Updated August 4, 2023 - 6:44 pm
An off-duty Laughlin deputy constable opened fire on a group of juveniles stealing alcohol at a Henderson grocery store, police records show.
He also held a bystander, who had no involvement in the alleged theft, at gunpoint during the June incident, according to a police report obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Craig Dahlheimer, who served legal papers and enforced civil orders, was suspended immediately after Laughlin Constable Jordan Ross learned of the incident.
“A deputy constable is trained and authorized to intervene to protect people from harm,” Ross said. “But to intervene in a misdemeanor theft? No.”
Both Dahlheimer and his attorney declined to comment.
Dahlheimer, who has worked for the Laughlin constable’s office since 2012, has not been charged in the incident. A Henderson police spokesman wrote in an email Tuesday that it was still an open investigation.
Dahlheimer identified himself as an off-duty police officer when he spotted the theft at the Vons Grocery Store at 2511 Anthem Village Drive around 8:30 p.m. on June 15, the report said.
He told Henderson police officers, who responded after the shooting, that he tried to stop thieves as they left the store without paying for $65 worth of Twisted Tea.
Dahlheimer said he commanded: “police stop,” but they continued walking.
Dahlheimer, a former military police officer, followed the juveniles into the parking lot, where they got into a silver or gray car and sped toward him, according to the report. In fear of getting hit, Dahlheimer said, he brandished his weapon and shot one round at the ground toward the fleeing car.
He then pointed his gun at another man outside the store and told him to get on the ground before realizing he was not involved, the report states. The report did not name that person, and the man left before police arrived.
“To point a firearm at someone, for what reason? It’s a theft,” said retired Rockford, Ill., police Chief Chet Epperson, who serves as an expert witness in police force cases and reviewed the police report at the Review-Journal’s request. “There’s no information in here that the person was armed with a knife or a gun.”
Dahlheimer could not provide police with the make and model of the suspect’s vehicle. The alleged thieves were not found, and no hospitals reported treating gunshot victims, according to the report.
Police took Dahlheimer’s gun at the scene.
Warning shot deemed ‘inappropriate’
Epperson said the report raises more questions than answers — especially when shoplifting turned into a use-of-force incident.
“The question is: Could he have gotten out of the way to avoid a deadly force encounter?” he asked.
Both Ross and Epperson said it was proper for Dahlheimer to identify himself as a police officer since he is certified by the Nevada Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training.
However, firing at the ground was “inappropriate,” according to Epperson.
“That’s a warning shot. Warning shots, they’re pretty much forbidden,” he said. “And when you fire a warning shot as he did, it’s going to hit the pavement. Where’s it going to go? Is it going to hit a bystander? It’s going to ricochet off the ground.”
Dahlheimer, 64, holds the rank of sergeant at the Laughlin constable’s office. He also worked for former Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell until December 2018, according to a Clark County spokesman.
Deputy constables serve as independent contractors, so Dahlheimer will not be paid during his suspension.
Ross said that Dahlheimer, during his tenure as a deputy constable, had been promoted twice and had done an excellent job.
“We run a very tight ship, and for something like this to happen was almost mind-boggling to me,” Ross said. “It’s really frustrating to see years of work and maintaining really strict discipline put at risk because of this.”
Contact Briana Erickson at email@example.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter. Erickson is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.