The accused accomplice in the homicide of a Palo Alto engineer described his three last words and the single shot that ended his life in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 29, according to a newly released police arrest report.
Megan Lee Hippie, 19, told Las Vegas Metro police that she and alleged shooter Kyle Staats, 27, had intended to rob Neil Brian Gandler, who was asleep in his car. But Staats allegedly shot and killed Gandler, according to the three-page report.
Staats and Hippie, Las Vegas residents, now face first-degree murder, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery charges, and Staats is also charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, according to police. Both were arrested separately without incident on Jan. 2.
Gandler, 42, was killed by a single bullet to the torso, according to the Clark County Coroner's office. He was in town for the CES convention, a consumer electronics trade show. He habitually slept in his car while traveling, but always in RV parks or in areas with surveillance cameras for security, according to friends. That night, he had parked in the parking lot of the 24 Hour Fitness center at 601 S. Rainbow Blvd., according to police.
The fitness center's security footage shows that Gandler arrived at the parking lot on Dec. 28 at about 10 p.m., according to police. Hippie told police that she and Staats were searching for cars to burglarize when they came upon Gandler's white Hyundai Sonata early that morning on Dec. 29 at about 1:20 a.m.
As they drove past Gandler's car, Staats allegedly commented, "Did you see that? The guy sleeping in his car," Hippie told police. They drove past the car, and Staats made a U-turn, parking next to Gandler's vehicle, driver door to driver door. Hippie and Staats sat in their vehicle for about 15 minutes and talked about robbing the sleeping man, according to her statements and surveillance footage.
Staats allegedly got out of the car with a gun in his hand and knocked on Gandler's driver-side window. Hippie said she heard Gandler say, "Don't do it." She heard a gunshot moments later, and Staats got back into the car, according to the police report.
When Hippie asked what happened, Staats allegedly said, "I think I got him."
Hippie then told Staats to drive away. They continued to burglarize additional cars after killing Gandler, she told police. At some point, they stole another vehicle, according to the report.
Police said they learned about the pair's alleged connection to the crime after receiving confidential information. Hippie had allegedly talked about being involved in the homicide at the 24 Hour Fitness parking lot, and the tipster provided Staats' name as the shooter, according to police.
Department of Motor Vehicles records revealed that Hippie owned a 2007 Pontiac fitting the description of the suspect vehicle seen in the surveillance footage: a small, dark, two-door coupe with a rear spoiler that police recognized as likely a Pontiac G5 from the early to mid 2000s, according to the report.
Police conducting surveillance on Hippie's residence observed her entering the vehicle, which had a missing or broken driver-side window covered and taped over with plastic. The spoiler had been removed from the car. When police stopped her car, Hippie allegedly admitted that she was involved in the homicide. She had removed the spoiler from her car in an effort to evade detection, she told police.
Hippie said she had seen Staats with a Glock pistol for about 1 1/2 months, according to police. She directed police to a bullet from the gun in a compartment near the car's steering wheel. After obtaining a search warrant, police found the .40 caliber Tulammo round where she said it would be. The bullet is identical to the casing collected at the homicide scene, police said.
Following information provided by Hippie, detectives staked out the apartment complex where Staats lived. He arrived at the complex in a Nissan Xterra, which was stolen, police said.
Detectives contacted Staats after he entered the apartment. A short time later, he exited the apartment and detectives took him into custody. A warrant search of the apartment found .40 caliber Tulammo ammunition and a Glock .40 caliber handgun, which was hidden inside a bathroom exhaust vent, according to police.