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John L. Smith: Slain Las Vegas journalist was 'a bit of an enigma,' a 'bulldog'

German
K.M. Cannon, AP
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Jeff German, host of "Mobbed Up," poses with Planet Hollywood, formerly the Aladdin, in the background on the Strip in Las Vegas, June 2, 2021.

UPDATE: Police on Tuesday released a photo of a vehicle that could have been used by a possible suspect in the fatal stabbing of a Las Vegas newspaper’s investigator reporter

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported authorities served a search warrant on Wednesday morning in connection with the slaying. 


ORIGINAL REPORT: The Las Vegas community continues to react with shock over the murder of longtime local investigative reporter Jeff German of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

German's body was found outside his home Saturday morning. He was 69.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police homicide detectives continue to seek the public's help with the case even as they pursue a suspect who was captured on a residential security camera.

Longtime Las Vegas journalist and State of Nevada contributor commentator John L. Smith sat down with host Joe Schoenmann for that and more. 

“As a person, he was a bit of an enigma,” Smith said. “He was such a bulldog reporter, so focused on what was right in front of him that it was hard to get to know him really, he was extremely competitive … Jeff had a lot of competitive fire in him.”

Smith worked with him at the Las Vegas Sun and the Review-Journal. 

He said as a columnist at the Sun, he was the go-to guy about the mob, but also had street connections, as well as police and FBI connections. 

“Back when that was easier to do, and there were fewer gatekeepers in the game, but you know that that was his thing,” Smith said. 

Due to the nature of German’s work, speculation has risen around the circumstances of his death, though there’s no known connection in the investigation. Las Vegas police recently released photos of a suspect with their identity hidden. They said the person appeared to be casing the area. The Review-Journal said they were not aware of any threats made to German’s safety. 

“Their hackles weren't up, or they weren't on guard necessarily more than normal,” Smith said. “And so, you have to just say that this is why it's important for that homicide unit to bring some results back, ASAP.”


On Northern Nevada lithium mining

“This is an interesting moment in Nevada mining history. It is a moment with a lot of folks watching it because it has the potential for what I believe is a new chapter in mining in Nevada, where it's not just about extraction, it could be about extraction, processing, and then the manufacturing associated with it," Smith said.

He said lithium is going to have more prominence in a world facing climate change challenges, and that its mining history in Nevada is fascinating. 

“There are a couple of different ways that lithium comes out of the ground and at Silver Peak since the mid late 60s, they've been doing that through a kind of evaporation process. Water is pumped into the ground and a kind of slurry comes out and it evaporates and that's where the lithium is essentially taken off the land.”

He said Thacker Pass has faced controversy because Indigenous communities claim it's a sacred area, but a major mining outfit holds the rights to the lithium in the ground.  

"I mean, that's a war that will be fought in the courts. … You've got great big places where trace gold has been mined very successfully to the tune of many billions of dollars, often going to corporations that aren't based in Nevada, or national international corporations. There's controversy there. And of course, you've got environmental concerns with all of it.”

But there needs to be an educational factor, he said. 

“Folks are too busy. They want to go to work in their vehicle, they don't necessarily know how it's made. They need people to know the importance of it, but also the importance to respect an environment that has rarely received the respect it deserved in Nevada. … I hate to sound like I'm balancing the chainsaws here. But that is the case. And the bottom line, in part, is there are billions of dollars at stake. There's a future economy and actual leg of the economy that some people compare to when gambling was legalized in Nevada, which may be overstated. However, it's not going to be a nothing, it's going to be a big thing. You don't get the Elon Musks of the world in Nevada for no reason.“

John L. Smith, contributor, State of Nevada

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She oversees and writes State of Nevada’s online and social media content.