Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie today had trouble finding the words for his latest fallen comrade, Daniel Leach, right, a corrections officer who died hours earlier in a collision on U.S. Highway 95 near Searchlight.
“In circumstances like this … I just can’t put it into words,” a somber Gillespie said. “This organization is strong and we will prevail.”
Gillespie spoke following the death of Leach, 49, a 25-year veteran of the department who died at the scene of a 5:45 a.m. collision. The department van he was driving south clipped the second of two trailers being hauled by a 10-wheel dump truck that had just made a left turn onto northbound 95.
Leach’s death came only two days after Gillespie addressed the media at another news conference to discuss the slaying of officer Trevor Nettleton, shot during what police called a botched robbery early Thursday morning at his home in North Las Vegas.
In just over six months, four Metropolitan Police Department officers have died violent deaths. The other two involved patrol car crashes.
Gillespie said today that Leach was the only occupant in the van, which was about a mile north of Searchlight, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas. There were two people in the dump truck, department spokesman Bill Cassell said. The driver had not been arrested or cited as of early this afternoon and the occupants are cooperating with investigators.
Police did not say how fast Leach was driving or if he was wearing his seat belt. They didn’t say who was at fault in the collision and the investigation is ongoing.
The stretch of highway where the accident occurred has four lanes — two in each direction — separated by a median.
Gillespie said Leach was on his way to the Tucker Holding Facility in Laughlin prior to the crash. He picked up the van from the Clark County Detention Center and his assignment for the day was to return any inmates who needed to be transferred from the Laughlin facility to the Clark County jail.
Leach was the third officer to die on-duty while driving this year. On Oct. 7, 30-year-old officer Milburn “Millie” Beitel was killed in a crash on Nellis Boulevard near Washington Avenue. Beitel was at the wheel of the patrol car, driving 71 mph in the 45 mph zone.
Police said Beitel swerved to avoid a vehicle making a left turn onto eastbound Washington from southbound Nellis. Beitel did not have his emergency lights or sirens on.
His passenger, 25-year-old officer David Nesheiwat, survived the crash. He too was not wearing a seat belt
Exactly six months earlier, 28-year-old officer James Manor died while responding to a domestic dispute call. He was driving 109 mph without lights and sirens on Flamingo Road when a pickup turned into his path. He was not wearing a seat belt and died a short time later.
After Manor’s crash, Gillespie ordered the department to complete a review of its driving policies.
Gillespie said the department will be implementing changes in December.
“I simply do not feel today is the appropriate time to discuss those changes,” Gillespie said Saturday.
Last year, 44 police officers in the U.S. died in traffic crashes, five more than the 39 who died from gunshot wounds, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, which tracks officer deaths. Traffic fatalities have been the leading cause of death among law enforcement officers the past 12 years.
Leach’s death came on the heels of Nettleton’s slaying. He was shot 12:18 a.m. Thursday at his home on Emerald Stone Avenue, near Lone Mountain Road and Bruce Street.
North Las Vegas police said Nettleton, 30, had just finished a late shift for the Bolden Area Command when he was approached by several suspects in his open garage. Nettleton died after an exchange of gunfire.
North Las Vegas police arrested three suspects: Saul Williams Jr., 20; Prentice Marshall, 18; and a 17-year-old whose identity has not been released.
Gillespie said though the week has been a hard one for the Metropolitan Police Department family, his department will not lose focus on its mission of protecting the community.
Police said Leach was born in Willoughby, Ohio, east of Cleveland. He is survived by his wife, Laura. He also has a son, Christopher and daughter, Alexandra.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638.