Man accused of killing Nev. trooper was paranoid over coronavirus, court documents say

John Dabritz, 65, faces numerous charges, including open murder and third-degree arson, related to the death of Sgt. Ben Jenkins with the Nevada Highway Patrol. (Source: White Pine County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

ELY, Nev. (KVVU/CNN) - A 65-year-old man from Nevada charged in the death of a state trooper had been claiming, for weeks prior to the incident, that COVID-19 was flowing in the water and sewer systems, according to court documents.

John Dabritz, 65, appeared in court Wednesday on numerous charges, including open murder and third-degree arson, related to the death of 47-year-old Sgt. Ben Jenkins with the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Police say Jenkins pulled over Friday after he saw a car on the side of the road near Ely, Nevada. When he approached the car, Dabritz allegedly shot and killed him then stole his uniform and squad car.

Jenkins is survived by his wife, his mother, four children and five grandchildren, according to NHP.

White Pine County District Attorney Michael Wheable said the case has the potential for the death penalty.

For weeks prior to the fatal incident, Dabritz was on a paranoid quest, claiming that COVID-19 was flowing in the water and sewer systems, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

The White Pine County Sheriff’s Office was contacted after three incidents involving Dabritz, according to court documents. He allegedly trespassed at William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely on March 21, where he had been placed on a legal mental health hold about a week prior.

Kay Roberts-McMurray, a reporter for the Ely Times, told the Review-Journal that Dabritz contacted her March 23 with claims of a mind-blowing story on the coronavirus. She said their conversation “was very erratic, and much of it didn’t make sense.”

Dabritz also allegedly delivered a suspicious package to Ely Justice Court on March 24.

Dabritz has not entered a plea, according to the Review-Journal. He remains in custody and is expected to return to court later this month.

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