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Driver arrested after 2 troopers killed in hit-and-run on Las Vegas freeway, police say

Undersheriff Andrew Walsh, right, speaks about two Nevada State Troopers that were struck and killed on I-15, during the press conference as Deputy Chief Branden Clarkson looks down at Metro headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Las Vegas. Police say the troopers were checking on a sleeping driver on the I-15 freeway around 3:30 a.m. when they were struck. The suspect was found hours later. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP) Undersheriff Andrew Walsh, right, speaks about two Nevada State Troopers that were struck and killed on I-15, during the press conference as Deputy Chief Branden Clarkson looks down at Metro headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Las Vegas. Police say the troopers were checking on a sleeping driver on the I-15 freeway around 3:30 a.m. when they were struck. The suspect was found hours later. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
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LAS VEGAS -

Two Nevada state troopers in Las Vegas who had stopped to help a driver on the state's busiest freeway were killed in the pre-dawn hours Thursday when an impaired driver struck them, authorities said.

Las Vegas police Undersheriff Andrew Walsh said at a mid-day news conference that they had arrested the driver, who fled after hitting the two officers and evaded authorities for hours before the car involved in the hit-and-run crash was found at a nearby apartment complex.

"Right now during this very tragic time, the Nevada state police is going to need that love and support from the community more than ever," Walsh said.

The police department has identified the driver as Jemarcus Williams, 46. Court and jail records did not list on Thursday night an attorney for Williams who could speak on his behalf.

Williams faces charges of reckless driving, DUI and failing to stop at the scene of the crash, according to court records. Because the alleged crimes left two people dead, the charges include a sentencing enhancement that could add decades to Williams' punishment if he is convicted.

Around 3:30 a.m., police said, the two officers had stopped to check on a driver who was asleep behind the wheel on Interstate 15 near downtown Las Vegas when a white Chevrolet HHR struck them both.

The driver did not stop, said Deputy Police Chief Branden Clarkson. But he said investigators found the car unoccupied at an apartment complex around 8 a.m. He did not say how the suspect was found.

Williams is due to make his first court appearance Friday morning.

One trooper was pronounced dead at a hospital. The other died at the scene.

The slain troopers' names have not been released, but Clarkson described them as husbands with children.

Video released by the police department showed the bodies of both troopers being escorted to the coroner's office by about two dozen officers on motorcycles, their blue-and-red police lights flashing.

Outside the coroner's office, the law enforcement officers were joined by dozens more to salute as the bodies, which were covered with American flags, were carried inside by uniformed state troopers.

The coroner's office said Thursday afternoon that it was still investigating and could not yet identify the troopers.

Gov. Joe Lombardo, who said he was "profoundly saddened" by the deaths, ordered all U.S. flags in Nevada to be flown at half-staff until the troopers' funerals.

"This is a devastating loss for Nevada law enforcement, the city of Las Vegas, and our entire state," Lombardo said in a statement. "As we mourn these troopers, we will never forget their bravery, courage, and sacrifice."

A stretch of the highway and several on-ramps were shut down for hours after the deaths, snarling traffic for miles.

In 2021, not far from where the two troopers were killed Thursday, another state trooper was struck and killed on Interstate 15 during the pursuit of a stolen vehicle. The carjacking suspect, who led officers on a chase throughout Las Vegas and neighbouring North Las Vegas, hit trooper Micah May while he was putting down a tire-deflating device across freeway lanes.

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Associated Press writer Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed.

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