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Former police union president pleads not guilty to charges stemming from crash

Updated January 19, 2023 - 7:42 pm

Former Henderson police union President Gary Hargis had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf to misdemeanor charges Thursday related to allegations of involvement in a hit-and-run crash last year.

Hargis was suspended from his job as a Henderson police officer after he was accused of striking a motorcyclist while driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee on Oct. 13.

He was not in Henderson Municipal Court for a Thursday hearing, but attorney Adam Solinger appeared on his behalf.

Solinger asked the court to set a trial date in March, while city prosecutor Matt Lay requested the condition of no further criminal arrests or citations while the case is pending.

Henderson Justice of the Peace Rodney Burr granted the city’s request and scheduled a March 13 trial for Hargis.

Eighteen-year-old motorcyclist Kevin Dammers said he suffered an ankle injury when he was struck near the intersection of Greenway Road and Van Wagenen Street.

According to police, an SUV crossed into the motorcycle’s lane while making a right turn, striking it head on.

Dammers attended Thursday’s hearing.

“It doesn’t feel fair. I’m not going to say that they’re trying to protect him because I don’t know what they’re doing,” Dammers said. “They don’t tell me anything. But it doesn’t seem as if it is going the way it would normally go if this situation had occurred and a police officer was not involved.”

After the hearing, Solinger said he could not comment on the substance of the case.

“It’s putting a trial date on calendar so that the people with the stake in it the city of Henderson, ourselves have kind of a deadline to talk to each other, get a chance to look at the discovery and discuss any potential issues in the case,” Solinger said.

Hargis is required to appear in court at the next hearing, according to Solinger.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli said in November that the Clark County DA’s office declined to file a felony hit-and-run charge against Hargis because prosecutors could not find sufficient evidence to prove Dammers suffered bodily injury.

He said photos were provided but not medical records, which did not prove the injury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dammers said three different police officers took photos of his bruised ankle. He said he had been contacted by the city while authorities weighed possible charges.

Police said a witness followed the Jeep, which was registered to Hargis’ wife, after the collision. When confronted, the man driving the Jeep said, “No your friend hit me.”

An officer who responded to the crash saw the same Jeep parked behind the Henderson Police Officers’ Association office on Panama Street, and video surveillance footage showed Hargis exited the office at 11:56 p.m., about 15 minutes before the crash.

Henderson police body worn camera captured an officer knocking on Hargis’ door with no answer just hours after the crash. Later that morning, police spoke with Hargis, who said he went to bed at 10:30 p.m. the previous night despite being captured on video.

“I don’t know what my son might have done. I don’t know what my roommate might have done. I don’t know what my wife might have done. I don’t know anything,” said Hargis, whose face was completely blurred in the police video.

Misdemeanor charges of duty to stop at the scene of an accident, failure to maintain a lane of travel, and failure to give information to a party involved in a crash were filed against Hargis, who started working for the city in August 2020.

In November, he lost re-election as president of the union to Shawn Thibeault, who took over as president this month.

“Gary Hargis remains on administrative leave with his police powers suspended,” city spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said in an email Thursday.

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Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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