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Air Force investigating bizarre gate-crashing incident at Nellis in Nevada

A sign warns drivers to stop at a gate at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., June 20, 2018.

BAILEE DARBASIE/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 6, 2018

At least two civilians recently drove unchallenged through the main gate at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., the first act in a bizarre unfolding of kidnapping and sexual-assault allegations made and then retracted, according to multiple news reports.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police later arrested one man on an unrelated, outstanding warrant, according to reports in Task and Purpose and the Air Force Times.

Both outlets based their accounts on an operational report about the Tuesday incident posted on the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.

According to that report, a 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 van approached the gate, but the driver did not stop. The “sentry failed to stop the vehicle or initiate gate-runner procedures, which allowed the vehicle to successfully breach the installation.”

Also, the sentry did nothing to inform anyone — including two other guards on duty at the time — about the breach, according to the leaked report.

“Sentry response is under investigation,” the report states.

Not long afterward, at about 5 a.m., two airmen reported to the defense operations center that a woman told them she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a man in the Mercedes-Benz, according to the leaked report and the Air Force Times.

A half-hour later, security forces found the suspect asleep inside the Sprinter in a dining facility parking lot a little more than a mile from the gate, the Air Force Times reported. Both civilians were turned over to metro police, according to the operational report posted on Facebook.

The woman later retracted her statement, prompting police — who held the man on an outstanding warrant — to turn the case back to Air Force investigators.

Air Force security searched the Sprinter and had it moved off base. Meanwhile, the woman reported a second assailant, “which [security forces] personnel searched for, resulting in a person matching that description being detained.”

However, the woman then “recanted her statement” about a second assailant, the report states. It leaves unanswered what happened to the second suspect. The woman went free, according to the report.

Nellis spokeswoman Rebekah Mattes confirmed to Task and Purpose and Air Force Times that a breach had occurred, that none of the civilians involved were authorized to be on base and that an investigation was underway.

“The 99th Air Base Wing takes installation security very seriously and is looking into the matter and examining what processes may need to change to further bolster security,” she told the Air Force Times in a statement. “At no point were aircraft, classified information or personnel threatened. The investigation into how the individuals gained access to Nellis is ongoing and more information is not available at this time.”

Mattes told the Air Force Times that the alleged assailant was an American, not a Russian, as rumors held.

The Nellis incident is the fourth reported breach of security at an Air Force installation in the past year.

A British man in December 2017 drove onto RAF Mildenhall, which primarily supports U.S. operations in the United Kingdom, and damaged a V-22 Osprey. In March, a driver crashed the gate at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., in a burning van loaded with propane tanks and gasoline canisters and died in the resulting fire, according to the Air Force Times.

In October, three teenage boys were arrested for allegedly smashing a stolen car into a gate at a Wisconsin National Guard unit at an airport near Milwaukee. A security guard fired a round in that incident but no one was injured, according to The Associated Press.

ditzler.joseph@stripes.com
Twitter: @JosephDitzler

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