Vail skier arrested in line for mask and gun comment: ‘I was just joking’
Suspect was arrested for menacing, but was instead charged with disorderly conduct
VAIL — This isn’t the season to be joking around about masks.
Nevertheless, the joke goes something like this: Not wearing a mask may be a misdemeanor, but wearing one could be a felony because in Colorado, the people not wearing masks are always carrying their guns.
The joke is better received in some areas of the state than others, and in Vail, it didn’t go over very well on Friday.
A Vail Police Department Incident Sheet, published Saturday, describes an arrest that occurred as a result of the joke being told to a lift ticket scanner at Golden Peak.
According to statements, the incident involved two ticket scanning employees. When one ticket scanning employee asked a skier in line to put on his mask, the 26-year-old replied with the punchline — that it would be a felony if he put his mask on because he always carries his gun.
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The other ticket scanner told police the joke “caught him off guard” and he collected the man’s identity from the scanning device and passed it on to his manager. The manager then called security.
Before police arrived, a Vail Resorts security officer interviewed the man who made the joke. The security officer described the joke as a threat and verified that the man was a fellow Vail Resorts worker at nearby Beaver Creek.
“You know it’s not funny to make a threat like that to other employees?” the security officer asked the man, according to the incident sheet.
The man agreed and apologized, according to the report. The ticket scanners and security officer did not feel threatened by the man and neither believed him to be carrying a gun, according to the report. But the mess caused by police having to investigate the potential of him carrying the firearm was enough to result in an arrest.
According to the report, the “obviously offensive utterance, stating he had a gun, within earshot of multiple Vail Resorts guests and employees, in a public place … would tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace, i.e. possibly causing the public to panic.”
While officers never found a weapon on the man, those who witnessed the incident likely saw a few guns at Golden Peak on Friday.
“Security immediately notified the Vail Police Department who arrived on scene,” said John Plack with Vail Resorts.
By the time the description of the incident made it to the four Vail Police Department officers who responded (simultaneously, in two squad cars), the officers believed they were responding to a report of an armed party, according to the incident sheet.
“When I arrived on scene, I deployed my long gun and held it in a low ready position while walking to Chair Six,” officer Angela Sommer said in her report.
“Believing there to be an armed suspect in the area, Officer Deering unlocked and deployed his patrol rifle and I un-holstered my service handgun,” officer Dan Wylie reported.
As he turned around and placed his hands behind his back, the suspect told officers “I was just joking, I know it’s not a joking or laughing matter.“
Sommer, based upon the report of an armed party and the suspect then admitting to making the gun joke, placed the man under arrest for felony menacing.
However, after officers received statements from the ticket scanners saying they did not feel threatened by the man and did not believe he had a gun, Sommer and Sergeant Clausen, another assisting officer, agreed that probable cause for menacing did not exist. The man was instead charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
“I observed a large amount of Vail Resorts guests in the Chair 6 liftline and the surrounding area where we were told the incident happened. I also observed Vail Resorts employees making calming statements toward those guests. For example, everything is going to be fine,” Wylie reported.
The man was summonsed for disorderly conduct, received a court date and was released.
After explaining the summons to the suspect, “he said he understood and he would go to his court date,” Wylie reported.
This story was edited to include a quote from Vail Resorts and to remove the name of a Vail Resorts employee.