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Case against Glenwood Springs man in 2018 vagrant murder case continued again

A June 2018 murder case involving an alleged drunken confrontation between two men in West Glenwood is still making its way through the Ninth Judicial District court system.

Trevor Torreyson, 43, is accused of beating Keith Wayne to death in a small private park situated off Storm King Road during a night of drinking on June 20, 2018.

Torreyson is now represented by Glenwood Spring attorney Courtney Petre after having a falling-out with his original public defender last September.

He was back in court Tuesday afternoon for the first time in months before Chief District Judge James Boyd — via WebEx video from the Garfield County Jail where’s been held on $1 million bond since his arrest the day after the incident.

Petre requested another lengthy extension, and a plea has yet to be entered by Torreyson in the case. The arraignment hearing was continued yet again until the afternoon of Sept. 8.

“This does not substantially change what’s happening with the case, thus far,” Petre informed the judge. The District Attorney’s Office did not object to the continuance.

Both Torreyson and Wayne were experiencing homelessness at the time of the incident, and were well-known within the fairly close-knit community of people who often camp on the outskirts of Glenwood Springs.

Wayne, who was 56, was found dead near several car dealerships in West Glenwood off of Storm King Road the night of June 20, 2018, with wounds on his left temple consistent with blunt force trauma.

The first officers on the scene found boot tracks, apparently made on concrete from dried blood, heading west from the scene.

When cops arrested Torreyson later that day, he was discovered in his campsite with blood on his boots, pants, shirt and arms, which has been introduced as evidence in the case.

Police identified Torreyson as a suspect because of a bandana officers found at the scene under Wayne’s body, which officers recognized from previous contacts with Torreyson.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Former Basalt teacher pleads guilty to 1 count of sexual assault on a child after relationship with student

Former Basalt schools music teacher Brittany von Stein on Tuesday pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a student who was a minor and potentially faces a lengthy prison sentence.

Brittany von Stein
Garfield County Jail

In return for the guilty plea to sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, four similar charges were dismissed in the plea disposition, attorneys told Garfield County District Judge James Boyd.

“I want to take responsibility for my actions and spare everyone the damage of a trial,” von Stein said Tuesday in court.

Judge Boyd asked her a series of questions about her understanding of the offenses and the potential penalties. Von Stein, who was able to call into the hearing because of new procedures during the coronavirus, sounded composed during the questioning and her voice never wavered.

Zac Parsons, an assistant attorney with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said von Stein developed a relationship with a male high school student who was a minor at the time of the encounter.

“While being a music student she began to give some lessons to one student in particular who was under the age of 18,” Parsons said. “They developed a relationship. Ultimately Ms. von Stein invited him over to her house where they engaged in sexual intercourse on multiple occasions in the January to June timeframe in 2019.”

Sentencing is set for Sept. 16. The charge von Stein pleaded guilty to is a Class IV felony.

“There are no sentencing concessions,” Parsons said.

Boyd informed von Stein that if she is sentenced to prison, she could be sentenced for two to 12 years on the low end.

“The maximum amount of time in prison would be the rest of your life,” he said.

He ordered pre-sentence evaluations and investigations prior to the sentencing.

Carbondale man arrested on child porn charge by Eagle County officials

A Carbondale caterer was arrested earlier this week after an investigation turned up “large amounts” of suspected child pornography in his home, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

Peter O’Grady, 69, is charged with felony aggravated sexual exploitation of children after Eagle County sheriff’s deputies searched his home and seized computers, mass storage devices and cell phones that yielded “large amounts of suspected online child pornography being recovered as evidence,” according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.

O’Grady was arrested Tuesday after the search and was advised in Eagle County District Court on Wednesday, when a judge set a $5,000 cash or surety bond for him, Heidi McCollum, deputy district attorney with the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday. O’Grady bonded out of jail and is next scheduled to be in court July 29, she said.

The sheriff’s office conducted the investigation into O’Grady based on a complaint, according to the news release. McCollum declined to comment further on the case and said the warrantless affidavit in Eagle County District Court after O’Grady was arrested is “protected,” meaning it can only be accessed by parties to the case.

