By Kelsey Givens
A dispute over a gun turned deadly when one man killed another in Amargosa Valley on Sunday.
A man named John Sprague was shot and killed after he reportedly confronted Avery Church, 58, about an earlier incident where Church allegedly pointed a firearm at four teenagers.
According to a declaration of arrest in the case, deputies were dispatched to Church’s residence at 1178 N. Tamarack Ave., around 2:51 p.m. where they found Sprague lying in the driveway suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
NCSO deputies administered first aid to the victim until he could be transported from the scene for emergency medical treatment. He died before he reached the hospital.
During a subsequent interview with Church, the suspect reportedly told officers he felt scared and threatened after Sprague showed up that afternoon and punched him in the ear and chin, refusing to leave once he was told to do so.
Despite his claims that the victim had assaulted him just prior to the shooting, witnesses at the scene reportedly told police there was no altercation or yelling heard coming from the home prior to the incident. They also told deputies it appeared Church exited the residence as Sprague was approaching and shot him.
A declaration of arrest for Church additionally notes there were no injuries present on his person consistent with his claim of the victim punching him in the face.
As deputies began an investigation into the events that led up to the shooting, police learned that Church had gotten into an argument with family members two days earlier and pulled a gun on four teenage boys and an adult family member.
Church had gone to a residence in the 1500 block of Silverado Road Friday evening where he allegedly began fighting with several people. He then pulled out his gun, pointed it at those individuals and began threatening them.
Church was subsequently chased out of the residence and sent on his way home for the night without any further incident.
On Sunday, Church reportedly confronted the four teenage boys, who were involved in Friday’s incident, about the altercation as they were collecting firewood across the street from his home.
The teenagers told police they began to argue and the argument became more and more heated until Church allegedly pulled out his gun again and pointed it in their direction. They said there was conversation from Church at one point about “shooting them,” and that he then spun around and fired two rounds into a nearby stump.
The four boys then left the area and told an adult family member, who happened to be with Sprague, about the argument.
Less than an hour later, Sprague arrived at Church’s home to confront him about pointing his gun at the boys. It was during that conversation Church allegedly shot and killed Sprague in the driveway.
When asked about the altercation with the juveniles, Church allegedly denied pointing his gun at them. He did, however, admit to firing two shots while in the same vicinity as the boys, telling officers he was “trying to scare his dogs into returning home.”
Bullet casings consistent with the allegation of two shots fired near the teenagers were found by deputies at the scene as well as an additional casing in the area where the shooting that fatally injured Sprague took place.
Church was subsequently placed under arrest and transported to the Nye County Detention Center to be booked into custody.
He is being held without bail and remained in custody as of Tuesday.
Sprague’s death marks the second homicide in Nye County this year. Peter James Helfrich was charged with the Jan. 23 beating death of Salvador Gama. A mental evaluation is expected to be ordered in that case.
On Feb. 6, Randall Phelps, 68, was charged with shooting his daughter’s boyfriend, 35-year-old Benjamin Appleby. Appleby was taken to a Las Vegas hospital in critical condition. Sources say a bullet is lodged in his brain.
All three suspects in these serious crimes say they acted in self-defense.
Church appeared in Beatty Justice Court Tuesday, where his arraignment was scheduled for March 4.