Outstanding guns still a question in manhunt case

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer

Law enforcement authorities still have not determined if there are any outstanding guns related to the Aug. 12 incident that began as a high-speed chase in Washoe County and ended with a manhunt in Plumas County.

Nevada and Plumas County officials reported three Nevada residents broke into the home of a deceased man in south Reno with the intention of stealing automatic firearms.

The trio allegedly fled from Nevada authorities across the state line before finally being apprehended in Graeagle the next morning.

The Plumas County Sheriff's Office now believes an automatic rifle found on the side of the road near Nervino Airport in Eastern Plumas actually belonged to one of the suspects and had not been taken from the burglarized home.

Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said the delay in determining if any guns were still missing was related to the estate of the deceased man. Officials were still working to determine what items were in the house before the break-in.

It appears some of the man's belongings were sold or moved after his death, making it difficult for the estate to narrow down what exactly was in the house when it was burglarized.

Meanwhile, Plumas County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad has been working with the county's information technology department and Hagwood to correct some glitches in the emergency notification system, used to send a recorded telephone warning to residents.

Ingstad reported about 50 percent of the calls sent out by the system during the fugitive incident didn't reach the right destination because of a mistake in how numbers in geographical areas were grouped by the county's geographic information system department.

GIS can be used to overlay data on top of a global positioning system map, basically the same way a program like Google Earth or Google Maps displays location names and other data on top of its maps.

Ingstad said the GIS department was part of the planning department, so it decided to use parcel maps as a guide when grouping phone numbers, which led to some confusion because the phone numbers associated with parcel maps aren't always accurate or logically grouped numerically.

Hagwood thought the estimated number of Graeagle residents who didn't get a call during the incident was too high, but that a significant number of errors did occur.

He also suggested GIS couldn't take all the blame, saying there were deficiencies in the system that all parties involved in the system should take some responsibility for, including his department.

The sheriff noted some of the Graeagle phone numbers in the system hadn't been updated often enough.

Hagwood felt the system should have been activated multiple times to catch people and businesses that missed the original, early morning notification.

In the end, Hagwood said the situation had been a bit of a trial by fire: activating the system in a relatively fluid situation. Getting out even some notifications was obviously a huge upgrade over two years ago when the system didn't exist.

Hagwood and Ingstad said the situation provided a valuable chance to learn from a mistake without harm to county residents.

They were also confident the information technology department could quickly write a program to fix the problem and apply the remedy to the entire county. They believed that would drastically improve the success rate the next time the system was used.

Ingstad said at least 50 residents from Graeagle called his office to report they didn't get a notification call. Anyone else who experienced that problem was encouraged to call 283-6315. He said the more people who reported problems, the more information the county would have to understand the issue.

Hagwood confirmed a SWAT team member accidentally discharged a weapon when the unit was clearing the house the suspects had parked next to when they stopped in Graeagle.

The sheriff said the group was transitioning from rifles to handguns when it got to the second floor and one officer accidentally fired one bullet into the floor, which exited through the kitchen ceiling.

He said no one was hurt and he personally called the property owners to assure them the county would pay for the damages.

Hagwood said that was the first time in more than 22 years that the SWAT team had an accidental discharge.

At the end of the incident, three Nevada residents were arrested, one stolen vehicle was impounded, one automatic rifle was recovered, no one was injured, and the only damage reported was from that one bullet, the only shot fired during the entire event.

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