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Suspect in NHP trooper’s killing linked to ‘anti-government extremism’

Updated May 8, 2020 - 6:20 pm

Authorities suspect that John Dabritz committed crimes involving an explosive device in Nye County that might be linked to “anti-government extremism” just prior to the fatal shooting of a Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant in March.

In addition to the charges filed in White Pine County in the murder case, the 66-year-old man now faces charges in Nye County of possession of a component of an explosive device with intent to manufacture an explosive and possession of an explosive device, according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

The new charges add to a list of growing allegations against Dabritz that have surfaced since the March 27 shooting of Sgt. Ben Jenkins, who was killed shortly after pulling over on U.S. Highway 93, north of Ely, to check on a motorist stopped on the remote highway.

New court documents filed this week by White Pine County prosecutors revealed for the first time why, according to authorities, the man opened fire on the trooper. According to the documents, Dabritz wanted “to avoid or prevent” his arrest in connection with a series of shootings — described by prosecutors as an “act of terrorism” — hours earlier in Wells and Ely.

During those shootings, according to the documents, he shot at a propane tank and tanker trucks in Wells and then, once he entered the Ely area, fired at an electrical box and a transformer box at the base of a wind turbine.

‘Lengthy investigation’

On Friday, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had opened a “lengthy investigation” into Dabritz following his arrest in connection with the shooting.

“Detectives received information that Dabritz had potentially been previously displaying signs of anti-government extremism,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Court documents and White Pine County authorities previously identified Dabritz as a resident of Ruth, but the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on Friday revealed that Dabritz also lived in Tybo, roughly 70 miles outside of Tonopah.

Capt. David Boruchowitz told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Dabritz “had a place in Tybo,” though he was “not sure how he split his time” between his residences.

White Pine County assessor records show that Dabritz owns property in Ruth and in Ely’s Duck Creek Mining District. His Ely property is listed in the records as a “pre-development or abandoned mine.” A search of Nye County property records on Friday did not turn up any properties under Dabritz’s name.

Boruchowitz said the Nye County crimes took place “just prior to the shooting” but did not disclose an exact date or time. He did not release further details but confirmed that the explosive device and the component were located at the suspect’s home in Tybo.

‘Off the rails’

In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Dabritz “had gone completely off the rails” as he sought to warn people of his theory that COVID-19 was spreading in the water and sewer systems, according to interviews conducted by the Review-Journal with his ex-wife, Haydee, and White Pine County locals. During that time, the locals said, the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office had been contacted at least three times about Dabritz.

The man’s paranoid quest eventually landed him at William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely on a legal mental health hold, according to a hospital employee who spoke to the Review-Journal on the condition of anonymity, and he was transferred from the hospital around March 14. Court records show that he then spent a week at an undisclosed mental health facility in Clark County before he was released March 20, a week before the shooting.

His ex-wife also told the Review-Journal that he suffers from bipolar disorder and has a history of alcoholism.

Proceedings in the murder case are on hold while Dabritz undergoes a competency evaluation, though booking records indicate he remained in custody Friday at the White Pine County jail. He is charged with murder, third-degree arson, grand larceny of a motor vehicle and grand larceny of a firearm in the shooting.

Prosecutors have filed a formal notice of intent to seek the death penalty.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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