Shot officer was targeted at Vegas protest, authorities say

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A prosecutor said Friday a 20-year-old Las Vegas man deliberately shot and gravely wounded a police officer during a Las Vegas Strip protest of the death George Floyd in Minneapolis, and said the man fired at least two other shots that night.

Justice of the Peace Melanie Andress-Tobiasson cited her review of police video that hasn’t been made public yet in the attempted murder, battery and firearms case against Edgar Samaniego.

Prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci said the footage provides “visual evidence of the actual act.”

The judge said it shows Samaniego “walking by, taking out a gun and firing ... at officers.”

Andress-Tobiasson set bail at $1 million for Samaniego, who has remained jailed since his arrest several hours after the late Monday wounding of Officer Shay Mikalonis.

Mikalonis, 29, remains hospitalized in critical condition after surgery for a head wound, Pesci said.

“This isn’t simply because it was a police officer,” Andress-Tobiasson said as she considered Pesci’s characterization of Samaniego as a danger to the community.

Floyd's death on May 25 has sparked ongoing protests in cities around the U.S., including some that have turned violent. In Las Vegas, demonstrations last weekend resulted in hundreds of arrests, and police used tear gas, pepper balls and beanbag projectiles to disperse crowds. The same night Mikalonis was wounded, police shot and killed a man they said was armed with several guns and refused orders to leave an area near federal courthouses.

“Nothing justifies thinking it’s OK to ... attempt to take the life of some other individual human being," Andress-Tobiasson said.

Samaniego was not asked to enter a plea, pending a July 30 preliminary hearing.

Related: Anti-racism protests across the U.S.

Andress-Tobiasson will be asked at that time whether there is enough evidence for Samaniego to stand trial in state court. He could face more than 40 years in prison if he is convicted of attempted murder and battery with a weapon causing substantial injury.

Samaniego stood silently in court in shackles and a surgical mask.

An appointed public defender, Scott Coffee, said later that Samaniego will plead not guilty. It wasn’t clear if he could post $1 million bail. Several family members declined to speak with a reporter.

Samaniego also is being held without bail on accusations that he violated the terms of release on separate misdemeanor driving under the influence and illegal drug possession charges. Trial in that case is pending.

Authorities said he shot Mikalonis while the officer was arresting a protester near the Circus Circus hotel-casino.

Pesci said Friday that police found a “bullet strike” at the casino, and two empty bullet casings on a balcony of a motel where Samaniego was arrested. Those casings — and one found at the shooting scene — matched a handgun found in the room where police found Samaniego and his girlfriend, the prosecutor said.


This story has been corrected to accurately spell the name of attorney Scott Coffee, not Coffey.