FRANCIS (ABC 4 News) – The family of the man shot and killed by police in West Wendover Saturday night said they believed officers used excessive force.
Lt. Kevin McKinney with the Elko County Sheriff’s Office said the incident began after an officer saw 41-year-old James Robertson driving ‘recklessly’ on Wendover Boulevard around 12:45 p.m.
McKinney said when the officer tried to pull the truck over, Robertson didn’t stop, and a second officer joined the pursuit.
Investigators said he then got out of the vehicle covered in blood after cutting his throat and started running on foot. Police chased him up a hill behind one of the gas station restrooms.
They said Robertson wielded a knife at West Wendover Police as they held him at gunpoint. One of the officers shot Robertson five times after they said he raised the knife and began walking toward officers. Robertson died at the scene from the injuries.
One day after the shooting, dozens of Robertson’s family members gathered at his home in Francis to make sense of what happened.
“I don’t feel that it was right that the way West Wendover Police Department handled the situation. It was one guy against three cops. he had a knife and they had a gun. They already knew that he had slid his throat and blood was gushing everywhere,” said Brenda Sorenson, Robertson’s aunt. “They should’ve wrestled him down, shot him in the leg, tasered him, anything.”
Lt. McKinney told ABC 4 News one of the officers did deploy a taser.
“It appears, based on the body camera video that I saw, that he was actually too far away to actually use it with any effectiveness and of course, it happened in such a split second, that the officer that he charged who had his firearm out wouldn’t have had an opportunity to change from a firearm to a taser,” said Lt. McKinney.
Jason Robertson, brother of James Robertson said the deputy he spoke to from Elko County Sheriff’s Office told him that the officer who failed to deploy the taser had not completed training yet.
“Why did they give the taser to the officer that lacked experience?” he said. “Why was that officer even in the field? Maybe if that taser was used correctly, the situation could have been resolved.”
Family members said Robertson began battling mental health issues two years after losing custody of one of his children.
“James was mentally sick,” said Sorenson. “But he was doing counseling and he was taking medications.”
His son, Tyler said Robertson was first person anyone in his family would call if they needed help.
“He was all about family. He worked his whole life. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever met. He tried everything to make the best life for us he could,” said Tyler Robertson. “When anyone was down, he’d be there to pick them up. He was my inspiration. He taught me everything I know.”
His brother said James started his own business a year ago, called James Robertson Drywall to support and provide jobs for his family.
“Best time of my life was working with him. I was actually proud to wake up and go to work everyday,” said Jason Robertson. “But they’ve taken our rock. They’ve taken our life.”
As Robertson’s family waits for answers, they said they are also struggling with figuring out who will take over the family business, who will take care of his ill mother, and who will fill his big role for their family.
“We were already a puzzle before. James held the puzzle together. Now the corners are gone. How do we get the corners back?” said his nephew, Randon Robertson.
“I’m going to give it a hundred percent. I’m going to try my best to keep us all going,” said Tyler Robertson.
If you would like to donate and help the Robertson’s family bring him home and pay for funeral costs, click here.