Henderson SWAT officer fired over vehicle fire caused by driving on rim

A tip to Henderson SWAT officers: Check your tires, or you may be fired.

That is what happened to Justin Simo, who was fired from the Henderson Police Department Monday for “serious policy violations” when he continued to drive a police SUV after the tire blew, causing the vehicle to burst into flames.

“I have determined that the circumstances that led to the total loss of a Henderson Police Department vehicle after catching fire resulted from serious policy violations that warranted my decision to terminate the employment of a SWAT officer,” Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers said in a statement Monday.

Simo, 36, destroyed a $50,000 police Chevrolet Tahoe on Feb. 27 after he drove several miles on an exposed rim after the vehicle’s tire blew out. The vehicle began smoking and caught fire near a Southern Highlands neighborhood about 11:15 p.m.

Other expensive police equipment, including a computer, tactical equipment and some firearms, were destroyed in the blaze. Fire investigators estimated the total loss of the accident to be about $60,000.

According to Henderson police spokesman Keith Paul, Simo managed to salvage several firearms from the vehicle.

Simo told investigators that he had struck a median but didn’t notice any damage to the vehicle and continued on his way home.

Before he could make it home, though, his vehicle became engulfed in fire. Simo tried to put the fire out with water bottles and fire extinguisher, but the blaze was too much for him to put out.

“The driver side tire was nearly consumed, exposing the tire rim which appeared to have partially softened along its resting point,” a Clark County fire investigator wrote in a report last month.

Investigators said that there was obvious impact damage to both the bumper and the fender of the Tahoe.

A witness who called 911 said that he followed Simo’s smoking SUV for at least a mile and a half as sparks were shooting from the car.

“Hot metal was flying. It looked like something you see in a police chase in a movie where the tire blows and you just keep driving,” he said.

Simo was not able to be reached for comment Monday.

Under a collective bargaining agreement, Simo has the right to appeal the decision.

“I have no comment for the Review-Journal,” said Norm Halliday, president of the Henderson Police Officers Association.

“I must have confidence that our officers will follow all policies and procedures designed to protect city property from avoidable damage,” Moers said.

“I am relieved that no one was injured in the incident; however, we must be responsible for our actions and be held accountable to the public we serve.”

Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.