Boise, April 16, 2013 - Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson delivered a statement to the court yesterday in support of George Nickel, a decorated Iraqi war veteran who had a near-deadly encounter with Boise Police July 28, 2009. Sgt. Nickel ended up working closely with Boise Police in developing a new officer training program aimed at raising officers awareness of unique emotional issues that face some of today’s war veterans.
"Fortunately, Sgt. Nickel survived," said Chief Masterson. "So many good things and increased understanding have come from that day.
Background on the case involving George Nickel:
Shooting Report: The evening of July 28, 2009, Boise Police were called by neighbors to an apartment complex near S. Vista Ave & W. Canal Street. Witnesses reported a man was using a rifle to try and shoot the locks off of two different apartment doors. When officers arrived they found a man wearing a tactical vest, ignored officers commands and pointed a handgun at them. Four officers fired but did not hit the man, later identified as Nickel, who had taken cover in an upstairs doorway. The man then surrendered and was found to be carrying an AR-15, the handgun and 90 rounds of ammunition. Nickel was charged with one count of unlawful discharge of a firearm into an occupied dwelling, four counts of assault or battery of a law enforcement officer, and one count of using a weapon in the commission of a felony.
Decorated Veteran: Officers and the court soon learned Nickel had been awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for bravery while serving as an Idaho Army Reservist with the 321st Engineer Battalion in Iraq. He had been the only survivor of a roadside bomb explosion that killed three other Idaho soldiers in Iraq in February of 2007. Nickel suffered a broken leg and shrapnel wounds to his face in the explosion. He was found to be suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury at the time of his run in with police in July, 2009.
Inspiration for Veteran’s Court: Nickel went before Judge Deborah Bail on the criminal charges. Bail had established a “Bridge Court” designed to seek alternative treatment for those who could benefit. At the time of Nickel’s incident with BPD, Veteran’s Court did not exist in Idaho. Nickel and his case turned out to be an inspiration for the creation of Veterans court, which like drug courts are intended to help those suffering from treatable issues, and get them the intensive help they need to get out of the criminal justice system. Nickel is now a mentor to others going through Veteran’s Court in Ada County.
Veteran’s Court opened in Ada County in November, 2011. A Veteran’s Court has since been created in Canyon County as well.
Click here for more on the Veteran’s Intercept Police Training Model developed by Boise Police that has become a nationwide model. Photo at right is Sgt. Nickel speaking to an audience at Gowen Field as the Veteran's Intercept Police Training Model was introduced in August, 2011.
Chief Masterson's comments to 4th District Judge Deborah Bail, delivered Monday, April 15, 2013
Good afternoon Judge Bail
Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words at this court proceeding for Mr Nickel on behalf of the Boise Police Department. I also speak for members of the Treasure Valley Veterans Resource Network, many of whom join me here today.
First, I want to recognize and thank you for the innovative approaches you have brought to your court, particularly the manner in which you have handled Mr. Nickel’s case. You deserve much credit for the personal approach you’ve taken in this case, which in many ways has inspired the approaches taken by our new Veterans Treatment Court, a court option that was not available for Mr. Nickel back in 2009.
I understand your insight may come from your background in social work, which perhaps not coincidentally is the college major Mr. Nickel is now pursuing at Boise State.
We also want to compliment the Ada County Prosecutor’s office for their handling of this case. It takes courage to seek unconventional roads to justice. Again, the insights and quite honestly, the chances you took in the way you ALL have handled this case have been an inspiration for success, not only with Mr. Nickel, but for many others whose court appearances have been the beginning of a road to a healthy recovery … as well as a road to justice.
I now call George Nickel a friend. But the night of July 28th, 2009 he was the subject of a terrified citizen’s 911 call reporting a man shooting into apartments. My officers responded to what they believed was an imminent threat to public safety, and within moments encountered a heavily armed man who refused to comply with commands, and instead pointed his weapon at officers. Officers fired in response, the suspect found cover, officers repeated commands and the suspect eventually surrendered.
No one could have predicted where that incident - that began with danger, confusion and crisis would lead us.
That near tragedy has us standing in this courtroom today. But a much larger picture has emerged… and a tremendously positive impact on our community has occurred as a result. Every month, some 50 Treasure Valley agencies representing housing, education, employment, military, courts, the faith community, prosecutors and law enforcement meet, coming together as the Idaho Veteran’s Network. We meet monthly and have for the last three years to “communicate, collaborate, coordinate and connect” to improve services to local military veterans.
George Nickel is the reason we came together.
I’m proud to say we have documented twelve incidents where our collaboration has saved a life. We refer to our successes as a “Nickel saved”.
Those “twelve Nickels” mean at least twelve people today who are still with us, still with their families and friends, because of the dedicated work of the Idaho Veterans Network.
Mr Nickel himself is a valuable member of the Idaho Veteran’s Network. He has personally organized a group of Iraq war veterans that meet on Saturday evenings - with child care provided - for what we call peer-to peer counseling. What it really is, is an opportunity for these veterans to “debrief” and talk privately with each other as a way to cope with what they experienced in war and what they’re experiencing today here at home.
Mr. Nickel today is not the person he was in July, 2009. He has a new mission in life and one that’s just as important as his prior mission of protecting and defending our nation. Today he is protecting and healing our veterans as a mentor for the Veteran’s Court, a treatment court his case prompted judges like you to create. He’s a counselor, a motivator, an inspiration. Thanks to what began in your courtroom nearly four years ago… today Mr. Nickel is an example of what an individual who desires to change and improve his life can do… with a little help.
We all need a help up at times. Mr. Nickel is now the epitome of “paying it forward”. He’s a man who, in his own quiet, dignified way has become a leader in giving our veterans a solid chance at a healthy, productive return home.
Thanks to the publicity Mr. Nickel’s case has received, I’m happy to report that more veterans are coming forward for assistance. More veterans are learning they can come through the hard times, that there is a community here who wants to and has the resources to help them, and they can be better for it all.
Our hope is Mr. Nickel and other veteran’s like him will inspire more to volunteer as mentors in our Veteran’s Courts. Mentors are badly needed and essential to getting those in Veteran’s Court back on the path to where they want to be - contributing members of our community.
Thank you, Mr. Nickel for your bravery on the battlefield and here at home.
And thank you Judge Bail. Because of the courage of your court, we WILL have more “Nickel’s saved”.