By Ken Ritter, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A highway patrol sergeant was shot and killed a little before dawn Friday on a highway in a remote area of northeastern Nevada, and a 67-year-old suspect who fled with his uniform and patrol vehicle was arrested several hours later, authorities said.

Sgt. Ben Jenkins, 47, died in the shooting about 6 a.m. on U.S. 93 north of the White Pine County seat of Ely, state public safety Director George Togliatti said in a statement. Togliatti described Jenkins as a lifelong public employee and volunteer from Elko who won the agency’s gold medal of valor in 2011.

John Dabritz, 65, a resident of the tiny White Pine County mining town of Ruth, was arrested about four hours later after a manhunt not far from the Lincoln County line, officials said. Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee, whose deputies were involved in the search, said materials identified as possible explosives were found and that it appeared Dabritz acted alone.

Dabritz on Monday tried to buy a full-page advertisement at the local Ely Times, said reporter Kay Lynn Roberts-McMurray, who noted that she reported to White Pine County sheriff’s deputies that Dabritz appeared confused.

“His conversation was very broken and not making sense,” Roberts-McMurray said. She said Dabritz told her he had spent time in mental health treatment in Las Vegas, that he was a former nuclear scientist, and that he had a flash drive with information about the worldwide spread of new coronavirus.

Dabritz also left a package at the locked door of a local court, Roberts-McMurray said.

The shooting happened after Jenkins reported he was stopping to assist a motorist on the highway. The site is more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Las Vegas and 250 miles (400 kilometers) east of Reno.

Lee said Dabritz had multiple weapons and was previously known to law enforcement officers. The sheriff said he could not immediately provide a motive.

Jenkins was a married father of four with five grandchildren, Togliatti said. He was a former state fire marshal training officer, a crew supervisor for the state Division of Forestry, an assistant volunteer fire chief in Spring Creek and a veteran of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

“Without question, Sgt. Jenkins was a hero to his community, his law enforcement colleagues, the state of Nevada and our country,” Togliatti said.