Skywalk Road dispute leads to yet another arrest
Ranch owner, Hualapai tribe hurl allegations
KINGMAN - Local businessman Nigel Turner found himself in handcuffs again Tuesday afternoon, but this time he ended up in the hospital instead of the Mohave County Jail.
Turner and the Hualapai Tribe have a long-standing argument over work on Diamond Bar Road, which passes Turner's Grand Canyon Ranch en route to the tribe's tourist attraction, the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
It's led to plenty of accusations and name-calling, but they took it to new levels this week after Turner was arrested for allegedly trespassing on the construction site.
Turner said he was mistreated by tribal police, whom he also said delayed medical attention when he started having chest pains. A tribal spokesman, meanwhile, repeatedly called Turner a "criminal suspect" who "spew[ed] falsehoods" and had no self-control.
The parties to this dispute, it should be noted, are in the tourism business, one that sees hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to this particular corner of Mohave County.
Turner said he and one of his employees approached the construction foreman Tuesday afternoon because it appeared the crew was going blast a rock face near some of Turner's guest cabins.
"They told us they would let us know before they started any of that kind of work," he said. "I have international guests staying in those cabins."
Before he could to speak to the foreman, he said, a Hualapai Tribal Officer approached him, told him he was under arrest and handcuffed him.
Hualapai Tribal spokesman Dave Cieslak said Turner had been warned two weeks ago, after he approached a security officer in the construction zone, not to enter the construction site again or he would be arrested for trespassing.
According to Cieslak, Turner was "verbally abusing staff members. He was warned by a Hualapai Police officer to leave the area or face arrest. When Turner refused to leave and continued harassing personnel, the officer placed him under arrest for trespassing."
Turner said the area he approached on Tuesday was not marked off. Cieslak disputed that.
Turner said he was placed in a car - "It wasn't even a real police car," he said, although that, too, is disputed by Cieslak - and was left there for over an hour. Then he started having chest pains, he said, and suspected dehydration.
"I asked the officer to take me to my ranch so I could take a helicopter to Las Vegas to get medical treatment, but he wouldn't take me," Turner said.
Patients complaining of chest pains are usually taken to the nearest medical facility because the pain can signal heart trouble, which needs immediate medical attention, Cieslak said.
"When a criminal suspect claims to have a health emergency while in custody, police officers follow very specific guidelines," he said. "They immediately notify emergency medical personnel and render aid, and the suspect is taken to the closest hospital by the nearest ambulance. That's what happened here. Turner is not the first criminal suspect to spew falsehoods and attempt to deflect attention from the key issue: that he was under arrest for an easily preventable crime and his frightening, erratic behavior continues to plague him."
According to a Google map query, it's about a three-hour drive to Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas and about two hours to Kingman Regional Medical Center.
Turner said he was driven to the end of Diamond Bar Road, where a medical helicopter and an ambulance were called.
In an email to the Miner, Cieslak said the arresting officer followed all police procedures.
"While Turner was being transported to Mohave County Jail in a police patrol car, he told the officer that he was experiencing discomfort in his chest," he wrote. "The officer immediately stopped the car, notified emergency medical teams and rendered aid. At one point, Turner asked for water and the officer provided him with a bottle; Turner then violently threw the water all over the back of the officer's patrol car. When the ambulance arrived, Turner was transported to Kingman Regional Medical Center."
Turner said he was never given any water.
He said he waited another hour for the helicopter and the ambulance to arrive and then the officer wouldn't allow the helicopter to take him to Las Vegas. Turner eventually took the ambulance to Kingman Regional Medical Center where he was treated and then took one of his own helicopters to Las Vegas for further tests.
Cieslak said the trespassing charges have been forwarded to the Mohave County Attorney's Office.
"All of this could have been avoided if he showed an ounce of decency and self-control. Instead, Turner chose to irreparably tarnish his own legacy with these sad and shameful actions," Cieslak said.
Turner's attorney, Keith Hendricks, said he plans to fight the charges. In a statement to the media, Hendricks questioned whether the Tribal officer had legal jurisdiction to arrest Turner, since the land belongs to the BLM and not the tribe. He also pointed out that Turner leases that land from BLM and has a right to access the property. They also claim that Turner was never told and never given the chance to refuse to leave the property.
"On its face, this was an illegal arrest and unlawful imprisonment," Hendricks said.
Turner was also arrested in June at the Diamond Bar Road project. He allegedly threatened a construction worker with a gun, but those charges were dropped.
The two parties also clashed in May after Turner closed access to the old alignment of the road, which crosses his ranch, in an attempt to forced the tribe into mediation talks about the construction of the new road alignment.
Turner has also charged visitors an activity fee to use the old road alignment to cross his property.
Shortly after he was arrested in June, the BLM granted the Hualapai Tribe an exception and allowed the tribe to build a dirt bypass road around Turner's property. Turner is disputing the BLM permit and the bypass road in court.