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State cites conflict of interest in Nye deputy investigation

State police will not investigate Nye County deputies who failed to stop an intoxicated driver an hour before he killed three people, citing a conflict of interest, the Review-Journal has learned.

Last month, Nye County District Attorney Chris Arabia asked the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Investigation Division to determine if the deputies who failed to stop Tyler Kennedy on March 27, 2021, should be prosecuted and whether the sheriff’s office failed to turn over evidence to prosecutors for the Kennedy case.

Arabia said Tuesday that DPS declined to conduct the probe because a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper responded to the scene and the patrol is part of DPS.

“Unfortunately, Sheriff (Sharon) Wehrly has tried to spread blame for the Kennedy debacle to NHP even though NHP personnel left the area before the discovery of Kennedy’s drugs and drug use,” Arabia said.

“I will keep working to get this horrible situation properly investigated.”

Body camera video shows a trooper talking to Nye deputies at an RV park, which was where a complaint against Kennedy had originated. Other deputies were questioning him across U.S. Highway 95 at the Area 51 Alien Center store, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The trooper never had contact with Kennedy and left after a deputy said they did not need his help, video shows.

DPS spokeswoman Yoko Kim Smith said the trooper’s call to the Kennedy stop and the patrol’s investigation of the subsequent crash made it inappropriate for them to conduct the investigation.

“While a preliminary review of the matter has disclosed that there was no interaction between any member of the Nevada State Police and Mr. Kennedy prior to the fatal collision, nor was any member of the Nevada State Police involved in any decisions related to Mr. Kennedy’s status with the Nye County Sheriff’s Office during that office’s original contact with Mr. Kennedy, a Nevada State Police Highway Patrol Division trooper did respond to the original call for service involving Mr. Kennedy, briefly spoke to at least one Nye County Deputy, and was advised that their (NHP’s) assistance was not needed,” she wrote in an email exchange.

Nye deputies found drug paraphernalia in Kennedy’s truck, they observed he was intoxicated, and Kennedy made admissions to deputies that he had to use drugs to avoid withdrawal, a Review-Journal investigation revealed. Yet deputies allowed him to continue driving.

Arabia said he is researching how to move forward. His office does not have the staff, and one of his investigators, Michael Mokeski, who was then a deputy, was at the scene. He left before the drugs were discovered.

Arabia said he plans to talk to the attorney general’s office and large departments such as Metro and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office to determine if they can pursue a probe.

Three members of an Idaho family died when Kennedy hit them head-on with his truck. He pleaded guilty to three counts of DUI causing death and was sentenced to a maximum of 60 years in prison last month.

Nye sheriff’s staff said the officers did not believe Kennedy was intoxicated when they questioned him at the rest stop.

DPS investigations chief Ryan Miller did not return a call seeking comment.

FBI video

Nye County Sheriff’s leadership has also come under fire for misconduct allegations revealed in a Review-Journal investigation of Capt. David Boruchowitz and Wehrly’s failure to discipline, including during his criminal probe into the Valley Electric Authority while he was running a group to unseat VEA leadership.

The Review-Journal obtained video Friday of the FBI serving search warrants on the sheriff’s department on Aug. 3.

Sources said the FBI was investigating allegations of misconduct against Boruchowitz as well as other county officials, but Boruchowitz denied that he was the focus of the investigation and agents seized his computer and other devices.

The sheriff’s office has declined further comment on the FBI raid, and federal agencies refused to release the search warrant and any documents showing what was seized.

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com and follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

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