Lawyer: Suspect in Las Vegas shooting feared for his life

Story highlights

  • District attorney says he doesn't think self-defense was a factor in the shooting
  • Defense attorney claims police interviewed his client while suspect was high on marijuana
  • Eric Milton Nowsch is accused of killing 44-year-old Tammy Meyers after reported road rage incident

Las Vegas (CNN)The lawyer for the 19-year-old man accused of killing a Las Vegas woman -- allegedly after a road rage incident -- says his client feared for his life.

Erich Milton Nowsch made his first court appearance Monday, a brief initial hearing inside a packed Clark County courtroom in which he did not enter a plea.
His lawyer, Conrad Claus, says he will argue self-defense. He questions the version of events given by police and the victim's family and claims police interviewed Nowsch while he was high on marijuana. In fact, the lawyer claims Nowsch asked police if he could get high during the standoff that ended in his arrest, and that police agreed.
    But Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, interviewed Tuesday night on Erin Burnett OutFront, said he doesn't think self-defense is a factor in the shooting.
    "I don't see that in this case," he said.
    Wolfson said authorities are looking for the person who was driving the car in which Nowsch was riding, and possibly a third person who was in the car.
    "This was a drive-by shooting. He shot out of a moving vehicle," Wolfson said. "The driver has certain culpability."
    Nowsch is charged with murder, attempted murder, assault and firing a gun from a car in the February 12 death of Tammy Meyers, 44. Police say Nowsch shot Meyers in front of her home after a confrontation while driving.
    The victim and the suspect knew each other -- a fact the family knew but police say they only found out the day of the arrest.
    According to police, the incident began when Meyers was giving her daughter a driving lesson at a school parking lot when "a silver four door car sped up behind them and pulled along the driver's side of the car." After the daughter honked the horn, the other car raced ahead and blocked their path, and a man got out of the car threatening them.
    Meyers later went looking for the car with her 22-year-old son, who was armed with a 9 mm pistol, according to police. After finding the car, they began following it. The driver stopped, and the passenger began firing at the Meyerses, according to police. Meyers drove home, but the other car followed and the occupant opened fire on them in front of their house, according to police.
    Meyers was struck in the head and died two days later.
    Claus said Meyers' son pointed a gun at Nowsch before anyone started shooting. He said his client received death threats, but he did not elaborate.
    The lawyer questions whether the alleged road rage incident between Meyers and Nowsch occurred and has doubts about the family's account of what happened.
    "There was no road rage," Claus said.
    He said accounts of Nowsch's reported discussions of the shootings with friends don't appear to be consistent with the road rage claim. He also questioned the family's initial description of the shooting suspect. Meyers' daughter described the driver who threatened them as being 6 feet tall. Nowsch is much shorter.
    "There are serious inconsistencies and problems with their story and I have serious concerns," Claus told CNN.
    A preliminary hearing was set for March 10, during which investigators will reveal more of the evidence and a judge will determine whether the case should go forward.
    However, the district attorney has issued a notice that his office may go to a grand jury instead of a preliminary hearing. The defense says such a move would indicate something weak about the prosecutors' case.
    Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told reporters after the hearing that prosecutors are sure of their case against Nowsch.
    "It is not a straightforward case," he said. "It is not a garden variety, run-of-the-mill case. We all know there are certain nuances to this case. But at the end of the day, this young man is charged with a senseless, stupid act of murder and we intend to prove it in court."
    Meyer's husband, Robert Meyers, also attended the hearing.
    "I'll be here every court date," he told reporters.