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Suspect in Nevada trooper’s killing linked to suspicious package

Updated March 30, 2020 - 5:47 pm

The man accused of killing a Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant on Friday delivered a suspicious package to Ely Justice Court days earlier, according to records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

John Dabritz, 65, of Ruth is accused of shooting Sgt. Benjamin Jenkins, 47, shortly before 6 a.m. on U.S. Highway 93, north of Ely, about 245 miles north of Las Vegas.

The sergeant had stopped along the highway to assist a motorist, but the motorist opened fire, according to the Highway Patrol. The motorist then stripped Jenkins of his uniform.

Dabritz was arrested about four hours later in the small town of Cherry Creek, roughly 50 miles from the site of the shooting. He is now being held in the White Pine County jail, without bail, on suspicion of aggravated murder and other felonies.

“On March 24, 2020, defendant delivered a box with concerning content to Ely Justice Court,” Ely Justice of the Peace Stephen Bishop wrote in one court document.

The document did not elaborate on what was in the box. Bishop declined to comment Monday other than to say, “We reported it to the Sheriff’s Office.”

A message left with the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office on Monday was not returned.

Court records indicate that acting Justice of the Peace Mason Simons will now oversee court proceedings for Dabritz. Bishop disqualified himself.

Another document in the Dabritz court file was generated by the Sheriff’s Office, and it details the probable cause for holding the suspect in custody. According to the document, on the morning of the shooting, deputies responded to the scene after receiving a report “from a Highway Patrol trooper of shots fired.”

“When they arrived, they discovered a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper deceased from what appeared to be a gunshot wound, and the Nevada Highway Patrol trooper’s vehicle and firearm was missing,” an investigator wrote in the document.

A vehicle at the scene “appeared to have been set on fire,” the investigator wrote. “It appeared the trooper’s body, which was near the truck on the scene, was also partially burned.”

Authorities said they found Dabritz in Jenkins’ vehicle, and he was in possession of stolen firearms.

An initial appearance for Dabritz is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Ely. A criminal complaint has not been filed.

In addition to murder, Dabritz is being held on suspicion of grand larceny of a motor vehicle and grand larceny of a firearm, injury to property and arson. Records indicated that Dabritz refused to identify his occupation and address when arrested.

His ex-wife, Haydee Dabritz, said in a telephone interview Friday that he is a former chemist who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Jenkins, a veteran of both the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, started his career with the Highway Patrol in 2009 as a trooper in Jackpot. He was promoted to sergeant in Elko in 2017.

Before joining the Highway Patrol, Jenkins worked as a training officer for the Nevada State Fire Marshal Division, as a crew supervisor for the Nevada Division of Forestry and as an assistant fire chief for the Spring Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

In 2011, Jenkins received the Gold Medal of Valor — the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s highest honor — for his actions during a domestic-related shooting in Wells, during which Jenkins and other officers came under fire and an Elko County sheriff’s deputy was critically wounded.

Law enforcement paid tribute to Jenkins throughout the weekend with officers and troopers escorting his body to and from the Clark County coroner’s office.

“Sgt. Jenkins, we’re bringing you home,” the Highway Patrol said.

Jenkins is survived by his wife, mother, children and grandchildren.

Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0390. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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