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Avon traffic stop yields 30 pounds of meth, concealed handgun

On Wednesday, just before noon, detectives from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Vail Police Department made a routine traffic stop after a vehicle was following too closely on Interstate 70 near Avon.

Contact was made with the driver and a passenger, and the passenger was found to be in possession of an illegally concealed handgun.

After indications of further criminal activity were observed by detectives, a K-9 was deployed to the vehicle. His handler quickly observed an alert to the rear of the vehicle where methamphetamine was discovered inside a spare tire underneath the truck. Contents of the spare tire included an estimated 30 pounds of suspected methamphetamine as part of the investigation.

Authorities seized an estimated 30 pounds of suspected methamphetamine during a routine traffic stop on Wednesday, May 25, near Avon.
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

The driver of the vehicle, Jesus Omar Atondo Arrellanes, age 27 of Arizona, is being held on a $100,000 bond and is now facing several felony drug charges including:

  • Distribution of a schedule 1 controlled substance — methamphetamine, a class 1 Drug Felony
  • Possession of a schedule 1 controlled substance — methamphetamine, a class 4 Drug Felony
  • Possession of a schedule 1 controlled substance — cocaine, a class 1 Drug Misdemeanor
  • Special Offender importation of methamphetamine, a class 1 Drug Felony
  • Special Offender for possession of a deadly weapon, a class 1 Drug Felony

The passenger of the vehicle, Jesus Manuel Cecena Portillo, age 24 of Arizona is being held on a $100,000 bond, for the above charges and additional charges including:

  • Introduction of contraband — a class 4 Felony
  • Carrying a concealed weapon — a class 1 Misdemeanor

The law enforcement team that contacted the vehicle is assigned to the Gore Range Narcotics Interdiction Team who was on traffic patrol near Avon. The Gore Range Narcotic Interdiction Team is a multi-jurisdictional drug task force composed of local law enforcement partners and detectives from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Vail Police Department.

If you think you may have any information about the suspect(s) or this crime, please call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office at 970-328-8500, or if you would like to remain anonymous you can call the Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007, 1-800-972-TIPS, or submit your tip online at p3tips.com or send a mobile tip using the free ‘P3 Tips’ mobile app. If your tip leads to the arrest and indictment of any suspect involved, you could earn a cash reward from the Eagle County Crime Stoppers.

People charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

No suspect located in car theft that left Eagle residents in lockdown on Sunday, Monday

Just before 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 22, residents in the Eby Creek Mesa neighborhood, Wapiti Road, Camino Dorado and Cactus Lane received a shelter in place order as law enforcement responded initially to reports of an erratic driver in the area.

Around that time, residents began calling into Eagle County Sheriff’s Office with reports of a car driving erratically through the neighborhood, and ultimately that the car crashed in a field after “bushwhacking” and the driver ran into the woods, said Amber Barrett, the public information officer for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Quickly, the car and its driver were linked to a car theft in West Vail, which occurred around 3 p.m. Sunday. According to Vail Police Sargeant Lachlan Crawford, the stolen vehicle was left unlocked with the keys inside while parked on the street.

According to Barrett, the shelter in place order was put into place because law enforcement didn’t have anybody in custody. The order asked residents to lock their doors, avoid windows, move to an interior room if possible, bring pets indoors and report anything suspicious.

Based on the reports, the suspect was described potentially as a “white male, approx. 20-30 years old, long brown hair, light scruffy facial hair, wearing a baseball cap, black jacket with ‘Hi-Vis’ stripes.”

During the shelter in place order, units and individuals from multiple local agencies pitched in to follow up on reports from residents and search for the suspect. Barrett said that partners from Vail Mountain Search and Rescue, Vail Fire, Avon Police, Colorado State Patrol, Eagle Police and Vail Police all had a presence on scene.

The Sheriff’s Office also coordinated with the Colorado Department of Transportation to put out messages on the highway, warning drivers to not pick up hitchhikers.

“It was an all hands on deck kind of incident, just to try and capture the car thief and make sure that the community was safe,” Barrett said.

One report came from a family in Eby Creek who came home and saw that their front door was ajar, Barrett said. As a precautionary measure — because there were a few firearms in the residence — the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department special operations unit as well as members of Search and Rescue and Vail Fire were on site for the search. The units deployed a drone above the house as well as a robot within the house to search the residence. The residence was ultimately deemed safe after the search was complete.

The shelter in place order remained in place overnight as law enforcement continued to patrol and monitor the area, but the office received no other calls, Barrett said.

