Flying bullet barely misses two Edwards men
Middleton, 29, and Thompson, 23, of Edwards were driving off-road Saturday in the National Forest above Wildridge minutes before midnight when they heard a loud snap that sounded like a gunshot.
“I though it was a gunshot, but I didn’t think it was aimed towards us,” said Thompson. “I stepped out of the truck and Todd told me to get in again, that he had just seen the hole of a bullet on the roof.”
At the time of the shooting, both men had been driving for about an hour on U.S. Forest Service Road 774, a few miles above of Wildridge. Off-road driving in that area is permitted as long as one stays on established roads, said Howard Kahlow, of the White River National Forest. Hunting is permitted, too.
Because it was snowing hard when the shooting happened, Middleton said, he couldn’t see from where the shot came.
“The closest house was miles away and we couldn’t see any cars around,” Thompson said. “All we saw is this huge hole in the roof.”
Middleton immediately called 911, then drove down to Avon where they met the police at the Phillips 66 gas station.
“The police found the slug where it impacted behind the passenger’s door, inches behind Colin’s head,” Middleton said. “I’m glad we didn’t hit a bump at that time.”
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office has yet to find a suspect, Eagle County Sheriff A. J. Johnson said on Monday.
“We checked the area and unfortunately we were unable to locate anybody,” Johnson said. “We checked some vehicles up there but found no weapons in them.
“This is the first time something like this happened up there,” Johnson added.
The sheriff said the shooting apparently occurred between Berry Creek and June Creek. The bullet, he said, could have come either from one of the houses in the area or the Forest Service land.
“It’s hard to say that the shooting was deliberate,” he said. “It’s not hunting season, but a lot of people do target practice up there, so people should be careful.”
Johnson couldn’t say if the bullet came from a pistol or a rifle.
“We’re still waiting for the results from the lab. If it came from a rifle, it could have been shot from a longer distance,” he said. “The case is still open.”
Middleton, an environmental consultant with Premier Environmental Services, said he doesn’t believe the shooting was intentional.
“If it had been intentional they would have shot more than one time,” he said. “I think it was somebody who was drunk.”
“Although it may not be politically correct because we use motor vehicles, we love off-roading,” said Thompson, an auto detailer in Avon. “It allows us access to nature.”
Middleton will have to pay a $1,000 deductible before his insurance will replace the roof and the headboard of his truck.
“That’s a lot of money for a stupid incident,” he said. “Still, we were lucky. I won’t go up there at night anymore.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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