8 honored for ‘unbelievable heroics’ in Sand Mountain shooting
April 20, 2017
Eight Department of Public Safety employees were honored with distinguished awards Wednesday for their participation in the 2014 Sand Mountain shooting.
Lt. Todd Hartline, Trooper Hugh Shook and Trooper Ben Leonard were awarded with the Medal of Valor and Sgt. John Jessee, Sgt. Mark Fox, Trooper Tappan Cornmesser, and dispatchers Bobby Cruz and Jennifer McCauley were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for their actions and participation in the event.
The Medal of Valor is awarded to members of the office who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism performed at personal risk of life and limb and these acts demonstrated great courage while facing extreme danger. The Meritorious Service Medal is awarded to members of the office who while acting in an official capacity, perform superior accomplishments that result in significant contributions to the efficient operation of the office and/or the good of the community.
On June 13, 2014, Carson City deputies were dispatched to locate a vehicle coming from Washoe County for a suspect involved in three homicides and one attempted homicide. The suspect led deputies and Nevada Highway Patrol troopers on a 90-mile pursuit to Sand Mountain Recreational Area in Churchill County. The suspect was firing a weapon at officers during the pursuit and running other vehicles off the road in an attempt to elude officers. The pursuit ended in Sand Mountain where the suspect vehicle got stuck in the sand and the suspect fired at officers. The troopers and deputies returned fire, ultimately killing Anthony Gustave Nelson. Nelson, 40, was a convicted rapist who had been released from an Arizona prison just two weeks before the incident.
The ceremony started with officials showing cell phone footage a civilian took of the chase into Sand Mountain and the eventual gun fight.
"This was a multiagency event that went over 90 miles," said Nevada Highway Patrol Col. Dennis Osborn. "…and we want to recognize the unbelievable heroics and courage of our officers in this life or death event."
Osborn made special mention of Hartline, who drove his vehicle up to the suspect's after the gunfire stopped to assess the situation.
Hartline was the first to approach the suspect, even when officers were unsure if he was incapacitated.
"It was very dangerous because he only had his windshield to protect him," Osborn said.
He said Hartline kept the rest of the NHP troopers behind him to protect them in case the suspect resumed shooting.
"It was very nice, I am very appreciative of the department for recognizing what we did that day," Hartline said. "We take an oath to serve and protect and that is what we had to do in that capacity. It had been confirmed he had murdered people and we knew we were in this for the long haul so we had to stop him and make sure he didn't do this to anyone else."
For the troopers, their actions weren't those of heroics, they were just part of the duties they had been entrusted with the job.
"We didn't do anything I wouldn't expect any of our other troopers to do," said Cornmesser.