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1 dead in shootout

John HartInvestigators from the Nevada County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office are at the scene of the shooting on Shepard Road Thursday.
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A father-and-son shootout at a Big Oak Valley house turned lethal Thursday, with the father dead and the son jailed on suspicion of murder, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

The body of Gene McFarland, 65, was found by authorities in his house at 11923 Shepard Road, which is west of Penn Valley and south of Highway 20.

His son, 32-year-old Frank Fire Thunder, is being held at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility without bail. He’s recovering from minor injuries.



Next-door neighbor Mark Yocom had heard arguing at the house before, but took note this time because it was accompanied by gunfire. He saw no one, but heard a commotion.

“Someone said, ‘Don’t do that!’ and there were two shots. Then he let off four more rounds,” said Yocom, who had returned home with his 7-month-old son and was in his driveway.




Just after 1 p.m., a distraught Fire Thunder – who in recent years changed his last name from McFarland – called 911 and told a dispatcher that he and his father had been shot, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Around that time Fire Thunder also phoned his mother, who was in Penn Valley, and told her to go to the house because of a disturbance, according to Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Smith.

“By the time she arrived, she was following the ambulance in,” Smith said.

Fire Thunder yelled from pain as rescuers placed him in an ambulance.

Rescuers tried to resuscitate McFarland, whose body was found in the house near a doorway leading to the attached garage.

Fire Thunder was treated for “superficial” wounds at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital before his trip to jail, Smith said.

It wasn’t immediately clear where, or how many times, each man was shot. Two handguns were found at the scene, according to Smith.

Investigators didn’t immediately learn what spurred the killing. Both men had lived at the house, where state Department of Justice investigators joined county officials in gathering and documenting evidence.

Investigators also spent a while interviewing Fire Thunder’s mother alongside Shepard Road. Her identify couldn’t be verified.

The home is on a ridge with a sweeping view of brown rolling hills dotted with oak. By contrast, the driveway is cluttered with more than a dozen vehicles, with more parked in the backyard.

Neighbor Verne Munson said McFarland was both opinionated and friendly, and often worked on cars. McFarland had undergone several back surgeries since 1988, when he was hurt trying to move a trailer during the devastating 49er Fire, the neighbor said.

Yocom said he had complained to McFarland about his sons. “We’ve always had problems with the kids speeding on the roads, just driving crazy.”

Nevada County Superior Court records showed no felony convictions for either man. Another McFarland son, Shawn McFarland, was recently sentenced to prison for violating parole.


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