Claude Laska

A fugitive was captured Tuesday afternoon this week thanks to a multi-agency search after he had walked away from the minimum security Pioche Conservation Camp the day before.

Claude Laska, 24, was serving a 19 to 72-month sentence for home invasion and several other lesser charges.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee reported an extensive search was conducted Monday night in and around the Pioche area, “but we were unable to locate him. We were thinking he may have gotten a ride out.”

However, on Tuesday morning, Lee said the sheriff’s department received a tip from a citizen “about a suspicious person out in the Dry Valley area east of Pioche.” He dispatched an officer, and during the search, “it was found that a vehicle had been broken into and a shotgun and ammunition had been stolen from the vehicle. The information we received led us to believe the firearm had been stolen by the escaped inmate. This changed everything, for now, we considered Laska to be armed and dangerous.”

Lee said they immediately started notifying all the residents in the Dry Valley and Eagle Valley areas. “We sent out Facebook information, telephone apps, reverse 911, etc.”

Other agencies also gave assistance, including Nevada State Parks, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Department of Investigation, the Eastern Nevada Narcotics Task Force, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Department of Corrections, and Nevada Highway Patrol.

Lee said officers and deputies were tracking Laska on foot Tuesday and he was eventually spotted about 1:35 p.m., hiding in a tree in the mountains just west of Echo Park State Park Campground. He was taken into custody without incident.

“He had hidden the shotgun when captured, but that was later recovered with about 20 rounds of ammunition,” Lee said.

Laska was returned to the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections, booked into the Lincoln County Detention Centre in Pioche on charges of burglary of a motor vehicle, grand larceny of a firearm, escape, and an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, and later transported to the State Prison in Ely.

Lee gave high praise for the work of all the agencies involved. “They came together, communicated, did their job, and made the whole thing achieve a positive outcome. It was absolutely incredible that all those agencies worked for a common cause that turned out so good.”

Nevada Department of Corrections partners with the Nevada Division of Forestry to run nine Conservation Camps in the state. The camps are for minimum security inmates who are scheduled to be released within two years. Inmates in the camps are trained to fight wildland fires and are deployed to handle weed abatement, highway cleanup, and other jobs when in the offseason. Over 500 inmates assisted with sandbagging and other jobs during the recent flooding in Northern Nevada.