State police: No charges warranted after Reno councilwoman backs car into woman
The Nevada State Police have concluded an investigation into Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus reportedly backing her car into a woman who appeared to be homeless after attending a ribbon-cutting event on March 16.
NHP found "the incident was not intentional and does not warrant any criminal charges or citations to be issued,” according to a report dated March 22.
According to a witness account, the woman said she was OK after the collision. City staff did not provide details, but confirmed a vehicle accident involving a council member happened during work hours.
“The Human Resources Department is responding to the matter as they would any work-related accident involving a City employee and have reported the accident to the appropriate law enforcement agency,” city spokeswoman Cassie Harris said.
Brekhus released a statement Wednesday afternoon to The Nevada Independent through a text message.
"On March 16 I attended an event at a city park in my capacity as a Council Member & Truckee Meadows Water Authority Board Member,” she said. “Leaving the event in my personal vehicle, I was involved in a low speed backing up incident involving a park user & that person's personal property. The Nevada Highway Patrol asked me to answer questions about the incident and I did."
But a witness statement submitted to the city by Brekhus’ assistant Tyler Shaw, and obtained by The Nevada Independent, offers more detail about the crash involving a woman Shaw believed was homeless. It followed a ribbon-cutting for the “Portland Loo” — a freestanding public restroom designed with homeless users in mind — at John Champion Park a little before noon.
According to Shaw’s report, Brekhus and Shaw were on their way from the ribbon-cutting to attend a tour of Verdi. Brekhus, who was in the driver’s seat, was peering around her surroundings and said “we need to be careful getting out of here” before she started to back up.
Moments after Brekhus started backing out, Shaw said he heard a loud thump and a scream. Brekhus then stopped and she and Shaw got out of the vehicle.
Behind the car was a woman on the ground about 5 feet from the back of the stopped car in a bush. The report also said the woman “appeared to be homeless, and had a cart of things next to her on the ground."
Following the scream, other people who had been at the ribbon-cutting ceremony began to gather around the woman, including Matt Brezina, a parks maintenance manager for the city. Those gathered around the woman asked her if she was OK, and after a moment, she said that she was, Shaw reported. People in the group helped the woman to her feet and asked her if she was having chest pains and if she needed an ambulance.
After she said she was OK, the crowd dispersed, and Brekhus and Shaw reentered the vehicle.
As the two were leaving the parking lot, Brekhus spotted the woman sitting with a man at a bus stop. Brekhus pulled the vehicle to the side of the road in front of the two at the bus stop and asked the woman again if she was OK and if she needed water or medicine.
The man sitting next to the woman who had been hit told Brekhus “she needs money for some pain pills,” and Brekhus took $25 from her wallet and handed it to the woman, Shaw said. The woman said, “Thank you, I am OK.”
As Brekhus and Shaw were waiting to pull away from the bus stop, Shaw, who had the passenger window rolled down, said he heard the woman say her hand really hurt. The man remarked that “she took it like a champ,” to which she responded, “Yes, I did.”
Brekhus and Shaw then headed to Verdi for the scheduled tour.
Originally the crash was reported to the Reno Police Department, but the case has since been turned over to the Nevada State Police “as per protocol,” according to Reno police. Asked for comment, the Nevada State Police directed a reporter to submit a formal records request, but did not immediately respond to that request.
This story was updated at 10 a.m. on 3/29/23 to reflect Nevada State Police recommend no charges.