A residential neighborhood of east Las Vegas played home to a grisly and tragic scene last week, in which an as-yet-unexplained shootout resulted in two deaths, one injury, and the apparent disruption of a young child’s family life. At least one neighbor witnessed the tragedy unfold in real time, watching as shots rang out while he was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher. Suspecting trouble and a volatile situation, he had called for an emergency police response and had the awareness – remarkable under the bizarre circumstances he found himself in – to warn the 911 dispatcher to send police quickly but without their sirens blaring. He feared that the sound of imminent law enforcement might escalate an ugly situation into a deadly one. 
Details are still emerging about the incident, but it appears that the neighbor’s instincts were correct. Based on early reports, it appears that a vehicle carrying a man, a woman, and a small child – the child has been described as a four-year-old girl – was traveling down Silver Saddle Street when it suddenly pulled into a driveway in the residential area. (Silver Saddle Street is a short spur that connects Sombrero Drive and Golden Arrow Drive, a short distance northeast of the major intersection of East Desert Inn Road and South Eastern Avenue in the east valley.) This was in the middle of the day on Thursday, and once the vehicle stopped the man and woman exited the vehicle and entered into a loud and aggressive verbal exchange. As the neighbor looked on, he saw that the man was holding a black object in his hand; at first the neighbor assumed that it was a cell phone, but once the man began pointing it toward the woman the neighbor realized that it was a handgun. 
Apparently drawn outside by the loud argument unfolding in his driveway, the resident of the home – again, at this early stage it appears that the vehicle pulled into a “random” driveway and the occupants of the vehicle had no connection whatsoever to the resident – came outside. The sequence is unclear, but it seems that the resident returned to the home at some point and re-emerged with a rifle. (It is also possible that he assessed the danger of the situation before walking out of his front door, and in that case he may have first come to the scene already armed with the rifle.) And – again, with the caveat that this sequence of events may be inaccurate because it is based solely on early media reports – it seems that the woman passed off the four-year-old girl to the resident in some manner. The girl had apparently been moving outside of the vehicle as the two adults’ argument continued. 
So the neighbor is on the phone with the 911 dispatcher calling in a low-key police response to try and defuse the situation; the resident is armed with a rifle and is somehow also helping to remove the four-year-old girl from the heart of the fray; and the man is pointing a handgun at the woman while the two continue their loud verbal altercation. That scene is tense enough as it is, but then something happened to change it from tense to tragic. Perhaps it was the sound of sirens in the distance – the neighbor is quoted as yelling at the 911 dispatcher as shots rang out, admonishing the operator for not heeding his advice to send police without sirens – or perhaps it was just the inevitable boiling over of this pressure-cooker scenario; whatever the cause, the shooting began. We can only speculate who shot first and at whom, but we know that the woman and man each suffered a fatal wound, the resident (armed with the rifle) was not harmed, and another person inside (or emerging from the interior of) the resident’s home suffered a non-life-threatening bullet injury. (Turning to that speculation, we might imagine that the handgun-armed man shot the woman, attempted to shoot the rifle-armed resident but missed – striking the other person – and then was shot by the resident. One media report suggests that the man’s death may have resulted from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There is also a report that the woman may have suffered a stabbing wound.) 
Again, this is entirely speculative. What is known is that the man and woman later succumbed to their injuries, and the four-year-old girl was placed with Child Protective Services. And a quiet neighborhood is now marked by an outlandish and frightening tragedy that has residents wondering whether they misunderstood the character of the area. 
The fact is that firearms can cause irreversible injury or death in a literal flash, and this lethality means that an altercation involving a firearm – or multiple guns – can escalate from an argument into an action-movie scene in mere moments. In today’s polarized political climate, different observers will take different lessons from this tragedy. Those who are skeptical about the pervasiveness of firearms in our society will point to the man’s use of a handgun to turn what may have been a domestic dispute into a slaying. On the other hand, those who advocate for good-intentioned people to remain armed and vigilant will see this as a situation where a good guy with a gun – the resident, rifle at his side – helped stop a bad guy with a gun. Neither of these perspectives is “right” and the other “wrong,” and observers on both sides of this divide should be able to agree that training in the safe operation of firearms is vitally important.
If you or a loved one have been harmed by the intentional, reckless, or negligent actions of another person wielding a firearm, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney for guidance. In these cases the state of mind of the shooter can play a pivotal role, and only an attorney seasoned in trial practice can be relied on to select an open-minded jury, carefully study the forensic evidence, and make a compelling case that the shooter had the appropriate mental state necessary to warrant recovery of damages.