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Bacon sentenced to 18 years

by Sheila Gardner

Troy Bacon is serving an 18-year prison term and the bullet holes in the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce have been filled in, but for the officers who responded to a domestic dispute the evening of April 21, the memories linger.

“I do want to put this out of my mind, but just sitting there, listening to the tape, I started to realize that I am not over this,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. James Bagwell.

He spoke at Bacon’s sentencing hearing on Monday, describing for Judge Michael GIbbons the anguish the incident brought to him and his family.

“I still see Mr. Bacon turning with that weapon in his hand,” said Bagwell, struggling to control his emotions. “I wake up on a regular basis. I can’t like it, I am uncomfortable with it. I’m not sure it’s not going to be permanent in the effect it has.

“I believe Mr. Bacon intended to kill me and any other officer who was there. Whether he intended to precipitate his own demise, I can’t speculate.”

After more than two hours of testimony – including airing a 20-minute tape of 911 calls and the sheriff’s scanner transcript – Gibbons sentenced Bacon to 18 years, the maximum sentence for three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

Officers converged on the Oxoby Mobile Home Park in the center of Gardnerville April 21 after manager Robbie Oxoby called 911 to report a domestic dispute involving Bacon and his mother. Bagwell and DCSO Investigator Ron Bushey were the first on scene. Bagwell tapped on the door of Bacon’s trailer and the suspect whirled around and fired an assault-type rifle out the door in the direction of the officers.

n Warning shots? “Those were warning shots that I was coming out,” Bacon told Gibbons.

In written statements, both Bushey and Bagwell said they initially believed they had been hit. They dove for cover behind Bagwell’s patrol car. By then, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Amy Del Soldato had arrived, trying to keep away onlookers as well as frightened residents of the mobile home park.

The mobile home park is located on Highway 395, and the ensuing shootout occurred during rush hour traffic.

In their statements, Bushey and Bagwell said they were relieved to realize they had not been hit and believed that Bacon was still in his trailer and had stopped firing. In the meantime, Bacon blasted his way out of his mother’s trailer. He eventually got caught in a cross-fire between Bagwell and Del Soldato after firing nearly 20 rounds. Bacon was the only person hurt in the shootout.

Bacon claimed that he fired into the air and didn’t try to hit anyone.

“The officers had plenty of time to move. I made sure of that. I didn’t think I would get that many rounds off. I thought it would be over,” he told Gibbons.

n Long-term effects. “The sole purpose of my letter is to let you know how these things will affect me,” Bagwell said. “It will take a lot longer than a day in court to deal with them.”

Bagwell’s wife Lorraine told Gibbons that it is hard for her to talk about the shooting and its aftermath.

“In my husband’s statement, he says he has no animosity for Mr. Bacon,” she said. “I wish I could say that, but I have enough animosity for the whole family. It was our eighth wedding anniversary and somebody who doesn’t know my husband tried to kill him.”

Lorraine Bagwell said the shooting has had a devastating effect on the couple and their son.

“For two months, my son had nightmares and would cling to his father. I can’t express my feelings without crying,” she said.

Bagwell said she was “disgusted” by the plea bargain drafted by the Douglas County District Attorney’s office.

“My disgust continues as the DA felt no need to go for a tougher plea,” she said. She said her husband felt more like a criminal as he had to turn in his weapon and undergo blood testing following the shooting. Authorities have not determined whose shot struck Bacon. All three were placed on paid leave following the incident while the shooting was investigated. They were cleared to return to work.

“Mr. Bacon knowingly drinks, he is knowingly violent. Mr. Bacon is dangerous and will hurt again. You are sending a message to every police officer and their family in this county. Make it a strong message,” Mrs. Bagwell told Gibbons.

“You are an extreme danger to the public, to police officers and to yourself,” Gibbons told Bacon. “My intention is to incapacitate you, to take you out of society. At the outset, you had malicious intent.”

In Bushey’s statement to the court, the veteran officer said it was the first time in more than two decades of law enforcement that he was forced to shoot a person. He detailed for the court the number of police officers who have died in the line of duty – including his father and his father’s best friend – to illustrate the effect the shootout had on him.

“Unless you have felt you are about to die, you don’t realize how precious life is,” Bushey wrote. “This was the first time in my career that I was using deadly force against another human being. I have always felt that my life was precious … my life as well as Troy Bacon’s.”

n Not a victim. Bushey said in spite of the shooting he made a decision not to be a victim “except in the legal sense.”

“I have experienced personal growth, and now have a greater understanding of who I am. My relationship with my family, friends and co-workers has taken on new meaning,” he said in his written statement to the court.

Both officers said they bore no animosity toward Bacon.

“I have forgiven Mr. Bacon,” Bushey wrote. “I hope that he comes to realize that his life has worth, that all things happen for a purpose, and that he and he alone can change his life for the better.”

Bacon’s attorney, Tod Young, advanced his client’s claim that he was trying to get himself killed by firing at the officers. Bacon’s blood alcohol content was .22 which is more than twice the legal limit of .10 for driving.

“There is speculation as to what was in Mr. Bacon’s head,” Young said. “Sgt. Bagwell believes there was an attempt on his life, but that doesn’t make it so. He (Bacon) had no intent to harm the officers. He made a decision at that point that he would attempt to end his life.”

Young said Bacon has continued to express a desire to die.

“There is not an end to this case today as Sgt. Bagwell said … it doesn’t end for Troy Bacon, either, as he faces the start of a lengthy continuation of a difficult period in his life.”

Young argued for two consecutive sentences and one concurrent of 6 years each.

“This event came about because of an unhealthy state of mind, not a desire to hurt or kill anybody,” Young said.

Deputy District Attorney Derrick Lopez, disputed Bacon’s claim that he was attempting suicide.

“If he had intended to die, he had an easy way to do it. He could have carried it out himself,” Lopez said. “Mr. Bacon is extremely dangerous. Even if he is suicidal, that doesn’t make him less dangerous. He did harm people and the potential for danger was enormous.”

Bacon apologized to the officers and claimed that he was trying to provoke them into firing at him and killing him.

n Offers apology. “I apologize to the officers and their families,” said Bacon, as he turned to face the courtroom audience. “I was not shooting with the intention to hurt anyone. I was trying to get myself killed.”

“You are an extreme danger to the public, to police officers and to yourself,” Gibbons said. “My intention is to incapacitate you, to take you out of society. At the outset, you had malicious intent.”

The 34-year-old Gardnerville man must serve a minimum of seven years before he is eligible for parole.

Sheriff Ron Pierini, who attended the sentencing with several other law enforcement personnel, said he was pleased with Bacon’s sentence.

“I think Judge Gibbons gave him the correct maximum sentence he could under the law,” Pierini said Tuesday. “This incident could have been a real tragedy for the officers who responded and for the people in the trailer park and those driving by.”

Pierini said the DCSO and the county have procedures for officers who experience situations like the April 21 shootout. Counseling is available as well as peer guidance, Pierini said, and officers must be cleared by a psychiatrist before they can return to work from paid leave. Both Bushey and Bagwell are back on the job.

“You can never understand what it feels like unless it happens to you,” said Pierini. “We train and condition ourselves and law enforcement spends time dealing with this, but it is a real difficult experience to go through.

“The odds are that in a 30-year career, an officer will never have to fire his weapon,” the sheriff said. “But even if you don’t, there are still a lot of high risk and life-threatening incidents and officers have to deal with that, too.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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