A state Fire Marshal's office investigator died Thursday afternoon after a several-hour-long standoff with Henderson police in a south valley neighborhood.
Eric Thatcher had worked for the fire marshal and Nevada Highway Patrol a total of nine years, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Gail Powell said. Those years included a legal fight with the Highway Patrol over losing his job.
What provoked the outburst in the upscale Anthem Highlands neighborhood was unclear Thursday. Department officials were aware that Thatcher and his wife recently split, director Jerry Hafen told The Associated Press.
Police were called to Thatcher's home over a family disturbance call after Thatcher pulled out a gun in front of a male family member. The person told police Thatcher was armed and depressed, Henderson police spokesman Todd Rasmussen said.
By the time police arrived about 11:30 a.m. in the 2700 block of Auchmull Street, south of Sun City Anthem Drive, the family member was out of the house.
Thatcher immediately began firing at officers through windows inside the home, striking at least one police car and several neighboring homes, Henderson police Chief Jutta Chambers said.
Neighbors reported hearing dozens of shots fired during more than two hours as SWAT officers closed off the neighborhood.
"It looked like there was a terrorist they were chasing around the neighborhood," said Alex Quintin, who estimated between 30 and 50 shots were fired.
Neighbor Steve Robredo said he could hear the shots over the drone of the news helicopters circling overhead.
Chambers said Henderson SWAT officers tried to negotiate with the man, but he responded by firing again on police. A SWAT officer returned fire at least once. When police entered the home they found Thatcher dead inside.
Chambers would not say whether the man was hit by the SWAT officer's shot.
"We do not know exactly what caused his death," she said.
The Highway Patrol fired Thatcher in May 2005 after an internal investigation into his arrest of a hit-and-run suspect who accused him of using excessive force.
After Thatcher challenged his firing, a hearing master determined the internal investigation was "seriously flawed" and reinstated the trooper with full back pay.
He returned to the Highway Patrol for a time before voluntarily transferring to the state Fire Marshal's office, which is also under the Department of Public Safety.
On Thursday, Thatcher's lawyer in that case, Adam Levine, said he last talked with Thatcher in January about an unrelated case. At the time, Thatcher did not mention any problems in his life, he said.
"I will always remember him as the courageous Highway Patrol trooper who stood up to the Highway Patrol when one of its investigators was withholding evidence, misrepresenting evidence and coercing false testimony," Levine said. "That investigator and the Highway Patrol officials who looked the other way have since been promoted. It doesn't seem fair."
Neighbors in Thatcher's former Henderson neighborhood, near Lake Mead Parkway and Boulder Highway, where he lived for several years, were surprised and saddened to learn of his death. They said he had two children, a boy and a girl who were both under the age of 10.
"He was a wonderful neighbor," Patricia Wiley said. "He was a really nice guy and a great father."
Sven Peterson said he was "always very pleasant." He said he had never known Thatcher to be depressed, even during his lawsuit.
Police closed off the surrounding Anthem Highlands neighborhood until about 4 p.m. as SWAT tried to evacuate surrounding homes or prevent people from walking into gunfire.
Neighbors described a chaotic scene.
Jose Jimenez told his wife their usually quiet street turned into something "out of one of those shooting movies."
Jimenez said he was sleeping in his upstairs bedroom when several pops woke him. About 30 minutes later he got a telephone call from Henderson police, ordering the couple to stay in the home.
Jimenez said the gunfire went off sporadically between 12:15 p.m. until shortly after 2 p.m. He estimated dozens of shots were fired.
Mary Hein, 54, was at work and on the phone with her daughter, who lives in a home behind Thatcher's house, she said. Hein heard gunshots over the phone when her daughter suddenly screamed for Hein's 13-year-old granddaughter to get under the bed.
Hein ran out of her workplace while SWAT officers prevented her daughter and granddaughter from leaving the house. "I'm a wreck," she said.
Quintin said the family at the center of the standoff had moved into the neighborhood during the past year, but no neighbors seemed to know Thatcher or his family.
The officer who fired at Thatcher will be placed on routine paid administrative leave, and his name will be released 48 hours after the incident, Chambers said. The Clark County coroner's office will release the official cause of Thatcher's death.
Review-Journal reporters Brian Haynes and Mike Blasky contributed to this report. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at email@example.com or 702-383-4638.