At 7:30 a.m. on Monday, the order was lifted for residents as law enforcement “felt that the person was no longer in the area and that the residents in that area were safe,” she said. “We suspect that the individual has left, or fled, the area.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Crawford said the Vail Police Department is continuing to work the case and was in the process of following up with witnesses and leads on the car theft itself. According to Crawford, there was another car theft on Monday in Vail and the department is also working to see if the two are possibly connected.

Barrett said the Sheriff’s Office suspects that this incident was either an isolated incident or potentially part of the growing string of car thefts that the department has seen run through the county in the past few years.

“The big message is that everybody, just be diligent, lock your doors. ‘It’s springtime and they’re at it again,’ is sort of our theory,” Barrett said. “With I-70 running right through our valley it’s likely that people are in our towns and looking for a crime of opportunity. Lock your doors, lock your cars, lock your house and just leave your valuables out of sight.”

Vail police arrest resident in hit-and-run case

Vail resident Allison Lanes faces several charges related to a May 16 hit-and-run incident.
Town of Vail/courtesy photo

The Vail Police Department has made an arrest in a May 16 hit-and-run incident that injured a town resident.

Officers on May 16 responded to and investigated an incident involving a pedestrian who had been struck by a motor vehicle in the area of 501 North Frontage Road. The vehicle and driver left the scene but were located a short time later. The pedestrian, a 25-year-old resident of Vail, sustained serious injuries and was transported to Vail Health Hospital.

Investigators on May 20 consulted with the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Allison Lanes, 31, a Vail resident who was the driver of the vehicle at the time the incident occurred. Lanes turned herself in and was booked into the Eagle County Detention Facility on charges of vehicular assault, attempted vehicular assault, reckless endangerment, driving on a sidewalk, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident with serious injuries, and failing to report an accident.

This investigation continues. If anyone has additional information regarding this incident, contact the Vail Police Department at 970-479-2201.

Vail Police investigating accident involving pedestrian and car

At approximately 5:26 p.m. Monday, a pedestrian was struck by a motor vehicle in the area of 501 North Frontage Road. The vehicle, driven by a 31-year-old resident of Vail, left the roadway and struck the pedestrian who was walking on the sidewalk. The pedestrian, a 25-year-old from Vail, sustained serious injuries and is being treated at Vail Health.

The Vail Police Department is investigating this incident and encourages anyone who witnessed the motor vehicle accident, or the vehicle involved, a 2016 black Subaru Impreza, to message the Vail Police on Facebook or call 970-479-2201. The driver of the vehicle has not been charged or taken into custody as police continue to investigate the accident.

Syringes found near school bus stop in Dotsero

On Tuesday, May 3, just before 4 p.m., a concerned parent noticed several children playing with a syringe after getting off the school bus in Dotsero at the Two Rivers Village housing community. The parent quickly reported the suspicious item to authorities.

When deputies arrived on the scene, they found an uncapped syringe laying on the ground that appeared to be broken and bent. Deputies could not tell for sure if there was any type of residue in the needle but were very concerned as several children stated they had been playing with it.

Concerned parents reached out to authorities after finding syringes near a kids' school bus stop in Dotsero on May 3, 2022.
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy Photo

Another child and parent approached the deputies and pointed out a second syringe jabbed into the ground that was also bent and damaged. The children’s school resource officer was notified as well as the school district and neighbors.

Some are concerned that someone might be potentially targeting areas where children frequent their neighborhood. In March, a community member found potentially deadly pills at the community playground and also alerted law enforcement.

Eagle County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the community to please talk to children about the dangers of finding unsafe items such as syringes, needles or medication that are can be left unaattended or found. The department would also ask that residents remind children that these types of items could have potentially deadly consequences.

Preparing children to make the right safety decisions on their own when adults or parents are not around is a very important practice for families with children.

The Sheriff’s Office asks that if suspicious items or unknown substances are found, community members will not touch them and just report them to local authorities.

Anyone who finds syringes/needles is asked to not throw them into the garbage. If they are unable to safely dispose of them, please contact law enforcement on the non-emergency line. Law enforcement typically can dispose of needles safely to keep them out of harm’s way.

If anyone has any information about these items, their origin, a suspect(s), or this type of activity, please call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 328-8500 or remain anonymous and call the Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007, 1-800-972-TIPS, submit your tip online at p3tips.com or send a mobile tip using the free ‘P3 Tips’ mobile app. If your tip leads to the arrest and indictment of any suspect(s) involved, you could earn a cash reward from the Eagle County Crime Stoppers.

