Bartender’s ashes examined during raid |

Bartender’s ashes examined during raid

John Colson

ASPEN – Authorities conducting a drug raid last week at Aspen’s Cooper Street Pier tested salt in the shakers, dust on the shuffleboard table – and even the cremated remains of a former bartender,bar employees said. A bartender said a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent questioned him about a plastic baggie found in his backpack containing a gray, powdery substance and asked him whether it was heroin.”Yes, I can explain it,” said the bartender, who is known as “Toast” to his friends. “It’s the cremated remains of my friend Doug Belden, who died about a month ago.”The agent “looked at me like I was crazy,” said Toast, whose real name is Michael Puariea.According to another Cooper Street bartender, who spoke on condition of anonymity, one agent reportedly dipped his finger into the baggie to “taste test” the substance.Shaking his head about the incident, Cooper Street’s manager, Charles Wolf, said, “Poor old Dougie.”Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson said Wednesday he was not aware of the encounter with Belden’s remains.”I had not heard that,” he said with a somewhat rueful note in his voice, adding, “What a set of circumstances.”Staffers at Cooper Street said they believed the sweep yielded no drugs or money from Cooper Street itself, although four of the establishment’s personnel were carted off by authorities.Police have said the investigation and dramatic raids, which also involved the nearby Little Annie’s Eating House, produced a couple of ounces of cocaine and perhaps $3,000 in suspected drug-related cash.The sweep was the culmination of a seven-month investigation, led by the Aspen police using DEA agents for undercover work and involving several other agencies.Toast said the baggie containing Belden’s remains was one of several that had been delivered to friends of the former Cooper Street bartender after he was cremated, to be spread over his favorite spots around the country and the globe.Toast had brought the baggie into work that day, he said, because another friend had asked him to, so that some of the ashes could be spread on Aspen Mountain.Vail, Colorado

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