FALLON - The early morning calm of a spring day was shattered Thursday when two people died as a result of a chase that began in Mineral County and ended with a gun battle in a Fallon residential area.
Before gunfire was exchanged on South Taylor Street (U.S. Highway 95), a head-on crash between two compact vehicles occurred near the intersection of U.S. Highway 50, killing a 75-year-old Missouri man.
Taylor Street was closed for most of Thursday as investigators sifted through the scene.
Trooper Chuck Allen, spokesman for the Nevada Highway Patrol, said the incident occurred shortly after 5 a.m. when Walker River Tribal Police stopped a vehicle for going 80 mph in a 40-mph zone on the reservation.
Allen said the passenger the PT Cruiser either pushed or "forced out" the driver from the car, slid over the console and sped away.
Allen said authorities have not determined the relationship of the two men.
"He could have been a hitchhiker, cousins, old best friends, we don't know," Allen added.
Allen said the driver of the vehicle, who was arrested in Schurz, has been identified as 20-year-old Cory Reed of Little Rock, Ark. He was booked into Mineral County Jail on charges of reckless driving and not having a valid drivers license and insurance.
The passenger-turned-driver who was killed in Fallon is a 22-year-old man from Peyton, Colo., and the elderly man has not been identified pending notification of next of kin. Allen said he is from Richland, Mo.
"I don't know if he was a resident or a transient," Allen said.
According to Allen, the Colorado man reversed course of the PT Cruiser and began to head back to Hawthorne. For some unknown reason, Allen said he flipped an U-turn and proceeded to head north.
A high-speed pursuit then covered the 40 miles from the Walker River Indian Reservation to Fallon that resulted in at least one pickup being run off the highway near Dairy Queen and another vehicle either hit or run off the road. Allen said neither driver was injured, and the NHP is investigating the exact cause of those two minor accidents.
Allen said Tribal Police radioed for assistance to the NHP, but an officer was not on duty in the area. As a result, the Churchill County Sheriff's Office assisted. Allen said the NHP doesn't come on duty until 6 a.m.
As the PT Cruiser neared U.S. Highway 50, it collided with a Hyundai at the corner of Taylor and Center streets.
"Sometime after that collision, the vehicle came to rest and shots ensued between the suspect and a Churchill County deputy and three tribal policemen," Allen said.
Allen said at this time he cannot speculate how the driver of the Cruiser was killed.
"The evidence suggests the driver may have taken his life, but shots were exchanged," he said.
Allen will not confirm if the man took his life, or he was killed by gunfire from the officers.
Allen said he does not know the relationship between Reed and his passenger.
CCSO deputy Ken Catlin, a 12-year veteran of the department, was injured, and Allen said shards of glass from the cruiser's windshield may have hit the officer in the face. Sheriff Ben Trotter, who was with the deputy at Banner Churchill Community Hospital, said Catlin was treated and released from BCCH later in the morning.
Trotter said medical personnel said no fragments were found lodged in Catlin's face. Trotter said either glass or shrapnel from a bullet may have cut his face but not penetrate his skin.
"Nothing was imbedded," the first-term sheriff said.
Trotter said his deputies stopped an incident that could have been worse.
"I am very proud of our guys," said Trotter. "They showed good restraint, good decision making."
Trotter said the CCSO was fortunate the injuries were not more serious.
"Our officers performed well and followed procedures,' Trotter added.
Three people were thought to have been killed, but the number was reduced when it was learned the first driver was taken into custody in Mineral County.
Allen said the Department of Public Safety investigation team is taking the lead because multiple jurisdictions are involved. He said investigators will determine the number of shots fired and who fired them.
Police blocked off South Taylor Street and treated the site as a crime scene.
Fallon Police Department was on the scene in addition to paramedics from Banner Churchill Community Hospital and the Fallon Churchill Fire Department.
Witnesses who live near Taylor and Center streets said they heard the two vehicles crash and after law enforcement arrived at the scene, they then heard gunfire. Afterward, two witnesses said they saw police officers cover two bodies with a tarp.
"We heard a shot and saw an officer with a gun," said Ron Mason. "We think two people were killed because we saw them covered with plastic."
Allen said officers covered both vehicles with tarps because the bodies remained inside.
"We heard a big crash," said Denise Mason. " The crash actually woke us up. Then we heard all the sirens and (saw) police officers getting out of their cars."
"To me, it sounded like five or six shots. It sounded like pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow," Denise Mason described as she watched police officers secure the area.
Once the Masons heard the gunshots, they ducked behind their car.
Denise Mason said she heard a big boom between the two cars.
"I heard no brakes," she added.
Ron Mason said they have lived in the duplex for about 10 years, and this is the worst (accident) they have seen.
Their neighbor, Tom Warburton, lives on the corner of Taylor and Center streets.
"I usually get up at 5 in the morning and sit in my chair," he said. "At about 5:30 or close to it, I hard a bad crashing sound out there."
Warburton said some of the debris flew up toward his house. He then put his slipper on, and as Warburton was doing so, he heard gunfire.
"I have to say four or five shots. I heard the first one, and then a pause, and then three or four," Warburton explained.
Warburton said it's unfortunate the accident occurred, but he is glad the driver of the fleeing car if "off the street."
Shannon Burns, Lahontan Valley News' general manager who lives less than 300 yards away from the scene, was shocked with what she saw.
"I was in my house and hard a big bang at the end of gun shots," she said. "I ran out the back and saw the blockade being put up to block the roads. Both cars were totaled, and no one was around them."
Burns said she noticed seven or eight firemen huddled by one of the cars, and then put a tarp over one vehicle.
"I was horrified to see what happened," she said. "Two vehicles were just demolished."