Person(s) charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The complexities of justice: Why so many sexual assault crimes are never prosecuted

A graphic created by RAINN, the nation’s leading anti-sexual violence organization, shows how many sex assault crimes are reported to police versus how many reports lead to convictions and incarcerations.
RAINN/Courtesy photo

Sexual assault crimes in Eagle County, as in the rest of the nation, are greatly underreported by victims, and the number of these crimes that are able to be prosecuted and, if prosecuted, lead to convictions becomes smaller and smaller still.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s leading anti-sexual violence organization, gives a terrifying, two-part statistic that demonstrates just how deep the underreporting of sex assault crimes goes in the United States.

“Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted,” the webpage reads in bold print. “And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 25 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.”

Our legal system was structured so that defendants of any crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty, placing the burden on the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Even before prosecution, police must have “probable cause” to arrest a suspect and charge them with a crime, which can be complex when it comes to sex assault cases, Commander Ryan Kenney of the Vail Police Department said in a March interview.

Of the 22 sex assaults handled by the Vail Police Department over the last five years, eight victims did not want to press charges, seven cases were deemed unfit for prosecution by the District Attorney’s Office and, in one case, police could not identify a suspect. This means that, out of 22 reports, only six arrests were made, according to Kenney.

There is a quote that states “it’s better that 100 guilty people go free than one innocent person go to prison,” said Deena Ezzell, a victim services coordinator with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

“And while I believe that – I’d never want to see an innocent person go to prison – I’ve also worked with the 99 victims who suffered because of their case not being handled the way they felt it should be,” Ezzell said.

Reporting a sexual assault to police and seeing a case through to the end can be a lengthy and stressful process for victims as they wade through legal jargon, delays or unexpected outcomes, one sex assault survivor and former Eagle County resident said.

The Vail Daily is protecting the identity of the victim, who asked to remain anonymous so that what happened to her does not continue to impact her life and career.

“First, I had to deal with the fact that it happened and then I had to deal with the fact that it got delayed and then I had to deal with going to trial. So, it’s like all these different stages of having to go through different things and it just feels like it doesn’t end,” the woman said. “…I’m really glad that I did actually follow through, but I don’t get why people don’t.”

Local law enforcement agencies try to make this process easier on victims, but there are limits to what they can do.

One of the first hurdles for victims is deciding whether to report to police.

Clothes and other needed items are available for free at the Bright House through the Bright Future Foundation in Gypsum. The foundation helps those affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Reporting and evidence collection

Sex assault survivors who do choose to report right away are often asked to undergo examinations conducted by a sexual assault nurse examiner, also known as SANE exams, which are now able to be offered here in Eagle County through Colorado Mountain Medical’s Victim First Care clinic in Avon.

The exams are done to document physical evidence on the body of a victim and are conducted by a specially-trained nurse. The nurse works with victims at their comfort level to take samples and document any marks or bruising on the body, local sexual assault examiner nurse coordinator Amanda Shelley said.

According to a 2006 study published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, the frequency of lacerations and abrasions able to be documented in sensitive areas may decrease from 50% at the 24-hour mark to 13% at the 96-hour mark, meaning time is of the essence. While the exams are strongly encouraged, most victims do not report right away and many do not complete the exams.

“Few adolescent and adult women seek out formal support services in the acute period (7 days or less) following a sexual assault. Instead, many women choose to disclose weeks, months, or even years later,” according to a 2016 article on delayed disclosure of sexual assault.

Choosing to wait or declining a SANE exam does not mean victims should feel discouraged from reporting incidences of sexual assault to police as physical evidence is just one piece of building a case, albeit an important one, Ezzell said. She encouraged victims to do the exams if it feels right for them, but pointed out that over 70% of sex assault victims have no visible injuries to begin with.

Ezzell, Victim Services Coordinator Reyna Medrano — Ezzell’s bilingual counterpart — and one other part-time coordinator make up the victim services unit at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. The team provides emotional support, information and resources to victims of all kinds of crimes.

Their work is supported by a network of volunteers or “community advocates” who handle some victim support responsibilities. Ezzell started out as a volunteer with the Sheriff’s Office more than 20 years ago.

Today, she has become exceptionally well-versed in her field and provides training opportunities to law enforcement officials across the valley.

Ezzell gets four hours with new law enforcement officers to cover the impacts of sexual assault, domestic violence, and sudden death on victims. She said she teaches officers to respond from a place of “trauma-informed care” and provides them with a basic understanding of “the neurobiology of trauma” when it comes to how victims may act or respond differently because of the impact that trauma has on the brain.

This is a lot to cover in four hours, Ezzell said, so she tries to encourage officers to engage with other learning opportunities whenever possible.

