I am sure the Nevada Resort Association appreciates all the attention being given the Las Vegas Strip over the last 24 hours.
Instead of food, drink and shows, it’s exploding taxis, bullet casings, crime scenes and gunmen on the loose.
The New Old West is alive and well. Perhaps the big LV’s next tourism slogan, instead of “Hey baby, your Vegas is showing,” should be something like, “Hey baby, your pistol is showing.” Or better, “Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just excited to be in Las Vegas?” (I’m in the wrong business).
Violence on the Strip has gotten a bit more attention after some really tragic incidents the last few months, So too has an uptick in violence in Nye County drawn this newspaper’s attention — just in time for a new round of gun control debates in Congress.
But wait, I promise this isn’t about gun control. God forbid anyone, including me, insult your beloved firearms with talk of any new restrictions — who knew guns were so sensitive?
No, instead I’d like to address the ridiculous prevalence of self-defense claims among the latest crop of local miscreants — I’m sorry, alleged miscreants innocent until proven stupid — to injure and/or kill one of our fellow citizens in the conduct of extreme criminal behavior over the last few weeks.
After a rather uneventful holiday season, Pahrump and neighboring communities suddenly saw a surge in senseless violence. First there was local loon P.J. Helfrich, who on Jan. 23 beat the hell out of a man named Salvador Gama, who we unfortunately still know close to nothing about, and dumped his body in the desert, hoping wild animals would dispose of it for him. Mr. Helfrich, a self-proclaimed defender against local government corruption, turned himself in, telling police he did “a terrible thing.” His girlfriend, another fine piece of work, helped him dump Gama’s body, so she’s locked up, too — she’s now suffering under the influence of a demon baby camping in her belly see page A1 .
Now, Helfrich’s story is that Gama came over, shared a few drinks with P.J. and then told the demon baby daddy that he was going to kill him — some shadowy figure had put a hit out on P.J. Boo!
So, in his own defense, he bashed Gama’s brains out.
Sure, P.J., sure.
Then there is Randall D. Phelps The D is for Dangerous . Another fine citizen, Mr. Phelps shot a man on Feb. 6 multiple times near his home on Camelot Court, something about the man beating up his daughter, when she was actually beat up by an out-of-control moped. Well, Mr. Phelps told police the man, Benjamin Appleby, when confronted about bruises on Phelps’ daughter’s body, got defensive and threatened to beat Phelps to death. Phelps supposedly fired a warning shot after the verbal threats were made, but Appleby just kept coming sure Randall — so Phelps shot at him several times, hitting him twice, including a near-fatal, close-up, execution style shot right in the head. Mr. Appleby is sitting in a hospital bed with a bullet in the middle of his brain today. Calling 911 on Appleby was apparently just an absurd option.
Had Appleby died, Mr. Phelps’ self-defense claims might have actually held more water. Alas, Appleby is alive and talking — and Mr. Phelps’ story sounds more like bupkis every day. That poor gun, suffering for its owner’s questionable judgment, sits locked away in that cold evidence locker at the sheriff’s office!
Who knows why Phelps really shot Appleby. In Phelps’ defense, one detective told me that of all the recent outrageous claims of self defense, Phelps had the bestest, most realistic-sounding story to tell. A jury will likely weigh in on that.
Now, the latest ridiculous self-defense claim comes courtesy of Avery Church, a fine citizen of our dusty neighbor Amargosa Valley. Mr. Church is in jail for shooting and killing John Sprague. Sprague had the plum audacity to confront Church at his home over an earlier incident where Church threatened the lives of four teenagers.
How, you ask? Well, apparently Church pointed a gun at the teenagers as they were collecting firewood near his home.
Oh, but Church didn’t mean to threaten them — when he fired those two rounds into a tree stump, he was just kinda giving those boys a back-country shout-out or something dumb, dumb and dumb . Well, Sprague wasn’t going to let it go. Poor guy should’ve called the police it only would’ve taken them about an hour to respond — NCSO’s Amargosa Valley substation has been closed awhile. Maybe Sprague should have brought a gun! And we could’ve had ourselves a real self-defense case!
Alas, he didn’t bring a gun and was shot in the belly and died on the way to the hospital. Oh, but that was after he supposedly hit and punched and scratched ol’ Church, though police found not a scintilla of evidence to support that claim. Another self-defense alibi crashes and burns.
Church sits in a jail cell awaiting his next court appearance. His gun, suffering a harsher fate, sits alongside Phelps’ firearm, no food, no water, no maniac to tickle its trigger. Sad.
Before P.J., or Dangerous Randall D., or Church came up with their alibis for extreme violence, there was one other recent case that you might remember. It also came with a special self-defense claim. This was the case of Daniel Robbins. Remember him? He’s the former slot machine tech, loving father of lovely girls, who shot and killed a 21-year-old kid who had the audacity to sit in his driveway, hoping to squelch a heated Facebook war that had raged earlier in the evening the day before.
Chris Mundy died of a gunshot wound to the head when Robbins snapped — the kid wouldn’t leave without talking out the earlier online confrontation. So instead of calling 911 and getting the dumb kid trespassed, Robbins killed him and even injured a 14-year-old Mundy had brought with him that night in August 2011. Robbins was found guilty in November by a jury of murdering Mundy. His sentencing is next month and he will likely be going away for a long, long time, as he should.
That’s the fate that probably awaits P.J. — though a padded room in Sparks might also do — and Randall and Avery and anyone else who is dumb enough to solve their problems with a gun or a crossbow or a baseball bat or a knife or their bare hands. And it should.
I’ve reflected a lot recently about the gun issue lots of hate mail, thank you . Out here in the wild, wild West, where police substations come and go really, Nye County? , owning a gun might be your best defense in a situation you didn’t ask for but are forced to deal with. I see that. I can appreciate it. Furthermore, so can the police.
But Robbins and P.J., Daddy Dangerous and Mr. Church are not examples of armed citizens defending their life, loved ones and property. Nope, just a bunch of hot heads with guns who let their tempers get the best of them, spreading not just blood on the ground but hurt and pain for their victims and the families affected on all sides.
That’s just my humble opinion. Note: No guns were harmed in the production of this editorial.