RENO, Nev. (AP) - A 22-year-old carjacker who stole a Nevada state trooper's cruiser then fatally shot himself in the chest with the patrolman's shotgun was a felon on probation in Florida for carrying a concealed weapon.
Investigators confirmed Wednesday that Devin Peterson of Jacksonville, Fla., appears to have died from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound after carjacking a second vehicle and leading police on a chase Monday on Interstate 80 east of Reno.
Florida Department of Corrections records show he was convicted of the felony gun charge in April 2011 and was sentenced to three years' probation.
Peterson fled after he and three other Jacksonville residents were pulled over and state troopers searched their SUV for marijuana about 5 miles east of Reno. The others were being held Wednesday in the Washoe County Jail on drug and conspiracy charges in lieu of $150,000 bail each. They were scheduled to make an initial court appearance Thursday via a video hookup with Sparks Justice Court.
Peterson had been attending Florida State College at Jacksonville and working at a local restaurant, according to WTEV-TV in Jacksonville.
On Wednesday, investigators corrected erroneous reports by the Nevada Highway Patrol that he shot himself multiple times after he rolled his second getaway car about 30 miles east of Reno, near Fernley.
Lyon County Sheriff's Lt. J.L. Pattison 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's tires as he fled in the stolen patrol car Monday afternoon on Interstate 80 near the Mustang exit for the infamous Mustang Ranch brothel. 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.
Peterson apparently managed to figure out how to activate a switch on the electronic lock where the trooper's weapon was being held, but details remain sketchy about the exact chain of events. Investigators at three law agencies involved in the incidents have been reluctant to release details while they continue their probes.
The ordeal began just before 4 p.m. Monday when one trooper stopped the 2013 Ford Explorer east of Reno, and a second trooper saw them and stopped to help, Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Chuck Allen said.
The driver and all three passengers were outside of the vehicle under the watch of one trooper while another trooper searched the SUV- a rental from Florida that didn't appear to belong to any of them, Allen said. He said the trooper had just pulled one of several packages of a "substantial amount" of marijuana from the vehicle and was turning to initiate arrests of all four when Peterson took off.
"The young kid decided to make a run for it, and he did and he was able to get away before we could get bracelets on them," Allen told AP on Wednesday.
Two state troopers have been placed on paid administrative leave as a routine procedure when officers are involved in shootings.
Allen said he was not aware of anything that suggested the troopers had violated any policies in their handling of their vehicles or weapons. There is no specific policy on leaving patrol cars running, as the troopers did, but in most cases the cars need to be left on because the flashing lights and other equipment require so much power, he said.
"We usually have to keep the engine running or the battery would go dead," he said.
Allen said all long guns are kept in gun racks inside the car. The racks routinely are locked but can be opened or closed electronically by activating a switch. He said he did not want to discuss details of the activating system, but the trooper had not unlocked the rack prior to departing his car, which would suggest Peterson figured out how to activate the switch.
"Apparently so," Allen said.
Mollie Bass, 29, Manuel Alejandro Rodriguez, 29, and Christian M. Magllano Alzpurua, 23, have been booked on suspicion of selling a controlled substance, possessing a controlled substance for sale and conspiracy to violate a uniform controlled substance act.
Washoe County Sheriff's spokesman Armanda Avina said his records did not indicate whether they had obtained legal counsel.
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