06/27/2006

Nev. trooper kills fired, rampaging miner

David Kihara
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Copyright 2006 DR Partners d/b/a Las Vegas Review-Journal
All Rights Reserved

A recently fired miner was shot and killed late Friday after he commandeered a 70-ton dump truck and went on a rampage at an open-pit silica mine outside Overton, destroying equipment, igniting fires and causing millions of dollars in damage, police said.

The man was shot and killed by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper as he rammed the mining vehicle into firetrucks from the Overton and Logandale volunteer fire departments, police said.

"There were an awful lot of firemen in danger," said Sgt. Rocky Alby of the Metropolitan Police Department's homicide unit, which is investigating the shooting. "He certainly could have killed a lot of people with that thing."

Alby said the man was not armed when he was shot.

Police would not release the 33-year-old man's name Saturday, but friends and family identified him as Adam Cooper.

The former employee of J.R. Simplot went to the company's mine Friday night and hijacked a front-end loader and then the dump truck, police said. He drove around the property destroying equipment and setting fire to buildings, police said.

While driving the dump truck around the mining pit, which is a mile long and a quarter-mile wide, the man tipped over a 10,000-gallon diesel tanker, causing it to ignite, police said.

The fire caused about $2.5 million in damage to buildings and heavy equipment, said Bob Leinbach, spokesman for the Clark County Fire Department.

Ben File, the mine's superintendent, declined to comment. Officials at the company's headquarters in Boise, Idaho, could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Word of the rampage and shooting spread quickly in Overton, a small community about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Friends, relatives and former co-workers of the man said they believed he went on the rampage because he was distraught over his firing about a month ago.

"I think he was upset how things happened there at Simplot. He wanted them to pay in some way," said Rod Rorden, who had known the man more than 18 years. "He wanted them to have some kind of loss for his loss. He wanted to make it hard for them to keep making money."

Rorden added, however, that it was unlike his friend to be aggressive. "It wasn't something he would do," he said. "He would never hurt anyone."

Charlie Cooper, the fired miner's brother, said the man had suffered from mental health problems but was never violent.

"Our family is just trying to deal with it right now. It's just a shock to us," he said. "We're trying to understand what happened."

Pat Olson, who worked with the man at the mine, said authorities could have ended the incident without killing him. They could have shot out the dump truck's 6-foot-tall tires to stop the vehicle, Olson said.

"Shoot the tires and it won't go anywhere," Olson said.

Left at the scene Saturday were three smoldering vehicles, a mangled 100-yard conveyor belt and a destroyed mining building about the size of a small mobile home. The dump truck, which had what appeared to be two bullet holes in the driver's side door and window, remained at the mine pit.

Olson said his former co-worker was preparing to sue the company over his termination but hadn't talked about doing anything destructive at the mine.

"You would never think in a million years that he would do that," Olson said. "He's so nonviolent."

Others, however, said being fired was too much for a man already going through a divorce and struggling with mental health problems.

Police said the man attempted suicide after his firing.

Rorden said that after the man was fired, he joked about driving a front-end loader through buildings at the mine.

Rorden said he didn't think the man was serious about destroying equipment at the site. "We all say something like that when we're mad at someone," he said.

The Highway Patrol would not comment on the incident, because it is being investigated by Las Vegas police, Highway Patrol spokesman Kevin Honea said.

Las Vegas police have an agreement with the Highway Patrol to investigate any trooper-involved shootings, Alby said.

The trooper who shot and killed the man was placed on administrative leave, as required by Highway Patrol policy. The Highway Patrol will release the trooper's name 48 hours after the shooting.

Review-Journal writer Lawrence Mower and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
 
June 26, 2006

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