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Three men to be charged in Devil’s Hole incident

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office said three men are expected to be charged in an incident that occurred at Devil’s Hole in Death Valley National Park on April 30.

Steven Schwinkendorf, 29, of Pahrump; Edgar Reyes, 35, of North Las Vegas; and Trenton Sargent, 26, of Indian Springs have been interviewed and are expected to be charged, NCSO said in a press release issued Thursday afternoon.

Charges include conspiracy to commit a crime, killing of an endangered species, destruction of property, trespassing, and destruction of habitat. The NCSO also said that at least one of the suspects is a convicted felon and is expected to be charged as an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Charges are projected to be taken at the federal level.

At around 7:20 p.m. on April 30, three men in an off-highway vehicle drove off-road around a gate at the Devil’s Hole parking lot. They discharged a firearm at least 10 times, shooting at locks on two gates, a motion sensor on the security camera system and several signs in the area.

One man swam in Devil’s Hole and left his boxer shorts behind in the water. After entering the water, the suspect stomped around the shelf area of the critical ecosystem. Three beer cans were left behind and one man vomited.

The security camera system was still partially functional during the entire time the men were at Devil’s Hole. The surveillance footage that was posted on the Internet showed the men jumping over a fence and driving away toward Crystal.

A collaborative investigation between the National Park Service and NCSO Scorpion Task Force led to the identification of the three suspects, according to the press release. Investigators collected evidence, including DNA and video surveillance.

NCSO Sgt. Thomas Klenczar located the vehicle seen in the video. The vehicle’s owner, Schwinkendorf and two other suspects were interviewed over the phone.

“Based on the investigation of the crime scene and the interviews with the suspects, investigators determined the threesome had been drinking and out shooting rabbits when they came to Devil’s Hole,” a press release said.

Devil’s Hole is a detached section of Death Valley and is the only natural habitat of the endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish. The National Park Service, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, work to protect the endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish and its habitat.

There were only 115 observable pupfish in Devil’s Hole counted during April’s spring survey.

The intrusion is believed to have resulted in the death of at least one endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish, and fisheries biologists are trying to ascertain the extended damage that may have been done to food sources and egg sites which could lead to more loss of the species. The killing of an endangered species is a felony crime.

An assessment of the financial loss is being conducted.

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