Las Vegas, NV – The Las Vegas Metro police officer who was shot in the back of the head by a rioter is paralyzed from the neck down and will remain on a ventilator, according to his family.
Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) Officer Shay Mikalonis, 29, is awake and “seems to recognize his family members,” according to an update on a fundraising page established to help him in the wake of the attack.
“We can’t thank the staff of caring professionals at UMC for getting him this far, truly a miracle!” the page read. “Because of the life saving work and care he received, Shay has tentatively been accepted to one of the best spine rehabilitation centers in the country.”
Donors have contributed over $545,000 to Officer Mikalonis’ recovery fund so far.
Officer Mikalonis was attempting to arrest a suspect outside Circus Circus on the Las Vegas Strip during the Black Lives Matter protest at approximately 11 p.m. on June 1 when a gunman fired a single round from across the street, hitting him in the head, the Las Vegas Sun reported.
Rioters were attacking police with rocks and other objects when the assassination attempt occurred, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said during a press conference early the next morning, according to KTNV.
“Last night as officers were attempting to disperse a large crowd of protesters in front of the Circus Circus, our officers were taking rocks and bottles from the crowd,” the sheriff explained, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Officers were attempting to get some of the protesters in custody when a shot rang out. Our officer went down.”
Officer Mikalonis was rushed to University Medical Center “in extremely critical condition,” where he was placed on life support, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
K9 and SWAT officers swarmed the area and were able to apprehend the alleged shooter, who has since been identified as 20-year-old Edgar Samaniego, KTNV reported.
LVMPD detectives used video surveillance of the shooting to track Samaniego to a motel located across the street from the scene.
He has since been booked into the Clark County Detention Center on two counts of unlawful discharging of a firearm and attempted murder of a police officer, KTNV reported.
Samaniego is also being held for allegedly violating the terms of his release in connection with misdemeanor drug possession and driving under the influence charges, CBS News reported.
His attorney, Scott Coffee, said that Samaniego will plead not guilty to the charges related to the shooting.
Officer Mikalonis, a Las Vegas native, graduated from Arbor View High School in 2008, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
He has been with LVMPD for four years.
Las Vegas Police Protective Association (PPA) President Steve Grammas said that Officer Mikalonis is “one of the really good ones,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
“[He’s] a great cop and a great person…We should have more people like him,” Grammas said. “I talked to some of his partners — nothing but the highest regard for him and what type of person he is. Very caring…His mom, stepdad and brother all had great things to say about him.”
The rioting comes after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of 46-year-old George Floyd.
His charges have since been upgraded to second-degree murder.
On June 3, former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder for their role in Floyd’s arrest.
The officers had responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that Floyd had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli.
Store employees pointed out the suspect to police and they arrested him.
The complaint used to charge Chauvin said Floyd actively resisted arrest and then fought being put in the back of a police car once he had been handcuffed.
Viral cell phone video showed then-Officer Chauvin and three other officers holding Floyd on the ground.
The video showed Officer Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time the suspect lost consciousness.
Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he was unresponsive.
Floyd was pronounced dead 90 minutes later at the hospital.
After three days of violent riots and looting that left Minneapolis and its sister city, St. Paul, in flames, the state investigative agency announced it making an arrest.
Chauvin was taken into custody by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension four days after the incident and held on a $500,000 bond, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced, according to WCCO.
According to charging documents, the medical examiner’s preliminary report found no physical evidence that Floyd had suffered from asphyxiation or strangulation at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
The preliminary autopsy findings indicated Floyd had died from a combination of his underlying medical problems and possible substances.
“The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” according to the complaint.
But veteran forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden told reporters on Monday at the Floyd family press conference that his independent autopsy determined that the man had died of asphyxiation much in the same way Eric Garner died from a choke hold in New York in 2014, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The Eric Garner autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him.
But the final autopsy findings released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office hours later confirmed that Floyd had died from heart failure.
“Cause of death: Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” Floyd’s autopsy said. “Manner of death: Homicide.”
“How injury occurred: Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the report continued. “Other significant conditions: Arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use.”
The toxicology results showing fentanyl and methamphetamine directly contradicted assertions by the forensic pathologist that Floyd’s family’s attorneys hired to dispute the initial medical examiner’s report.
And a postmortem nasal swab showed that Floyd tested positive SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, according to KSTP. He had previously tested positive for COVID-19 in April 3.
Protests erupted in the Twin Cities after Floyd’s death, leaving both Minneapolis and the state’s capital of St. Paul burned, looted, and destroyed.
Rioters overran and torched the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct where the officers accused of Floyd’s homicide were assigned.
Protests spread across the United States, and became very violent in major cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Portland, Oakland, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, DC.