Donald Mercer, a retired California firefighter, could be found walking his best friend, a pit bull terrier named Chase, almost every morning in Las Vegas.
The pair were enjoying another morning walk on Saturday when they were struck and killed by a suspected impaired driver. Mercer was hit about 5:10 a.m. on Kimberly Avenue, near Clark County Wetlands Park, the Metropolitan Police Department has said. He and his dog died at the scene, and the Clark County coroner’s office identified 64-year-old Mercer on Tuesday morning.
The crash left his family in shock, said his daughter, Donna Mercer.
“Sometimes it doesn’t even feel real, like a bad nightmare you can’t wake up from,” she said in an interview with the Review-Journal on Tuesday night.
Donald Mercer retired from firefighting around 2001 after working for about 14 years in Adelanto, near Victorville, his daughter said. Before that, he worked as a volunteer firefighter, also in Southern California.
Having a firefighter as a father was “a little nerve-wracking sometimes,” Donna Mercer said, “but for the most part it was very inspirational. I kind of wanted to follow his footsteps.”
She said that as a teenager, she and her brother volunteered at the fire department as “fire explorers,” a type of junior firefighter, with their father as a teacher. She went on to work at the department with her dad for two years.
“My first fire that I actually helped fight, my dad was behind me on the nozzle,” Mercer said. “I just remember him saying, ‘You’re doing it kid, you’re doing it.’ ”
He walked around the scene afterward, telling everyone and “hollering” about how his daughter helped fight a fire, she said.
“He was definitely a proud dad, proud grandpa, and he truly, truly loved being a firefighter,” she said.
After Donald Mercer retired from the department, he and his wife, Sharon, moved to Las Vegas around 2003. The two loved animals and adopted Chase in 2015 after their previous dog, Candy, died. They went to The Animal Foundation, where her dad “felt the connection with Chase,” Donna Mercer said.
“There was no information; he was found on the side of the road,” she said. “They took him in, and immediately Chase was a part of the family. He was just literally my dad’s best friend.”
Police said that Donald Mercer was not on the sidewalk and not in a marked crosswalk when he was struck. Officers suspected the driver, Juan Hernandez, was impaired and arrested him. He is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center on one felony count of DUI resulting in death.
According to police, Hernandez’s Chevrolet Sonic was heading east on Kimberly when it struck Mercer from behind.
“He was very safety conscious as far as paying attention,” Donna Mercer said of her father. “This is just unfortunately another reminder that no matter how safe you are, anything can happen to anyone at anytime. We know he would not have done anything reckless or anything to put himself in danger.”
Mercer’s death marked the 34th traffic-related fatality that Las Vegas police have investigated this year, police said.