"Boise’s finest are running towards the sound of guns, and at the end they find George, still running toward the sound of his own guns. Towards his own demons. He’s lost his dog, and he’s searching the nearby apartments for the pup. A bullet into the lock. A boot into the door. Staff Sergeant Nickel is searching buildings, clearing rooms just like he did in Iraq. Suddenly there’s bright lights and a voice yelling “Police! Put your hands up!” He doesn’t. They start shooting, and he takes cover. Suddenly the war has come home for everyone, not just George. Trouble is, this is America and not Iraq, and in America we like to pretend that soldiers are GI Joes- like they’re heroes who never need our help. George is in a new world now- one where he is the 'perp' and not the hero, but in this new world he still needs our help more than ever. - Teflon Don"
Iraq War veteran George Nickel won't go to prison for armed standoff with police last summer
George Nickel will have weeks of residential treatment in the Boise veterans hospital to sort out the personal demons that led to his arrest by Boise police last summer.
What he won't have - unless he fails on probation under the strict eye of 4th District Judge Deborah Bail - is another day in jail.
During a Monday hearing in a courtroom filled with fellow soldiers, Bail sentenced Nickel to an unspecified period of felony probation under rigorous supervision of the court. As part of the sentence, he's required to have ongoing treatment and not touch alcohol or have weapons.
"I never wanted my problems to get so severe to affect other people, but it did, and there is nothing I can do to take it back," Nickel told the court Monday. "I just want everyone to know how sorry I am."
Nickel spent at least 250 days in isolation at the Ada County Jail. On Tuesday, he reports for treatment.
Bail didn't specify a length for Nickel's probation. In theory, said his attorney, Gabriel McCarthy, his probation could last as long as 15 years, the maximum sentence for discharging a weapon into an occupied dwelling, the crime he pleaded guilty to. If he fails, he could go to prison.
"Because he served his country honorably and courageously, he has developedsome significantly bad conditions with his alcoholism. ... It can't continue," Bail said.
Soldiers and family members passed around the courtroom little camouflage ribbons adorned with silver stars in a show of support for Nickel.
Bail also gave Nickel a withheld judgment, which means that if he successfully completes all the terms of his probation, he can ask to have the felony conviction removed from his record. Prosecutors had asked for prison time or retained jurisdiction, commonly known as the rider program.
"They are giving him an opportunity to heal. It's in his hands now," said Bill Meyers of Nampa, who said he served with Nickel in Iraq.
Nickel's troubles began on a road in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007, when a roadside bomb killed three soldiers and left Nickel with a brain injury, a broken leg and shrapnel in his face.
For the better part of two years, Nickel, who was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, seemed to cope.
But behind closed doors, the Idaho Army Reservist with the 321st Engineer Battalion was battling depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a growing problem with alcohol, McCarthy told the court. His military career was over - three months shy of 20 years - and he was increasingly unable to cope with the demands of working as a correctional officer.
It all came to a head July 28.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Shawna Dunn said the 38-year-old Nickel was looking for his dog in his apartment building when he used an AR-15 rifle to try to shoot the locks off two doors. One apartment was occupied by a terrified neighbor who saw Nickel's weapons through the peephole, prosecutors said. The dog was at home in a crate.
Ada County prosecutors say Nickel also was carrying a handgun and wearing a tactical vest with as many as 90 rounds of ammunition.
When officers confronted Nickel in a stairway, police say he pointed a handgun at them. Four officers fired an estimated 12 rounds at Nickel, who took cover behind a door and then surrendered, according to court testimony.
Nickel didn't shoot back, and no one was struck by any of the gunfire. In December, Nickel pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling in exchange for prosecutors dropping four counts of assault of a law enforcement officer and one count of using a weapon in the commission of a felony.