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Henderson police union official suspended; suspect in hit-and-run

Updated October 21, 2022 - 4:16 pm

Henderson’s police union president has been suspended while the department investigates whether he was involved in a hit-and-run crash last week, according to a city spokeswoman and police reports.

Gary Hargis, 47, has not been arrested, cited or charged with any crimes related to an Oct. 13 collision, when officers say a man driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee struck and injured a motorcyclist near the intersection of Greenway Road and Van Wagenen Street just after midnight.

According to a police report and video of the crash, the SUV crossed into the motorcycle’s lane while making a right turn, striking it head-on. The vehicle was registered to Hargis’ wife, the record shows. The motorcyclist, 18-year-old Kevin Dammers, said he suffered an ankle injury.

In Nevada, it is a felony to flee the scene of a crash causing injury.

Hargis, whose second stint as president began in 2019, said in a phone interview that he was out of state on vacation and couldn’t comment on any investigation.

A GoPro video filmed by Dammers shows the motorcycle rider applying the brakes when a vehicle suddenly comes into frame, striking the front of his bike with a clunk and knocking him down. The Jeep keeps driving.

“Go get his ass! Go! Go! Go!” Dammers yells to his friends as he gets up.

A witness and friend of Dammers followed the Jeep and told police he saw the driver park in a next-door neighbor’s driveway. After five minutes, he got out, and the witness confronted him.

“No your friend hit me,” the man responded, according to a Henderson Police Department incident report.

The witness, “was under the impression the male was under the influence due to his slurred speech and walk,” the report states.

It also names Hargis as a suspect in the crash investigation.

Dammers’ friend took a photo of the SUV. The officer who wrote the report noted recognizing the car as one he had seen parked at the Henderson Police Officers’ Association union building at 145 Panama St. before the crash.

Police were seen surveilling Hargis’ house after the crash until that afternoon, according to several neighbors.

Investigators approached Hargis at around 8 a.m. outside his home. He had an injury to the left side of his head and was sweating blood, the incident report states.

When asked what had happened earlier, Hargis invoked his Miranda Rights, and officers stopped asking questions, according to the report.

An officer conducted a photo lineup for witnesses Thursday morning that included people with similar physical characteristics as Hargis. The witnesses did not identify Hargis in the lineup.

The department on Monday denied a public records request for a copy of the crash report and any related 911 calls. It provided the incident report Thursday afternoon. In addition, the Review-Journal on Wednesday obtained a copy of the preliminary traffic crash report.

Hargis started working for the city in August 2000, according to city spokeswoman Kathleen Richards. A Review-Journal photo from 2007 identifies him as a Henderson traffic officer. Hargis was also president of the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, according to Review-Journal archives from 2009.

Richards said Hargis cannot serve in any capacity as a police officer as part of his suspension but can continue to serve in his capacity as union president as the union does not fall under the city’s purview.

The day of the crash, Henderson Police Officers’ Association Vice President Bret Hyde wrote in an email to union members that rumors about Hargis were “grossly untrue.” He did not specify what those rumors were.

“I thought I’d let everyone know, first and foremost, that Gary is OK,” Hyde wrote. “Gary is home and leaving for a planned vacation on Saturday.”

Two days later, Officer Michael Openshaw, a union trustee, wrote in an email that Hargis would remain president while an ongoing investigation “has been completed in its entirety.”

Both emails were obtained by the Review-Journal. Hyde and Openshaw declined to comment for this story.

Dammers told the Review-Journal that his Yamaha motorcycle sustained a shattered headlight, cracked body pieces that are now loose and scuff marks. He said the driver was in his mid-to-late 40s with thinning hair and rectangular glasses.

“We locked eyes. I got a good look at him, and then he hit me,” Dammers said. “I fell over, and he kept driving.”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter. Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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