Avon Police Chief Greg Daly said he is glad to lean on the victim services team for their support as sexual assault calls can be especially difficult to respond to, but also to prove.

“Proving a case is extremely complex because in the vast majority of cases there are two persons involved,” Chief Daly said. “There are very rarely independent witnesses to the event. So, I hate to use the term, but it comes down to what’s referred to as a he said/she said type of scenario. We take the perspective of when somebody steps up and comes to report this type of crime, we will take the victim at their word in relation to what occurred.”

Avon Police Chief Greg Daily says he tries to rotate officers on to lighter calls or gives them time off after they work an especially difficult case.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Beyond this, working a sexual assault case can have a deeper, traumatic impact on officers and other first responders even after the day is done, Daly said. He tries to ensure he rotates officers on to lighter calls or gives them time off after they work an especially difficult case.

“We get pretty upset because some of these cases our officers and detectives pour their heart and soul into the prosecution and then to hear a jury felt that there wasn’t enough when we, as very experienced professionals, know there is enough … it can be tough,” he said.

Prosecuting sexual assault cases

If police can gather enough preliminary evidence to arrest a suspect and bring charges against them, the case is then forwarded over to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Investigators with the District Attorney’s Office look into the case further, working alongside police to determine what, if any, final charges they can bring forward. At times, final charges can look quite different than the “arresting charges” brought forward by police.

Once the case moves to the courts, victims are connected with a victim advocate from the District Attorney’s Office to help walk them through the particulars of legal proceedings. Eagle County victims are paired with Annabelle Kinney, victim advocate for the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

“Each victim is different,” Kinney said of her work. “If they’re wanting more communication from me, I try to give them the communication that they want and need. If they’re kind of getting burnt out, I’ll still tell them everything they need to know … but I just try to feel out what level of communication a victim wants at any given time.”

The Eagle County survivor who spoke with the Vail Daily said that, even with Kinney’s help, the drawn-out process of prosecuting the case against her assailant was one of the most difficult things she has had to go through.

Local defense attorney Jesse Wiens said he believes that “both sides in these cases deserve to be treated fairly, both the accuser and the accused.”

“I look at myself as providing a role for somebody who’s been charged, who is entitled to a defense,” said Wiens, who has been an attorney for 20 years now and has worked on, by his estimation, at least 50 sexual assault cases.

“…On the one hand, our goal as a society is to help victims come forward and yet, on the other hand, (there is) the requirement to treat anybody accused of a crime fairly and presume them to be innocent unless and until proven guilty. That’s a hard meeting of the mind.”

After a defendant has been advised of the charges brought against them by the District Attorney’s Office, they can request a preliminary hearing to force the prosecutor to present enough evidence up front for a judge to determine if there is enough for the case to proceed. Sometimes victims will be asked to testify at these kinds of hearings, depending on the facts of the case.

If they are, this may mean the victim has to face the defendant and answer questions about what happened to them, from both the defense and the prosecution, twice — once at the preliminary hearing and again at the trial if the defendant pleads not guilty. This can be difficult for victims.

“If ever victim has to see the defendant, if they have to testify, that’s something that people say a lot that they’re really anxious or scared to see the person that assaulted them,” Kinney said.

If the prosecution presents enough evidence to move beyond a preliminary hearing, the two parties move into a phase of negotiations in which they try to work out a plea deal to get the defendant to plead guilty in exchange for perhaps a lighter sentence than what could be handed down if the matter were to go to trial.

If they plead guilty and accept an offer negotiated, a sentencing hearing will be set.

Wiens said that “…a lot of sexual assault cases go to trial because I think the prosecutors, as in all their cases, have an obligation to believe their victim and be their voice and my job is to do the same for the accused. And very often it’s difficult to find a middle ground that’s acceptable to either side.”

If the defendant ultimately decides to plead not guilty, the matter will be set for trial. Either can lead to delays in court proceedings as there are many moving parts, but the latter typically means that things are going to move a bit slower.

Delays, delays, delays

This was the case for the Eagle County survivor after the defendant in her case pleaded not guilty. The case stretched on for nearly three years with COVID-19-related delays, a motion to dismiss the case filed by the defense and a subsequent appeals process that went all the way up to the Colorado Supreme Court.

“I could have not thought about this for two and a half years, and I chose to have to think about it, which obviously was the right thing to do,” the woman said. “But I get why people don’t report it or maybe report it and then just say, ‘Never mind. I don’t want to do this anymore.’”

Commander Kenney said that tourists, second-home owners and seasonal workers account for the vast majority of the sexual assault reports his department receives. This makes the victim much less likely — and sometimes unable — to see a case through to the end.

