What police first described as the road rage-inspired killing of an innocent mother of four has morphed into a more complex scenario, prompting tough questions and a backlash against her family.
Tammy Meyers, 44, was shot in the head in her Las Vegas driveway shortly before midnight Thursday after confrontations that began when she was giving her 15-year-old daughter an after-hours driving lesson and the girl honked at a driver she felt was speeding, police said.
Those facts haven't changed, police Lt. Ray Steiber said Tuesday at a news conference, where he noted that the mother's life-support was disconnected on Valentine's Day, and insisted that she alone is “our victim.”
But the fatal shooting turned out to be a two-way shootout, provoked by a separate encounter with unidentified assailants, after Tammy Meyers roused her son, Brandon, from bed to grab his gun and go looking for the driver she had encountered earlier, Steiber said.
“I would never say that anybody went looking for trouble,” Steiber said when asked to characterize their five-to-10 minute drive through the neighborhood.
“It is our job, Steiber added, “to ensure that everyone is safe, regardless of what our personal opinions are on certain people's actions. They weren't criminal and I'll leave it at that.”
The family spoke at a vigil Tuesday night next to the junior high school parking lot where Kristal Meyers got her driving lesson.
“She didn't deserve this,” said Brandon Meyers, 22. “I did what I had to do to protect my family. Everyone can think what they have to think. I did it for a reason. And I'd do it for anyone I love.”
Also contradicting earlier police accounts and family statements, Steiber said homicide detectives now don't believe the suspect's grey sedan and Meyers' green Buick Park Avenue sedan ever collided, or that the assailants initially followed Meyers and her daughter home.
Comments turned against the family Wednesday on a “Tammy Myers Memorial Fund” crowd-funding website that had raised $6,000 in three days toward a $20,000 goal for funeral and hospital expenses.
Some posts faulted Tammy Meyers for going out with her armed son to search for the other driver. Others called for donations to be returned.
No one in the family called police until after the shooting. Initially, investigators had just the comments of the son and daughter to go on.
Meyers' husband, Robert, who was in Southern California at the time, said Friday that his son Brandon told him he believed there were three people in the car, and that he had hit the car at least once with his 9mm handgun.
He called his son a hero, and said his wife panicked when she went back out in search of the driver who frightened her.
“There was mistakes made, like every one of us has made in our lives, but this particular mistake was made to keep a bigger mistake from happening,” Robert Meyers said.
He didn't immediately respond Wednesday to a message left at his business, Auction Stalkers LLC.
“We're still looking for the vehicle and the people involved,” Officer Laura Meltzer, a department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.
A police sketch shows the suspect to be a man in his mid-20s with blond spiky hair and blue or hazel eyes, wearing a white V-neck T-shirt. “All indications to us are that this unknown person fired first,” Steiber said.
Kristal Meyers told police that her mother was driving them slowly home from the parking lot when a car sped up to them from behind, and that she reached over and honked their horn as it passed.
“She figured that this person was speeding, and needed to be corrected. Right or wrong, she beeped the horn,” Steiber said.
The man then blocked their car, got out and said “some words” that “frightened Mrs. Meyers and her daughter, at which time Mrs. Meyers sped past him” and went home, he said.
“Here's what happens when she gets home,” the lieutenant continued. “Mrs. Meyers is scared, but she's upset. She tells her daughter to go wake up her son, 22, to wake him up and have him come outside and get in the car with her so later they can find who frightened them and her daughter out on the roadway.”
“They left the house in search of that person,” Steiber said, and found a grey or silver four-door sedan matching the description of the car in the earlier confrontation. She followed the “suspect vehicle,” then they broke apart and she drove home. Then the vehicle came into their cul-de-sac.
“There was a volley of rounds fired from that vehicle,” and Brandon Meyers “returned fire,” the officer said. “When the firing was done, he found that his mother had been struck by gunfire. The suspect vehicle then backed out and sped away. That's what happened. Tammy is a victim.”