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Highway Patrol trooper killed in line of duty shot multiple times

Updated April 7, 2020 - 1:35 pm

Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Ben Jenkins, who was killed in the line of duty on a remote highway last month, was shot multiple times, according to authorities.

The 47-year-old man’s death on March 27 has been ruled a homicide by the Clark County coroner’s office, which determined Jenkins died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office. His death was the first fatal shooting of a Highway Patrol officer in the line of duty in nearly three decades.

Authorities have released no further details about Jenkins’ wounds, although previously released court documents related to the killing state that the sergeant was shot in his “shoulder and/or head.”

Jenkins, a married father of five with four grandchildren, had devoted his life to public service. He was a veteran of both the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, reaching the rank of sergeant first class in the Army Guard before transferring to the Air Guard in 1995, according to a National Guard spokesman.

He started his career with the Highway Patrol in 2009 as a trooper in Jackpot and was promoted to sergeant in Elko in 2017.

Before joining the Highway Patrol, Jenkins also worked as a training officer for the Nevada State Fire Marshal Division, a crew supervisor for the Nevada Division of Forestry and an assistant fire chief for the Spring Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

Attempts to reach Jenkins’ family members have been unsuccessful. As of Tuesday, the Highway Patrol had not released details about a memorial service.

The suspect in Jenkins’ killing, identified by authorities as 65-year-old John Dabritz, is charged with open murder, third-degree arson, grand larceny of a motor vehicle and grand larceny of a firearm.

White Pine County District Attorney Michael Wheable has said prosecutors could decide to seek capital punishment.

Last week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal learned that Dabritz, a resident of Ruth, had spent the weeks leading up to the killing on a paranoid quest to warn people in White Pine County of his theory that COVID-19 was spreading through the water and sewer systems. Dabritz, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was a chemist in the 1980s before his diagnosis, his ex-wife, Haydee, previously told the Review-Journal.

According to court documents and interviews with locals who had interacted with the man prior to the shooting, the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office was contacted after three of the known incidents involving Dabritz — most recently on March 24. The shooting occurred three days later on U.S. Highway 93, north of Ely.

Dabritz will remain held at the White Pine County jail without bail as he awaits an April 16 preliminary hearing in the case.

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

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