Shooting in Virginia City sparks anger
VIRGINIA CITY – Protesters shouting “murderer” and “shame on you” snarled traffic and nearly brought business to a standstill in this Comstock tourist town Saturday, protesting the shooting death of town character Bob McKinney.
About 40 demonstrators gathered before the Firehouse Restaurant and Saloon to protest the death of McKinney who was shot twice by Deputy Mark McCreary. Eyewitnesses have said the victim was threatening the deputy with a knife.
It’s a tragedy that has rocked the little town to its roots. Locals, friends and seven of McKinney’s cousins marched in protest from the Firehouse Restaurant and Saloon on Virginia City’s C Street to the Red Dog Saloon and back Saturday as tourists watched in solemn wonder.
“I’m here as much to mourn Bob as to protest what this message sends to our children,” resident Squeek LaVake said. “Our favorite town character is dead. We know that much.”
On horseback, Deputy John Tyson kept vigil as participants jeered and the protest, which continued for about 2 1/2 hours, stalled traffic. Protesters called for the resignation of Storey County Sheriff Pat Whitten and yelled “shame on you” and “murderer.” Many shopkeepers watched from their establishments – some slammed their doors, saying people have jumped to conclusions without waiting for the facts.
The protesters dwindled but not the anger as the group started north a second time. At this point the protest forced its way around a Nevada Highway Patrol car with lights flashing, but the protesters passed without incident and the protest died shortly thereafter.
“We live in a town full of characters. Many people who live here can’t make it anywhere but Virginia City,” said former Sheriff Bob DelCarlo. “I’m one of those, too.”
DelCarlo said he wanted to wait until the investigation was complete before passing any judgment on the event, but was saddened by the tragedy.
“It’s sad that Bob McKinney is no longer with us,” DelCarlo said. “He was a man that needed special treatment and when I was sheriff, my deputies were good to him But times are changing and people’s attitudes are changing.”
McKinney walked to town from his small house on Highway 341 and according to many local residents he wouldn’t accept charity.
“He picked up all the cigarette butts and kept the town clean,” one resident said. “Bob was a person who didn’t do money or credit cards.”
McKinney spent his early years in the Bay area, graduating with honors from high school in Berkeley before going into the Army. That was in the 1960s and family members were vague about whether the military experience, drugs or mental problems led him to this lifestyle.
“His mother was a fourth-grade teacher here, and when she died, she left him some money,” cousin Evangeline Tanner said. “He bought a bunch of orange trees and spent hours carrying water to them every day. But of course, they froze.”
She said he burned down two houses, so contractor Ben Wesner and relative Larry Tanner built a small, fireproof house for him in a spot he loved.
Cousin Pamela Galloway said McKinney’s body is currently being held in Lyon County for the autopsy. Once it is released, he will be cremated, his ashes to be buried near the house.
“He functioned here for more than 30 years without any events. The village rallied and took care of him,” Tanner said. “He was a friend of mine.”
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