Years after slaying, family needs closure
DURANGO, Colorado ” A decade after three fugitives killed a southwest Colorado police officer and set off a massive manhunt, the slain officer’s commander says it’s time to put the incident to rest.
“The family needs closure, the department needs closure,” Cortez police Chief Roy Lane said last week.
Cortez officer Dale Claxton died in a barrage of gunfire on May 29, 1998, after he spotted a water truck the three had stolen and pulled in behind it.
He had not tried to pull the truck over, but it stopped, and one of the fugitives got out and sprayed his patrol car with gunfire.
More than 500 officers from 54 police agencies across the West scoured the canyons and cliffs of the Four Corners region for the three fugitives ” Jason McVean, 26, Alan “Monte” Pilon, 30, and Robert Mason, 26.
They wounded at least three officers who were pursuing them and eventually, authorities say, each killed himself, although McVean’s body wasn’t found until June 2007.
One of the wounded officers, Todd Martin, was a Montezuma County sheriff’s deputy at the time and is now a state trooper. He was shot in the left arm and right knee.
“It was a big deal back then,” he said. “I was totally shocked that I got shot. I was looking at this gaping hole in my arm, and I just couldn’t believe it.”
The fugitives were wearing camouflage and bulletproof vests the day Claxton was shot, but no one knows what they were up to.
Lane has said there are at least 100 theories about the trio’s plans, “and all of them sound good to me.”
Sixteen of the Cortez Police Department’s 27 sworn officers served with Claxton 10 years ago. Last year, the department hired one of Claxton’s sons, Corbin Claxton, who was 11 at the time of his father’s death.
The department held a private memorial service Thursday, the 10th anniversary of Claxton’s death.
Lane described this anniversary as bittersweet because it was the first since the fate of the third and final suspect was learned.
“There was actually some closure this year,” he said.
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