Mountain bikers dodge gunfire on Buffalo Pass in ‘harrowing’ encounter with men shooting guns
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two mountain bikers became the unsuspecting victims of gunfire while riding Wednesday along a trail on Buffalo Pass outside of Steamboat Springs.
It was just before 7:20 p.m. when Cole Sibelius and his friend Riley Schumm heard the loud crack of bullets as they rode Flash of Gold, a popular biking and hiking trail. Afraid for their lives, they immediately ducked for cover. Schumm hid behind a rock, and Sibelius found a large enough pine tree to use for protection.
Bullets continued to whizz by them as they took shelter, Sibelius said, some landing within 15 yards of their hiding spots, hitting the dirt and nearby trees. They yelled as loud as they could at whoever was shooting to stop, but the bullets kept flying.
Schumm called emergency dispatch, who alerted Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies. She remained on the line with the dispatcher, sheltering in place for almost 30 minutes until she and Sibelius saw the flashing lights of a deputy’s vehicle through the trees.
After the shooting stopped, the two bikers returned to the trailhead near the Dry Lake Campground. There, they met with a deputy to recount their side of the story. Initially, the deputy did not seem to understand the danger they were in, Sibelius said. The deputy had spoken with the shooters at the scene but did not issue any citations.
After the two bikers explained what happened, the deputy issued court summons to three out-of-state men for the alleged prohibited use of a weapon. Lt. Ryan Adrian with the Sheriff’s Office did not respond directly to the incident but explained the crime report written by the deputies who responded.
Deputies found three handguns at the scene, which were legal and therefore not confiscated. According to that report, it appeared the three men firing the weapons had been drinking that night.
In Colorado, it is illegal to even be in possession of a weapon while under the influence, according to the Colorado Revised Statues. Violating the law is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 12 months in jail.
As Adrian explained, it is not necessarily illegal to shoot guns in national forest or rural parts of the county, and the laws are relatively lenient if people act responsibly.
“In the county, as long as you’re doing it safely, there’s no ordinance or regulation against shooting a gun,” Adrian said.
It becomes an issue when people target or shoot toward another person or structure, such as a house or a campsite, or are under the influence. In those instances, shooters could face criminal charges.
With that in mind, Adrian encourages people who plan to shoot in areas where others could be around to carefully select the direction of their bullets. Trails could be hard to see through the trees, or a tent could be hidden in the line of fire. The deputy advised people to shoot into a hillside or other clearly visible, elevated surface to ensure gunfire does not travel into unknown terrain.
“If you’re not shooting into something, you don’t know how far that bullet is going to travel,” Adrian explained.
This is particularly important in more frequented parts of the county. When they started their ride, the two mountain bikers said the parking lot at Dry Lake was packed with vehicles. The area offers access to numerous multiuse trails that are popular for hikers and bikers.
“We just hope these three males recognize the severity of the situation,” Schumm said. “Clearly, it was not a safe environment, and they were being reckless.”
Both she and Sibelius are avid bikers. Though they are not going to let this close call deter them from their hobby, it’s hard not to let it weigh heavy on their minds.
“Anytime we hear gun shots, it’s going to be a completely different experience,” Sibelius said.
He added that the incident makes him want to advocate for gun reform to tighten laws around where people can shoot.
For safer shooting options, Lt. Adrian recommends the various gun ranges around Routt County.