Crime - Sacto 911

Rescue team member shot in Nevada County considered ‘one of the best’

A Nevada County Sheriff’s unit at the scene Tuesday night.
A Nevada County Sheriff’s unit at the scene Tuesday night. video image

The man shot in the hip while searching for a missing hiker Tuesday night in Nevada County is a volunteer ground rescue searcher with more than 10 years at the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. He is regarded as “one of the best” in his unit.

Steve Wolf, 69, is the Search and Rescue team member who was shot near the town of Washington on the South Yuba River, according to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. He was reported in stable condition Wednesday after surgery in a Roseville hospital Tuesday night.

The hunt for the unidentified shooter continued Wednesday, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. The shooting took place about 6:30 p.m. at the river, roughly 3 miles west of Washington.

Wolf and two other rescue team members were searching for 75-year-old Tulare County resident Timothy Hansston, who has been missing since Aug. 4 and was last known to be hiking at the river, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said the search for Hansston was suspended Wednesday morning because of the shooting.

“He had indicated to his wife that he was going for a walk down at the river,” Royal said about Hansston. “He parked down there and never returned.”

While searching in a steep portion of the river, two shots were heard in the canyon, one of which hit Wolf in the hip.

He and the two other rescue volunteers then sheltered in place as medical units, as well as special enforcement teams from Placer and Nevada counties, were sent to the shooting site.

Dena Erwin, a spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said Wolf’s team members put their lives in danger while trying to call for help.

“They had to go to areas where they can get radio reception,” Erwin said. “They were risking their lives to get radio coverage.”

Wolf, an avid hiker from Newcastle, was “considered one of the best” in his unit given his experience and passion for volunteering with the Ground Search Team at the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Erwin said.

“The guy (is) so dedicated,” Erwin said. “I don’t think this would have stopped him.”

Wolf is classified as a Type 1 certified searcher and works often in difficult terrain to help the Sheriff’s Office in search and rescue efforts.

“We can get them into the highest spots, they get up there and hike in canyons,” Erwin said. “It’s one of the hardest, most physically demanding jobs.”

Royal said Nevada County Sheriff’s Office personnel and additional employees from assisting agencies will scan the area near the South Yuba River.

“It’s very, very remote and heavily wooded,” Royal said. “It’s going to be a time-consuming and difficult search.”

Agencies from Placer County, the Grass Valley Police Department, Yuba County and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, among others, are assisting the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Royal said. He said that the area surrounding the river is a known location for marijuana growers and anti-government individuals.

“What is the reason why this occurred? We don’t know at this point,” Royal said. “Given the people that go to that area, it could be an array of people. That’s why they go down there, to get away from it all.”

Erwin said that the department is gratified for Wolf’s work, along with the work done by roughly 240 other search and rescue volunteers who dedicate their time to training and aiding the Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re just grateful that he’s going to be OK,” she said.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets