“This is a devastating loss for Nevada law enforcement, the city of Las Vegas, and our entire state,” Lombardo said in a statement. “As we mourn these troopers, we will never forget their bravery, courage, and sacrifice.”

A stretch of the highway and several on-ramps were shut down for hours after the deaths, snarling traffic for miles.

In 2021, not far from where the two troopers were killed Thursday, another state trooper was struck and killed on Interstate 15 during the pursuit of a stolen vehicle. The carjacking suspect, who led officers on a chase throughout Las Vegas and neighboring North Las Vegas, hit trooper Micah May while he was putting down a tire-deflating device across freeway lanes.

___

Associated Press writer Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed.

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Driver arrested after 2 troopers killed in Las Vegas freeway hit-and-run was impaired, police say