“A lot of times it’s inconvenient. It’s expensive. It takes away from their lives, their jobs,” he said. “So, it makes it incredibly difficult to have that unique situation of having a victim who doesn’t live here and will have to return back to court.”

Delays in court proceedings can be due to procedural or logistical necessities or scheduling issues like a backlog in cases, Kenney said. The latter has been a bigger issue in the last two years as the pandemic has required the periodic closure of courtrooms.

Sometimes, though, delays can feel more like a tactic employed by the defense to deter victims from remaining involved, Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi of the 5th Judicial District said in an August interview.

“I felt like it was just going to keep getting delayed and delayed and delayed until I gave up,” the Eagle County survivor said. “I felt like they were just trying to push me to the point where I would just give up.”

District Attorney Heidi McCollum said she could not speak to whether delays in court proceedings are intentionally caused by defense attorneys, but said that a delay in a case is certainly never good for the prosecution as memories fade or become more difficult to recall with accuracy.

Commander Ryan Kenney with the Vail Police Department said that tourists, second-home owners and seasonal workers account for the vast majority of the sexual assault reports his department receives. This makes the victim much less likely — and sometimes unable — to see a case through to the end.
Town of Vail/Courtesy photo

“The longer a case sits out there before going to trial, the better chance we have of witnesses not being able to be found, people not recollecting, people not wanting to participate simply because it’s been so long,” McCollum said. “When a victim testifies, it is almost always a stronger case.”

It is moments like these when Kinney steps in to try to ease the anxiety and confusion this kind of elongation can create for victims, she said.

“That’s probably the No. 1 complaint we get in any case and especially for sex assault cases because it’s so emotionally draining every time they get an email from me …” Kinney said. “It’s just reminders that are over time and it seems like they’re never-ending I’m sure.”

Before a trial can begin, the judge and the two parties must select a jury, most often a jury of a 12 people with one alternate who fills in if another juror can’t participate in deliberation.

Selecting a fair and impartial jury, especially in a small county, is challenging in any case but especially in sexual assault cases, Wiens said.

“There are a lot of people that, frankly, just come into court and say this isn’t the right type of case for me, for whatever reason, and people have the right to say that,” he said. “Some people admit that they can’t be fair to a defendant charged with something like that.”

Troubles with jury selection can cause further delays and sometimes even leads to a mistrial if there are not enough suitable jurors, at which point the trial would need to be rescheduled. Once this is settled, the trial begins.

Testifying at trial

When the Eagle County sex assault survivor was subpoenaed to speak at the trial of her assailant, she said it was not as hard as she feared it might be, at least not when the prosecutors were questioning her. But then comes “cross examination,” the time when defense attorneys ask questions to poke holes in the prosecution’s argument and highlight other evidence.

“It was really insulting for sure,” she said. “…I kept having to repeat myself over and over and he kept saying, like, ‘You were really drunk so how do you know what actually happened? Or how did you not wake up? Why didn’t you scream?’ … Just trying to basically say I reacted wrong.”

In general, “I don’t know of any defense attorney that wishes harm upon any witness and yet we have a role to play through cross examination, which is trying to make sure that the appropriate facts come out,” said Wiens, who was not a part of the Eagle County survivor’s case.

In the case of the survivor who spoke with the Vail Daily, the defendant, George Brown, was found to be guilty on six counts related to sexual assault charges brought against him back in 2019.

“That was like huge for me — such a relief like such a weight taken off my chest,” the survivor said.

The sentencing

If a defendant is convicted, they are set for a sentencing hearing. At this point, victims are invited to speak freely, rather than just answering questions asked by attorneys, about the impact the crime had on them. They are encouraged by prosecutors to do so, but this piece is ultimately up to them.

Heidi McCollum, district attorney for the 5th Judicial District, said delays in court proceedings are certainly never good for the prosecution as memories fade or become more difficult to recall with accuracy.
Tom Lotshaw

“He killed me that day. Maybe not literally but mentally and emotionally, he did,” one of the two victims in the Brown case said in his December 2021 sentencing hearing. “I am not the same person who was sleeping in that bed; I am broken.”

“…He deserves to have this follow him for the rest of his life and haunt him, just like it haunts me,” the woman said.

After statements from the victim(s), the defendant and any other people who wish to speak on either party’s behalf, the judge hands down the sentence.

“One of the unique things about sexual assault cases is that they can carry indeterminate sentences, which means the judge determines a base sentence within some statutorily defined range, but it’s that base amount up to your life in prison, and it’s actually up to the Department of Corrections to determine whether to ever let you out,” Wiens said.

In deciding this, parole boards look at “what the underlying offense was, whether or not you’ve gone through the treatment inside of the prison system, whether or not your treatment providers consider you to be a low or high risk of re-offending…” he said.

In most higher level sex assault cases, especially those brought against adults, prosecutors will advocate for some kind of incarceration. The judge must decide, based on the facts of the case and the results of “pre-sentence investigations,” whether a defendant poses a danger to society and should therefore be sentenced to prison or whether they are a good fit for rehabilitation through community corrections or a probationary sentence.

For the Eagle County survivor, she said she wasn’t sure what she wanted out of her perpetrator’s sentencing, which could have entailed a life sentence in prison.

“I don’t want to say I felt bad but it was kind of like … just crazy that that could be his whole life like, that’s it, he’s just in prison forever,” she said. “I knew his mom and she’s a good lady and now her son could go to prison forever. So, I had to be reminded like I’m not the one sending him to prison, he sent himself to prison because he’s the one who did that.”

Ultimately, he was sentenced to four years in a community corrections facility with a mandatory parole period of 10 years to life, requiring him to be registered as a sex offender.

‘You can do it’

Despite the stress of the case, the Eagle County survivor maintained that it was worth it, saying she is glad she reported her assault to police and saw it through to the end.

She said that, if she could sum up her experience into one message for other victims, it would be this: “You can do it. I did it. My friend did it and we made it through. So, if you feel like it’s right, you should do it because it’s going to be hard, but … I just remember the day of finding out he was guilty like it was definitely really emotional, but it was such a good feeling.”

“… People stepping out is so important because hearing stories does change how people think about (sexual assault),” she said.

“Think of the person who did it to you,” Lombardi said of his message to victims. “If they’re not prosecuted, they can do it to somebody else.”

Local law enforcement officials are working harder than ever to be proactive in preventing crimes of sex assault and sexual abuse through innovative partnerships and increased educational opportunities for students, parents and the public at large.

Moving forward, it will be important that the responsibility to be educated and seek support is not only placed on victims or potential victims of sexual assault, Ezzell said. We must also be providing education on boundaries and informed consent, not just on how not to be assaulted.

People who are beginning to notice “sexually deviant” tendencies or who may be at risk of committing sexual assault or sexual abuse can turn to StopItNow.org, which offers a support hotline for potential perpetrators.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or sexual abuse, Bright Future Foundation’s 24/7 hotline can be reached at 970-949-7086.

Basalt bartender’s disdain for local vodka triggers incident that leads to arrest on suspicion of menacing, assault

Christopher D. Barker
Eagle County Jail booking photo

A Basalt bartender was arrested on suspicion of felony menacing, stalking and three misdemeanors after he allegedly went into a violent rage Tuesday when he learned a customer worked for Woody Creek Distillery.

Christopher D. Barker, 43, of Aspen Village, was arrested after a tense 20 minutes that included his alleged assault of his boss and another co-worker, pursuit of two customers outside of the restaurant and a confrontation with another man who intervened, according to Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott. Barker allegedly pulled a knife on the intervenor and the intervenor responded by pulling a handgun, according to an affidavit for a warrantless arrest filed in Eagle County District Court by Basalt police.

Knott said it was fortunate the episode didn’t end in tragedy after the intervenor pulled his handgun out of a holster during the chaotic moments when the first officer, Lt. Aaron Munch, arrived on the scene. The intervenor intended to show he posed no threat to officers but the action of pulling his gun could have easily been misconstrued, Knott said.

“Lt. Munch showed great restraint and control of the situation,” Knott said.

The arrest warrant said a woman was drinking at the Ocean restaurant’s bar in Willits Town Center with a male companion at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when Barker noticed the Woody Creek Distillery logo on the woman’s shirt.

“Christopher commented stating something to the effect of ‘Your vodka sucks,’” the arrest affidavit said. “Christopher continue to give his negative opinion on Woody Creek Distillery, making it extremely uncomfortable for (the woman and man).”

The customers decided to leave but Barker continued to be aggressive toward them, according to police. The owner of the restaurant and other employees tried to restrain Barker as he attempted to chase the man and woman as they departed. The owner later told police he feared Barker wanted to physically harm the woman.

Barker allegedly elbowed his boss in the face and punched him in the stomach as Barker attempted to get at the customers. Barker also allegedly slammed another co-worker’s hand in the door while employees were trying to prevent him from attacking the customers.

Several employees of the restaurant restrained Barker while the customers departed. The customers initially entered a neighboring restaurant but left when they found it too full. Meanwhile, the Ocean’s owner ordered Barker out of the restaurant.

