Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The day before Lyon County Sheriff Frank Hunewill and North Lyon County Fire Protection District Chief Jason Nicholl gathered with a handful of representatives from other law enforcement and emergency response organizations to celebrate National Night Out, several members of their agencies had been involved in a large cooperative effort to apprehend a person who had been accused of stealing a car, robbing a gas station and ultimately, holing up in a vacant house.
The incident demonstrated the level of cooperation necessary not just between different law enforcement agencies, but between law enforcement and other emergency services.
That cooperation is one of the main focuses of the National Night Out event, an annual, nationwide community-building campaign that promotes public safety-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.
The Aug. 3 event at the Out-of-Town Park in Fernley was the first held in Lyon County, but it was the third time the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office has participated in such an event. The previous two times, they were part of a National Night Out hosted by Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro.
As part of its community outreach at this year’s event, LCSO had on hand its, SWAT vehicle, a COUGAR armored personnel carriage. The county’s SWAT team had been instrumental the day before in searching for and finding the suspect who had led a high-speed chase from Fallon to the Fernley roundabout, before he ran on foot into the Villa Mobile Home Park and forced his way into a vacant home.
The suspect ultimately surrendered after Sparks Police SWAT team, which had responded to assist with the incident and ended up relieving the Lyon County SWAT team, coaxed the suspect to surrender by tossing tear gas cannisters into the house.
Lyon County SWAT team leader Sgt. Mitch Brantingham was on hand to show members of the public the SWAT vehicle and the large amount of gear each SWAT team member wears and carries.
The SWAT team actually includes members from Lyon, Storey and Mineral Counties, and Brantingham said the vehicle is used on emergency calls an average of 10-15 times per year. While it’s a military surplus vehicle and is ballistic and explosive rated, it’s most important function is to serve as a secure place for medics to treat injured people in dangerous situations.
“When it’s needed, there is no replacement,” Brantingham said.
One of the other agencies at the National Night Out was Care Flight, a program of REMSA, which was established in 1981.
Care Flight Pilot Chip Bradford fielded a variety of questions from curious visitors, but he said the most common reaction was surprise about how small the helicopter is and what tight space there is for the medics, nurses and patient.
Care Flight helicopters carry a pilot and either a medic and a nurse, or two nurses. Care Flight has helicopters based in Reno, Fallon and Gardnerville, as well as in Truckee and Beckwourth, Calif.
Among the other agencies represented at the Aug. 3 event in Fernley were the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office and the Nevada Donor Network. Fernley’s Biggest Little Radio, KRNG 101.3, broadcast live from the event, and there were free games, food and demonstrations by the participating agencies,
“It’s all about education and the realization that just because we put on the uniform doesn’t mean we’re a bad person,” Hunewill said. “Whether we’re firemen or cops, we’re people too.”
Hunewill said he is grateful the deputies of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office don’t have to deal with a lot of the anti-police rhetoric that officers in urban areas often face,
“We’re very, very supported by the citizens of Lyon County,” he said. “A lot of stuff (you see) in the national media isn’t here.”
Nicholl said he was pleased to see people from Lyon County supporting all aspects of emergency services.
“The fact is we’re just two sides of the same coin,” Nicholl said. “We’re brothers and sisters.”