Sheriff's volunteer ambushed, shot 3 times; suspect surrenders
ASH FORK - A 70-year-old member of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office's "Volunteers in Protection" (VIP) group was shot three times Thursday night, July 9, after being lured to a spot where he was ambushed by what Sheriff Scott Mascher called "anti-police, anti-government, radical extremists."
Jason Niedermeyer, 24, surrendered Thursday night and will be charged with attempted homicide in the attack, YCSO spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said, after more than 20 rounds were fired at the VIP from a high-powered rifle, striking him three times.
During interviews Friday, Sheriff's Office detectives determined Jason Niedermeyer's father, Gregory Niedermeyer, 49, was also involved in the shooting and arrested him. They also arrested Gregory Niedermeyer's wife, Maria Niedermeyer, 54, for her involvement in a large marijuana grow on the property.
The incident began when an ATV, driven by Jason Niedermeyer, caught the VIP's attention as it sped around the streets of the Juniper Wood Ranch neighborhood around 6 p.m., D'Evelyn said.
The armed, uniformed VIP-whose identity has not been released- followed the ATV in a marked YCSO vehicle, intending to make note of the driver's home for later contact by a deputy, D'Evelyn said, but when the ATV went onto private property, the VIP stopped and got out to take a look.
A gust of wind blew some paperwork out of his patrol vehicle, and as he turned to pick up the pages, he was struck in the pelvic area by gunfire, D'Evelyn said.
On Friday, detectives learned Gregory Niedermeyer reportedly fired the first shots.
"When his dad fired, Jason saw the VIP buckle indicating he was apparently hit," D'Evelyn said. "Jason then began firing rifle rounds towards the 'deputy.'"
He said both shooters had weapons malfunctions and Gregory Niedermeyer was reportedly shooting at the VIP's patrol vehicle with a .50 caliber sniper rifle as it drove away.
Investigators believe the VIP was "intentionally lured to the property by the actions of the speeding quad driver and then ambushed," D'Evelyn said.
As the shooting continued, the VIP was able to crawl back into the vehicle and drive away while calling for help.
Officers from around the region, including a SWAT team, responded and set up for a stand-off situation.
At about 11:45 p.m., Jason Niedermeyer called 911 to surrender and was transferred to a negotiator.
"During the conversation, (Jason Niedermeyer) admitted his role in shooting the YCSO volunteer," D'Evelyn said.
During interviews, Jason Niedermeyer told authorities his motivation in surrendering was "potential harm to his family."
In all, the Sheriff's Office detained six people, including Jason Niedermeyer's wife, 5-year-old son and a family friend.
The VIP was flown to Flagstaff Medical Center, where he underwent surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.
A search of the house turned up "numerous" firearms, including a .50-caliber rifle and pipe bombs, D'Evelyn said.
A state Department of Public Safety bomb squad was on scene Friday morning because of the pipe bombs.
Authorities also found a large marijuana grow, and added production of marijuana to the attempted murder charges against Jason Niedermeyer and Gregory Niedermeyer. They also arrested Maria Niedermeyer for her involvement with the illegal plants, but noted she was not charged in relation to the shooting.
The other two adults have not been charged, D'Evelyn said.
"These people have threatened officers in the past, from multiple agencies," he said.
The house is located on 20 acres of land with "no cover" for officers, which is why the YCSO, Prescott Police, and Prescott Valley Police all responded with armored vehicles.
"They were a very important part of this operation," Mascher added, noting that the suspect had rifles "stationed throughout the residence and outbuildings...set up in positions to be ready to fire."
D'Evelyn said because of a previous and unrelated court ruling, the Niedermeyers no longer have title to the property, and new owners will soon take possession.
Despite this incident, Mascher said he won't stop using volunteers.
"They're the eyes and ears of the sheriff's office," he said. "It just so happens that these people saw him in a position of authority."
Mascher said the volunteer could just as easily have been a sworn deputy, noting that "he's in a uniform, in a marked patrol car, and they shot him."
The VIPs are well-trained, he said, pointing out that he himself started his career with the YCSO as a volunteer.
"I am not going to get rid of volunteers. We can't do the things we do without them."
Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy. Call him at 928-445-3333 x2038 or 928-642-7705.