Nevada City rampage pieced together
Two separate gunfire attacks by a mental patient in Nevada City Wednesday, Jan. 10, left three people dead, three injured, and western Nevada County trying to grasp a tragedy that previously seemed possible anywhere but here.
A daylong search for the suspect, Scott Harlan Thorpe, 40, a county Behavioral Health Department client, ended with his 9 p.m. arrest at his Smartsville house at 10743 Mooney Flat Road, the Sheriff’s Department reported.
Authorities went to the house after Thorpe’s brother, Kent Thorpe, a Sacramento peace officer, reported that his brother phoned him and admitted to the shootings.
The chaos began unraveling just before 11:30 a.m.
Thorpe allegedly walked into the county Behavioral Health Department off Willow Valley Road in Nevada City and shot three people with a handgun, killing two. A fourth person suffered a broken pelvis and other injuries when she jumped from a second-floor window to escape the gunfire.
Thorpe was somehow upset with the department, Sheriff Keith Royal said.
Less than 10 minutes later and four miles away, at Lyon’s Restaurant on Nevada City Highway, the same suspected gunman asked for the manager, then allegedly shot and killed him and then shot a fleeing cook through the back, witnesses said.
Thorpe allegedly thought the restaurant was poisoning him, Royal said.
The sheriff said none of the victims appeared to be specific targets.
“I think we can extend that the shooting occurred by the victims being at the location, by their mere presence,” Royal said. “It’s very unfortunate that occurred.”
“It’s just out of the norm for our little town, but it seems like it’s happening more and more,” said Jerry Bradley, who heard six gunshots from Lyon’s while working next door at Sierra Motor Sports.
Royal said Thorpe was “seeking some kind of assistance” at the Behavioral Health Department but didn’t know further details.
The department is housed in the county Health Education and Welfare Building. The gunman shot three people – two workers and a caretaker – and fired through a glass partition to kill at least one of the victims.
An HEW crisis counselor, John Eby, called 911 after hearing several shots. “Hell yes, get here now!” he told an Emergency Command Center dispatcher.
The shots sent panic through the department of 55-some workers.
“There was a ton of screaming,” Eby said.
The gunman killed a 19-year-old intern, Laura Wilcox, and 68-year-old Pearlie Mae Feldman, who brought a client to an appointment, an office worker said.
The third shooting victim at the HEW Building, Judith Edzards, 49, a county supervising health technician, survived multiple gunshot wounds. She was still in critical condition with four bullet wounds as of Monday at Sutter Roseville Medical Center.
Daizy Switzer, a 35-year-old Behavioral Health Department employee, suffered a broken pelvis and ankle and fractured back in her second-story leap.
Royal said the gunman shot at least one of the victims through a sheet of glass that separated the lobby from the receptionist’s area.
At Lyon’s, the gunman asked for the manager and wound up shooting the assistant manager, Mike Markle, 24, according to two workers who witnessed the shooting.
“I didn’t have time to be scared. Now I’m kind of scared,” said cook Jose Barba, 32, who leaped over a counter as the gunman shot Markle three times with a handgun.
A busboy, 18-year-old Juan Maldonado, fled after the shooting.
“I didn’t think nothing,” he said. “I was just running, and that’s it.”
He said Markle had worked at the restaurant three days, leading Maldonado to believe he was an unintended target.
“I think he got the wrong one,” he said.
Maldonado saw the gunman carrying a gun in one hand, a briefcase in the other.
The witnesses said the gunman next shot a cook, Richard Senuty, 34, who suffered chest and abdominal wounds. He was in stable condition at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
Thorpe phoned his brother at 5 p.m., and about 15 officers surrounded the Mooney Flat house, less than a mile from Highway 20. One officer negotiated by phone with Thorpe for two hours before his peaceful surrender.
Memorial contributions may be made for Mike Markle’s children at any branch of Bank of America, or to a preferred charity.
A memorial fund to assist the family of Laura Wilcox has been started at Placer Sierra Bank in Penn Valley. Donations can be sent to the Laura Wilcox Memorial Fund at P.O. Box 359, Penn Valley, 95946. For more information, contact the bank at (530) 432-1181. Memorial contributions can also be given to the Friends Committee on National Legislation (www.fcnl.org) or to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (www.handguncontrol.org).
Pearlie Mae Feldman
No information about memorial contributions was available.
– Pete Skiba, John Dickey, Grace Karpa, Kerana Todorov, Tim Omarzu and Kevin Wiser also contributed to this story.
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