Another Clark County Cop Kills and Walks

No one can say for certain what happened the night that Ruslan Zhgenti died.

Henderson, Nevada, police who investigated the incident contend that Zhgenti went to the home of his estranged wife and co-worker, Sabina Iskenderova, at 1:15 a.m. a month into the couple's trial separation. Officials claim that Zhgenti was armed and intent on triggering a confrontation. The four bullets that hit him -- including one in the head -- speak to the finality of that confrontation. Henderson police indicate that the shooting was justifiable self-defense. It is apparent that they believe there are only two living witnesses to the incident: Sabina Iskenderova herself, and Edward Little, the police officer who fired the fatal shots.

If it seems suspicious that Little was conveniently inside the couple's home, take heart: you are not alone in thinking so. It is suspicious. While the media has danced around the subject, it seems readily apparent why a man would be in the home of a woman other than the one he shares with his wife, and it can be referred to as "community policing" by only the least jaded.

Ruslan Zhgenti suspected that his wife was having an affair, and apparently died in the process of proving that. Whether or not he took actions that justified his shooting is up for debate, as is whether or not Henderson citizens can trust the Henderson Police Department to perform an unbiased investigation of one of their own.

The Clark County Coroner's Office claims that since Little was off-duty and used his own personal weapon there would not be a coroner's inquest into Zhgenti's death. That is somewhat surprising, considering the coroner's office has conducted at least four inquests of shootings involving off-duty officers within the past 20 years:

  • In 2003, officer Robert Johnson, who was volunteering at a fireworks stand with his wife, shot an armed robber after the suspect pointed a gun at them. Johnson was not in uniform and didn't identify himself as an officer.

  • In 1999, officer Dennis Devitte shot and killed a man who walked into Mr. D's bar and started shooting patrons, including the officer. Devitte was not in uniform and didn't identify himself as an officer.

  • In 1995, officer Merl Sage intervened in a man raping a woman across the street from Sage's house. The suspect lunged at Sage, and Sage shot twice. Sage didn't identify himself as an officer and was not in uniform.

  • In 1993, multiple officers who had been celebrating a birthday tackled a purse-snatcher outside a bar. The man stopped breathing and died.

Coroner Mike Murphy claims that the off-duty officers noted above were performing as police officers even while off-duty, which justified the inquests.

He did not clearly explain why an off-duty officer volunteering to work a fireworks stand (Johnson) is any more "taking enforcement action" than is an off-duty officer volunteering to work beside a nightstand, but it is fair to suspect that both can be categorized as a gray area and matter of judgment by the coroner.

It may be worth noting that Mike Murphy also presided over the inquest regarding the shooting of Erik Scott, a former West Point cadet and Army officer gunned down by Las Vegas police in a flurry of gunshots outside the entrance of a crowded Costco. The one-sided presentation of the inquest procedure has come under considerable fire as the result of the Scott case, but the sad truth of the matter is that the process would still be viewed entirely as a local problem had Scott's family and West Point alumni not brought the case to national attention. In more than 200 police-involved shootings dating back to the days of disco, the one-sided Clark County inquest has never resulted in criminal charges being filed against an officer.