Colorado man accused of Ontario stabbing was convicted in 2017 assault

Nolan L. Strauss, 26, accused of attacking man in Ontario restaurant on Saturday, Dec. 21. (Photo courtesy Malheur County Sheriff’s Office)

Nolan L. Strauss, the truck driver accused of attempting to murder a local jobseeker in an alleged hate crime, was convicted in 2018 of assaulting a police officer in Nebraska, according to court records.

Strauss is being held in Malheur County Jail on charges related to the Dec. 21 knife attack on Ronnell T. Hughes, who was starting a part-time job at the Arby’s located inside of the Pilot Travel Center on East Idaho Avenue in Ontario.

Hughes was hospitalized in Boise but released just before Christmas. He testified before the Malheur County grand jury that last week indicted Strauss for second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree bias crime, and unlawful use of a weapon.

Strauss is being held on $250,000 bail.

Strauss, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo., is a driver for May Trucking Co. and had stopped at the Ontario truck stop two days before the attack.

Records of the Lancaster County District Court in Lincoln, Nebraska, showed that Strauss had been arrested in Lincoln on Nov. 6, 2017.

According to a police affidavit in that case, police responded to a report of a “suicidal party” and encountered Strauss outside his apartment just after midnight. When police attempted to talk to him, he ran back into the apartment and slammed an officer’s finger in the door.

An officer deployed a Taser to subdue Strauss and take him into custody, according to the affidavit.

He was held at a treatment center for two days before he was lodged in jail.

The affidavit stated that Strauss was “verbally hostile” toward police officers and jail staff.

A court order filed on Feb. 1, 2018, showed that Strauss made a motion for a competency evaluation during his court proceedings.

Given that Strauss was at the time, committed to the Lincoln Regional Center, a psychiatric hospital, the court ruled that he, “should be examined and evaluated by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist employed by the Lincoln Regional Center… to determine the mental capacity of the defendant to stand trial,” the court document showed.

The results of that evaluation are confidential, Nebraska officials said, but Strauss was subsequently convicted of assaulting a police officer.

He served 175 days in jail and was released on May 3, 2018, Lancaster County officials reported.

In the Malheur County case, a police affidavit said Strauss told detectives he “has a history of mental health issues in the state of Nebraska,” that he had been diagnosed as bipolar in 2016 and “hasn’t been taking medication.”

Following the attack in Ontario, Hughes endured hours of surgery at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise. According to his girlfriend, Nikita Apodaca, he was placed into an induced coma for a time.

On Friday, Dec. 27, Hughes and Apodaca walked into a court room at the Malheur County Courthouse, and watched Strauss, clad in a striped jail uniform, flicker onto the monitors suspended around the room for his arraignment on the charges.

Circuit Judge Lung Hung scheduled Strauss to enter a plea on Friday, Jan. 10.

Meantime, the community continued to rally behind Hughes in a repudiation of what police said was a racially motivated attack.

Three Ontario restaurants, Mackey’s, Rusty’s and Kanpai announced plans to donate a portion of their proceeds from New Year’s Eve to help Hughes.

Hughes recently started work as a cook at Mackey’s. 

News tip? Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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