Possible Murder – Suicide Involving Iraq War Veteran in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada)

Airman, wife die in shooting – – SWAT officers find couple dead after standoff in North Las Vegas

February 21, 2009, Las Vegas, Nevada – A Nellis Air Force Base airman and his wife died in what is believed to be a murder-suicide Friday in a North Las Vegas apartment.

The deaths ended a roughly two-hour standoff with North Las Vegas police, during which the airman, an Iraq war veteran who might have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, shot at police.

Police said a third party, a friend of the wife’s, called police about 5:30 a.m. claiming that the gunman was holding a gun to his wife’s head inside the apartment, Sgt. Tim Bedwell said.

Officers made contact with the man at a ground-level unit at the Craig Ranch Villas apartments, 370 Casa Norte Drive, near Commerce Street and Lone Mountain Road. He retreated into the apartment and fired shots through a window at police, Bedwell said.

When SWAT officers entered the apartment about 8 a.m., they found the two people dead from gunshot wounds.

Authorities have not released the names of the couple, but sources said the airman was Jason Matthew Klinkenberg.

A marriage license application from Clark County identified Klinkenberg as 25 years old. The application shows he married his wife, 23-year-old Crystal Klinkenberg, in July 2007.

Nellis Air Force Base officials would say only that the airman was a vehicle operator with the 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

A friend who said he served with Klinkenberg in Iraq said that Klinkenberg battled post-traumatic stress disorder and had back problems that required him to have several surgeries.

The friend, who declined to give his name, said Klinkenberg was traumatized by an incident with a rocket propelled grenade and, later, when a man set himself on fire in front of him.

This information could not be independently confirmed Friday.

Nellis spokeswoman Capt. Amanda Ferrell said base officials are looking into the airman’s career, including his deployment in Iraq in late 2005.

“We’re researching any history regarding his career that might have had an impact on the incident,” she said.

In an interview last year regarding how the base handles PTSD cases in its active duty ranks, Nellis psychologist, Lt. Col. Kevin McCal, said the base doesn’t have a specific program to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder among active duty troops. Focus is put on awareness and hope that those with PTSD voluntarily seek help through the base’s mental health program, he said.

Neighbors claimed to hear fighting coming from the apartment about an hour before police were called. When officers arrived, neighbors said they heard officers shouting for “Jason” to leave the apartment.

Officers did not return fire when the gunman shot at them because they were unsure whether the woman inside was in danger, Bedwell said.

“We always err on the side of caution when there is another person inside,” he said.

Several surrounding apartments were evacuated, Bedwell said.

Juan Jose Nevarez was one of several neighbors forced to leave around 5:45 a.m. He watched events unfold from another part of the complex and said he saw about 100 police and SWAT officers hustling around the complex.

“There was a whole army,” he said. “I have never seen so many (officers).”

Management of the Craig Ranch Villas complex would not comment about the incident or status of the tenants in apartment number 1158.

Irene Delatorre said she heard the fighting from her home behind the complex around 4:30 a.m. She said she heard a male voice but never the sound of gunshots.

Officers rushed through the backyards of the homes that back up to the brick wall facing the apartment, Delatorre said.

Delatorre and other neighbors were taken to a nearby elementary school until about 9 a.m.

The Clark County coroner’s office will determine whether the incident was a murder-suicide, Bedwell said.

Bedwell said police did all they could to help the people inside the home.

“This is a horrible outcome for everyone at the scene,” he said.

Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Brian Haynes contributed to this report. Contact reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Contact reporter Keith Rogeers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

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