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Suspect in NHP trooper’s killing faces new explosives charges

Updated May 20, 2020 - 3:54 pm

A criminal complaint accuses John Dabritz of detonating one of the four explosive devices in his possession in Nye County just before the fatal shooting of a Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant in Ely.

Dabritz, 66, was charged Wednesday in Nye County with one count of possession of an explosive or incendiary device and three counts of possession of a component of an explosive or incendiary device with intent to manufacture.

In an emailed statement, Nye County District Attorney Chris Arabia called the newest allegations against Dabritz “serious,” adding that he has “an obligation to take appropriate action against someone who would flout the law in the unthinkable manner that he has.”

The charges stem from an investigation opened by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office after the man’s arrest in the March 27 shooting of Sgt. Ben Jenkins, who was killed just before dawn while helping a motorist stopped on U.S. Highway 93, north of Ely. Dabritz faces capital punishment in the murder case.

According to Arabia, Dabritz detonated the explosive device on his property in Tybo, about 70 miles outside of Tonopah, by shooting it from a distance. The Sheriff’s Office previously said the crimes were linked to “anti-government extremism.”

With the allegations in Nye County, court documents filed this month in White Pine County revealed that authorities believe Dabritz also was behind a series of shootings — described by prosecutors as an “act of terrorism” — in Wells and Ely in the hours leading up to Jenkins’ killing.

The documents say that the man opened fire on Jenkins “to avoid or prevent” his arrest in connection with the earlier shootings.

During the earlier crimes, according to the documents, Dabritz shot at a propane tank and tanker trucks in Wells and, once he entered the Ely area, fired at an electrical box and a transformer box at the base of a wind turbine.

The growing list of March 27 crimes linked to Dabritz appears to be the culmination of his weekslong paranoid quest, according to interviews with White Pine locals, to warn people of his theory that COVID-19 was spreading in the water and sewer systems.

Dabritz landed at William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely on a legal mental health hold, according to a hospital employee who spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on the condition of anonymity. While at the hospital, he brought a “concerning note” to the nurses’ station and told hospital staff he had $30,000 worth of “illegal untraceable weapons” and “wanted to save us from the suffering of coronavirus,” the employee said.

According to the employee, Dabritz was transferred from the hospital around March 14. Court records show that he spent a week at an undisclosed mental health facility in Clark County before he was released March 20, a week before Jenkins was killed.

The suspect’s ex-wife, Haydee, told the Review-Journal that it seemed like the man “had gone completely off the rails” after he began sending her a stream of rambling emails a few days before the fatal shooting.

Arabia said it was unclear when Dabritz will make his first court appearance in the Nye County case. Proceedings in the murder case are on hold while he undergoes a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. Haydee Dabritz previously told the Review-Journal that her ex-husband has long suffered from bipolar disorder and alcoholism.

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

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