Incident spills into neighboring business

Barker and the two customers made contact by chance about 1½ blocks away from Ocean restaurant. He flipped them off while they flipped him off, the affidavit said. Barker allegedly gave chase and the couple ducked into a nearby business seeking refuge.

“(The female customer) was hiding in one of the offices as (the male customer) and staff requested (Barker) leave,” the affidavit said.

The woman later told police she feared for her life while she was in hiding. She called a friend who lives nearby in Willits. The friend’s husband heard about the woman’s predicament and decided to help, Knott said. The intervenor went to the business where the woman was hiding and got into a physical altercation with Barker, according to witnesses.

Barker allegedly pulled out a knife used by bartenders to open wine bottles and threatened the intervenor, the affidavit said. The intervenor “showed Christopher that he had a gun,” the affidavit said. “Christopher continued to threaten (the intervenor) as he moved towards him. (The intervenor) then pulled the gun out and pointed it at Christopher.”

Barker dropped his knife shortly before Lt. Munch arrived at the scene. The 911 calls to police dispatch disclosed that weapons were involved, so Munch exited his car with his handgun drawn.

Chaos greets first officer

Munch encountered a scene at the sidewalk along Robinson Street with one man screaming (Barker) and another man (the intervenor) a short distance away with a pistol visible in his holster, according to footage from Munch’s body cam. The Aspen Times reviewed that footage.

Munch ordered the man with the gun to get down on his knees and as the man started to comply, he calmly pulled his pistol out of the holster and set it on the ground. Munch was clearly concerned while the man was pulling out the handgun and screamed at the man to get face down to the ground and then crawl away from the gun. Almost simultaneously he ordered Barker to sit on the sidewalk. Another officer arrived and both men were placed in handcuffs for “investigative custody,” the affidavit said.

Knott said he interviewed the man who intervened in the dispute and learned he had intended to show he was compliant when he removed the pistol from the holster. He said he later realized his action could have been construed differently by the police officer, according to Knott.

The intervenor wasn’t arrested though Basalt police asked the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to review the incident and rule whether a charge was warranted.

Multiple witnesses, some with videos, confirmed that the intervenor pulled his handgun only after Barker made threats with a knife and allegedly yelled “I’m going to kill you,” according to the affidavit.

Officer Nino Santiago questioned Barker and said he smelled alcohol on Barker’s breath. Barker admitted he was drinking that day and that he had experienced some mental health issues, the affidavit said.

Barker was arrested on suspicion of two counts of third-degree assault for actions against two of his co-workers who tried to restrain him at Ocean. He was also arrested on suspicion of criminal mischief for other actions at the restaurant.

Barker was arrested on a charge of suspicion of stalking, a class 5 felony, for following the female and male customers out of Ocean. He was arrested on suspicion of felony menacing for pulling the knife and threatening the intervenor.

He was taken to Eagle County Detention Center on Tuesday night. Jail records show he was released Wednesday after posting $2,500 bail. His first appearance in Eagle County Court is May 6.


Eagle County recognizes Crime Victims’ Rights Week

County commissioners pose Tuesday with law enforcement representatives and community partners who came out in support of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Eagle County/Courtesy photo

Over a dozen law enforcement representatives and community partners were present at the Eagle County Board of Commissioners meeting this week to support the official designation of April 24-30, 2022, as “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week” in Eagle County.

County commissioners unanimously voted to recognize Crime Victims’ Rights Week at the board meeting, emphasizing how important awareness and education is in serving victims and preventing future events of abuse from taking place.

“These are really less problems of crime at the beginning than they are cultural, social, societal, community problems,” County Commissioner Matt Scherr said. “We are very fortunate in this community that we have law enforcement that works very closely with lots of those community organizations that can try to prevent the situations that might cause these crimes to begin with, and that can provide resources to victims in places where that’s not what law enforcement does. Our role here today is to simply bring awareness to that, so that people who may be suffering those conditions, who may be aware of somebody else who is, knows what resources are available.”

Among the attendees at the meeting were representatives from Eagle County law enforcement, including the sheriff and district attorney, as well as child protective services, court appointed special advocates, and the Bright Future Foundation. Each supporter had a teal ribbon pinned to their shirt, a symbol of solidarity with victims of sexual abuse and assault.

The resolution to recognize Crime Victims’ Rights Week states that it reaffirms the County’s commitment to “respect and enforce victims’ rights and address their needs throughout the year.”

“The Eagle County Board of Commissioners and our law enforcement partners throughout Eagle County are joining forces with victim service programs, other criminal justice officials, and concerned citizens throughout Eagle County and America to raise awareness about victims’ rights and observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week,” the resolution reads.

District Attorney Heidi McCollum spoke to the importance of this affirmation, particularly in the increasingly pro-defendant environment emerging in the state of Colorado.

“The legislation in Colorado over the past couple of years has put victims on the backburner, while defendant’s rights have been pushed to the forefront,” McCollum said. “We have not forgotten victims. Law enforcement has not forgotten victims. All of our community partners that work with individuals who have been traumatized, who have been brutalized, and who have been sexually assaulted, are still there for all of our victims.”

Crime Victims’ Rights Week is primarily an informational tool to spread awareness of the resources available to victims of crime in Eagle County, with an emphasis on prevention and community-based services.

“We have very often, in many communities, traditionally left that to law enforcement, but when you get to law enforcement, you’ve gone too far,” Scherr said.

Sheri Mintz is the CEO of the Bright Future Foundation, a domestic violence and sexual assault response agency that has been serving the valley for nearly 40 years. She spoke in support of the resolution, and said that her organization is meeting a growing need in the wake of the pandemic.

“COVID has really made our jobs even more difficult than before, and we are so fortunate that we have a generous community and we have compassionate and passionate partners to serve our victims,” Mintz said.

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek expressed law enforcement’s commitment to supporting all victims and working towards reducing the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence in the county.

“The long-term consequences of any kind of violence, but especially sexual violence, can be absolutely devastating,” van Beek said. “This resolution, and your guys’ support, will help to inform our community that it’s never too late to go out and get help.”

A list of community resources for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse can be found at eaglevalleybh.org/get-help-now/domestic-violence-and-sexual-abuse.

Rifle juvenile suspected in fatal shooting held without bond

Members of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office gather at an apartment complex on Patterson Road in Grand Junction on Monday following the arrest of the Garfield County juvenile wanted in a fatal Sunday shooting. Dale Shrull / Grand Junction Sentinel

A juvenile arrested in connection to a fatal Sunday morning shooting at a quinceanera birthday near Rifle is being held without bond.

D’Antiago “Dante” Lazaro Dominguez-Lopez, 17, was arrested Monday in Mesa County. He was wanted for the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old male at the celebration on Home Ranch Road shortly after midnight Sunday.

Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies arrived to find the victim still alive, but he was later pronounced dead at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

D’Antiago 'Dante' Lazaro Dominguez-Lopez

Garfield County District Court Judge Paul Metzger made the order to detain Lopez without bond during the Rifle juvenile’s initial appearance Tuesday morning.

“Under these circumstances, having reviewed the affidavit and considered the arguments of the parties, I do ultimately conclude that the juvenile poses a substantial risk of serious harm to others, and therefore find that he should remain in detention at this time,” Metzger said.

According to prosecuting attorney Tony Hershey, Lopez was already on probation for felony menacing with a knife prior to his Monday arrest. Meanwhile, Lopez also allegedly possessed two handguns and brass knuckles when he was arrested by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office on Monday.

“After the incident in this case, (Lopez) did flee the county, he went to Mesa County,” Hershey said. “I believe at some point he was contacted by his mother and sister, and that’s when he was apprehended.”

Garfield County public defender Elise Myer requested Lopez be released from detention because he does not pose a flight risk and that facts in connection to his new homicide case are currently “limited.”

Myer also said Lopez has been abiding to the terms of his probation and was working concrete with his father prior to his Monday arrest.

“These are incredibly serious crimes, but he is presumed innocent,” Myer said. “D’Antiago is willing to abide by any conditions the court may put on a release. He is happy to stay at home with his family, to not leave. He has a good relationship with his family, with his parents, with his siblings.”

Lopez’s next court date is set for May 11.

Preliminary hearing set for Glenwood Springs woman accused of double homicide

Claudia Camacho-Duenas
Garfield County Detention Center photo

A preliminary hearing was set Thursday for next month in the case of a Glenwood Springs woman accused of killing her children.

Claudia Camacho-Duenas, 37, was arrested Dec. 30 after allegedly stabbing her two children on the 100 block of Soccer Field Road in Glenwood Springs.

Her children, ages 11 and 18, were given emergency resuscitation procedures but died from their wounds after being taken to the hospital.

Duenas was meanwhile arrested without incident and eventually charged with two counts of first-degree murder of a family member.

Duenas is currently in jail on a $1 million bond.

Garfield County District Court Judge Denise Lynch set Duenas’ hearing for 9 a.m. May 16.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.