ELKO – Elko police have made a second arrest in Friday’s casino robbery and car fire, but the investigation of more suspects is continuing.
Tony A. Pressler, 36, of Spring Creek was arrested early Thursday morning at Stockmen’s Casino. He was booked into Elko County Jail at 1:52 a.m. on charges of robbery, burglary, grand larceny, conspiracy to commit robbery, and conspiracy to commit third-degree arson.
His bail was listed at $145,000.
On Wednesday, an Elko man who was picked up on a probation violation shortly after the crimes was charged with similar offenses. James B. Squires, 33, was booked on robbery, burglary, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal contempt.
Police said Squire is believed to be the taller of two people shown in surveillance video of the robbery. His bail was listed at $120,000.
Elko Police Lt. Mike Palhegyi said more suspects are being investigated in a joint effort including the Elko County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Gaming Control and the Elko Combined Narcotics unit.
The robbers entered Dotty’s casino in the Smith’s shopping mall at about 6:50 a.m. Friday and sprayed employees and patrons with what is believed to have been bear spray, a strong form of pepper spray.
They took an undisclosed amount of money from the casino and fled in a vehicle, which was set on fire a few minutes later on Dotta Drive. Police believe the fire was set to conceal evidence.
Nearly three hours of closing arguments finished the six-day trial. At the center of the arguments was if Pressler was the driver of a white pick-up truck and a Toyota Highlander.
Elko Police Officer Joshua Taylor testified he spotted the truck driving out of the bushes behind Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital when he was responding to a domestic violence call.
Taylor testified he identified Pressler driving the truck when he turned on his patrol car’s take down lights as he was driving toward the truck because he could see him through the truck’s windshield. Mills showed the jury state’s exhibit 81, a photograph of the windshield of the pickup truck in support of that testimony.
“His take down lights were on and he could clearly see into the interior of that vehicle as he came along this path,” Mills said.
“He was positive it was Tony Pressler,” Mills continued, “in fact, the word he used, ‘it was a snapshot, there’s a snapshot in my mind of Tony Pressler behind the wheel of the vehicle at that point.’”
Later that morning, a Toyota Highlander was reported stolen from a residence on Powderhouse Road. It was spotted by Elko County Sheriff’s Deputy Aspen Carrol in Spring Creek towing another car.
Deputy Carrol also said she identified Pressler as the driver of the SUV as she approached the vehicles to conduct a felony stop, leading to another chase.
“Instead of cooperating, Tony Pressler guns it, breaks the tow cable, and drives off,” Mills said. “Now if he were not guilty of all this stuff that happened earlier that morning, if he had no involvement of this incident with Officer Taylor in the white truck here, why would he be gunning it and running away? Why wouldn’t he say, “Hi Officer, how goes everything?’”
Pressler was arrested at a Spring Creek residence that morning, where he was located in a bedroom closet of a friend’s residence.
“Hiding, not sitting there watching TV like an innocent person would be doing if they hadn’t been doing anything. He was actively avoiding the police and hiding from them in a closet with stuff on top of him,” Mills said.
The key to the Toyota Highlander was found in Pressler’s pockets, Mills said.
In Pressler’s defense, attorney Diana Hillewaert said the trial hinged on the positive identification of her client, which she said could not have happened the way Taylor described it.
Hillewaert reminded jurors that the state had to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt that it was actually Pressler behind the wheel of two vehicles the morning of Dec. 21 as several law enforcement officers claimed.
“I believe there is plenty of reasonable doubt,” she said, questioning how the state was trying to identify Pressler in the white pick-up truck and subsequently the theft of the SUV and the chase in Spring Creek.
“So the state wants to tie Mr. Taylor to get this identification. You get this identification in you can get the burglary in. If you get the burglary in, you get the grand larceny and then we go out to Spring Creek and we can start the chase out there,” Hillewaert said.
“That’s what the plan is here and this is what you would call some circumstantial evidence that if he’s here. But it’s the very important that the decision of whether or not if he was even properly identified needs to be made. Or is it possible?”
Hillewaert also argued that there was no evidence placing Pressler at the Powderhouse Road residence where the SUV was reported stolen.
“The defense would suggest that there is no identification of Mr. Pressler. That does not place him at that house to steal the vehicle. Again, look at the evidence that doesn’t exist,” Hillewaert said, arguing that investigators did not collect evidence such as fingerprints and footprints from the residence.
“Nobody looked, they just didn’t look. But they want you to believe that Mr. Pressler was driving the truck and that solves that burglary,” Hillewaert said.
Hillewaert continued in her closing argument that evidence was not collected from the stolen Toyota Highlander, which was deemed a total loss by the victim’s insurance and hauled to California to be crushed a few weeks after the incident.
“What we don’t have in this case is again, we never had a chance to investigate the Highlander and nobody else did,” Hillewaert said. “Not available for any investigation.”
In the prosecution’s rebuttal, Mills agreed with Hillewaert’s statement that the SUV had not been preserved for evidence, but that the number of witnesses and the key to the stolen vehicle found in Pressler’s pocket upon his arrest was proof enough to arrest and charge Pressler.
If DNA, fingerprints and other evidence had been collected, Mills argued, “It would have shown what we already know which is that Tony Pressler was the driver of that vehicle.”
Pressler is scheduled to return to court in May to stand trial for charges related to the Dotty’s Casino robbery that occurred March 2, 2018.