VIDEO: Groups Call For Department of Justice Investigation Into Columbus Day Clash

Charlene Dressler, Paiute from Winnemucca.

Dozens of groups and hundreds of individuals have signed a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). They are seeking a review of the Reno Police Department’s (RPD) response to a clash on Columbus Day under the Reno arch.

Native Americans and their allies were protesting downtown that day calling for it to be changed to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Three people face misdemeanor charges in the incident in which the driver of truck, Nick Mahaffey, drove through the crowd of demonstrators. He ran over a woman, putting her in the hospital with multiple fractures.

A formal complaint is being sent to President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice.
A formal complaint is being sent to President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Charlene Dressler, a Paiute from Winnemucca, said that Mahaffey got off easy with a charge of provoking an assault. The other two, Sam Harry and James Fletcher, who punched Mahaffey and his juvenile passenger, got charged with simple battery.

“We don’t believe that Mahaffey was charged with the appropriate crime or offense,” Dressler said. “He had the least penalty of all three who were arrested, and he doesn’t face as large of penalty as the others.”

Critics of RPD said that officers took statements only from select witnesses.

“The Reno PD dropped the ball when they first came to the crime scene,” said Raquel Arthur of the American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada. “We wanted to make a statement. We were volunteering to make a statement. Why would you allow the people that were there to not make a statement?”

Reno City Councilman Oscar Delgado said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that the charges against Mahaffey are in the hands of Reno City Attorney Karl Hall.

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Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said that charges against the three were based on extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, participants and by watching a number of videos of the event.

Groups that have signed the complaint to the DOJ include ACTIONN, the American Indian Movement, Amnesty International Nevada, the Nez Perce Tribe, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Reno-Sparks NAACP and Culinary Workers Union Local 226.

Watch a video below of a press conference today at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada. A video from the Reno Police Department Oct. 13 press conference is also posted below.

About Bob Conrad 944 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.


  1. Hey Bob,
    Reporting a couple of glitches with the web site –
    -“review our comment policy (top of page) before posting.” i’m not finding the guidelines *anywhere* on the page.
    -So, and where’s the comments?

    It’s a bit of a concern that comments on the Columbus Day incident where a young man ran into a crowd of people have disappeared. A bit more than a bit of a concern, reeks of prejudicial journalism and being highly selective about what gets published and could be construed as a 1st Amendment violation.

    Stifling comment on this issue is NOT making Reno awesome. There was a national survey published not long ago, Nevada ranked 50th out of 50 states for transparency in government. i’ve run into several incidents recently indicative of widespread wrong-doing among Reno area political figures and the Columbus Day incident is just one of ’em. i’m left wondering with your stripping comments from the articles related to the Columbus Day incident whether you’re one of the ‘good ol’ boys’ or just a wimp of a journalist. What exactly IS up with that?

    But thanks for naming Reno City Attorney Karl Hall. There’s abundant evidence that Mahaffey had been among the protesters on foot earlier, heckling them and then returned in a bit of a rage with his truck and that driving into the crowd was not an act of fear but an act of anger. That Hall has not taken any action yet in this strongly suggests that *he* is one of the ‘good ol’ boys’, looking out for the son of a former county assistant DA.

    There’s a woman in a hospital with a lot of broke bones because of Mahaffey. There’s an article here about the incident and an article about the request for the Justice Department investigation, no interview with the person in the hospital. Reno isn’t very awesome for her.

    • Matthew, I’m unclear what you mean by removing comments, as that is not something we would normally do, as most comments are approved for posting even if they don’t always meet our guidelines (under the About tab).

      We are under no obligation to publish comments at all, and suggesting this is somehow a a free-speech violation is fairly ignorant; some news sites, for example NPR, are simply dropping comments altogether because moderating comments on news stories can be an incredible burden that not all outlets have the resources for.

      That said, I interpret our commenting policy fairly liberally, and the ones that don’t get approved are usually people throwing out potshots anonymously.

      We covered Kitty Colbert’s statements in a past podcast and embedded the video interview with her in a previous story; the implication that her perspective has not been included in our reporting is entirely incorrect.

      Not sure what you’re looking for, but I hope our reporting on this isn’t as full of the same kind of assumptions that your comment makes.

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