Updated July 9, 2020 - 3:40 pm
A 20-year-old man faces robbery and murder charges after a friend was shot and killed when they tried to steal a handgun from a 17-year-old last week in Pahrump, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office said.
The agency first reported the fatal shooting on June 24, after deputies were called about 3 a.m. to Desert View Hospital in Pahrump for a report of someone with gunshot wounds, Sgt. Ann Horak said in a statement last week. On Wednesday, Horak announced in a video news release that Nickolas Vonalst, of Pahrump, had been arrested in connection with the shooting, which was ruled self-defense.
The shooting happened near a Nye County School District transportation services bus yard at state Route 372 and Woodchips Road, the Sheriff’s Office has said.
Deputies believe that Vonalst and 22-year-old Kyle Bickerstaff conspired to rob a 17-year-old boy. The two men met with the 17-year-old about 2:30 a.m. June 24, “under the guise that they wanted to purchase a handgun from him,” Horak said.
“As soon as the juvenile entered the vehicle, Vonalst and Bickerstaff pointed guns at the juvenile and demanded everything he had,” Horak said.
Both men then began pistol-whipping the teenager, and they took a gun from him, Horak said.
A friend of the teenager who was outside the car then pointed a gun at Vonalst and told the men to let the teenager go. The teenager was able to get the gun back from the men.
“Bickerstaff pointed a gun at the (17-year-old) and he returned fire in self-defense, ultimately killing Bickerstaff,” Horak said.
Capt. David Boruchowitz said Wednesday that Bickerstaff was shot in the chest.
Vonalst fled. When questioned by police, he initially gave “false statements” about a gold sedan he said was involved in the shooting, Horak said.
Deputies initially arrested the 17-year-old on suspicion of murder, but “at the conclusion of the investigation, it was determined that he acted in self-defense and the murder charge has not been pursued,” Horak said.
Because the teenager no longer faces the murder charge, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office will not release his name, Boruchowitz said.
The teenager has since been “turned over” to juvenile probation services, Horak said in the statement.
Boruchowitz said the teenager may face other charges in connection with the shooting, including being a minor in possession of a weapon, but that the investigation is ongoing.
In addition to Vonalst’s arrest, 47-year-old Monika Gonzalez, of Pahrump, was arrested and faces a charge of aiding a felony offender. Horak said Gonzalez gave a handgun involved in the shooting to another person “and asked them to get rid of it.”
Boruchowitz said Gonzalez’s son is a friend of Vonalst’s.
Vonalst faces charges of murder, aiding a felony offender, battery with a deadly weapon, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, Horak said.
Although he didn’t shoot Bickerstaff, Vonalst faces a murder charge because someone died while he was allegedly committing a robbery, Boruchowitz said. Similar charges can be brought against defendants accused of sexual assaults, kidnappings or arson.