McCollum said O’Grady is a caterer, and the news release said he is “a longtime resident of the Roaring Fork Valley.” O’Grady is the owner of Creative Catering, located in Carbondale. Calls seeking comment to two phone numbers listed for O’Grady went unanswered Thursday.

No other information about the case was available from the sheriff’s or DA’s offices.

‘Very high’ Denver man in custody after high-speed chase ended in his arrest June 25 near Silt

A Denver man remained in the Garfield County Jail Monday facing a laundry list charges including aggravated motor vehicle theft after he led police on a high-speed chase on Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs last Thursday.

The 30-year-old suspect remained in custody Monday on $11,500 bond after making an initial court appearance Friday to be advised of charges that also include driving while under the influence of drugs and possession of stolen license plates and credit cards.

Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies picked up a vehicle chase at about 3:50 a.m. June 25 involving a stolen red Prius that began in Eagle County westbound on I-70.

According to an arrest affidavit in the case, pursuing officers from Eagle County pulled back at the Hanging Lake Tunnel in Glenwood Canyon and advised Garfield County officers to be on the lookout for the stolen vehicle coming through Glenwood Springs.

The police chase resumed just past the West Glenwood exit in Glenwood Springs, reaching speeds of more than 100 miles per hour through South Canyon and past New Castle before a spike strip halted the vehicle just west of Silt.

Upon approaching the vehicle after it had stopped, officers reportedly observed several syringes on the floor of the car, and the suspect upon being removed from the car “appeared to be very high,” possibly on heroin, according to the affidavit.

After the suspect was arrested, a search of the vehicle turned up two license plates that had been reported stolen out of the Denver area, as had the car. Also found among the man’s possession were four credit cards, two Colorado ID cards and a blank check not belonging to the suspect.

The suspect is due back in court July 16 to answer to charges including felonies for vehicle theft, theft of the license plates and credit cards, drug possession with intent to distribute, and possession of weapons by a previous offender, plus several misdemeanor charges.


Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version to reflect that the incident occurred in the early morning hours of June 25.

Garfield County police chiefs, sheriff offer thoughts on state’s new police accountability law

Reaction among Garfield County law enforcement officials to Colorado’s new police accountability bill that was signed into law last week has been supportive — though not without some significant concerns around costs and how some of the provisions might be interpreted. 

In general, though, much of what’s contained in the law has already been in practice locally for some time, said area police chiefs and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.

“From the first version that was being discussed to what we were able to work through with the legislature, I do believe they have listened to law enforcement concerns,” Vallario said in response to Senate Bill 217, which was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on Friday.

“It became a palatable, livable bill for us as a police agency,” Vallario said.

The bill passed with significant bi-partisan support after being introduced in the Colorado Legislature shortly after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 by a police officer who was using a chokehold.

Vallario pointed out that the use of chokeholds by police was already banned by the legislature three years ago. 

Also, many of the officer training provisions included among the bill’s measures are already being used in Garfield County, in many cases going above and beyond the new state law, he said.

One thing that will be new for the Sheriff’s Office is the requirement that all law enforcement officers must wear body cameras by 2023, and for any video requested to be made public.

Even that provision was just a matter of time, Vallario said.

“We knew that was coming eventually, and we will migrate to that policy,” Vallario said, adding the estimated $600,000 to $800,000 startup to implement the program will need to be figured out locally or at the state level.

One amendment to the bill was that undercover officers be exempt from the body cam requirement, he noted.

“Once that was taken care of, it was absolutely fine,” Vallario said.

Under Colorado’s new police accountability law
  • All law enforcement officers will be required to wear body cameras by 2023, and video must be made public if requested or a formal complaint is filed.
  • Chokeholds are prohibited.
  • Shooting at fleeing suspects is prohibited — deadly force can only be used if someone’s life is in imminent danger.
  • Any time police make contact with someone suspected of a crime, officers must provide the person’s race, gender and ethnicity to try to guard against racial profiling.
  • Police must report wrongdoing by fellow officers.
  • Officers can be held personally liable for damages up to $25,000 if they are found guilty of violating someone’s civil rights.

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras doesn’t think the new law will have a big effect on his department’s operations.

“By and large we have already been doing most of what that bill asks of law enforcement,” he said.

And, some of what the bill focuses on has not been relevant to local policing.

“We don’t have the use of force issues the legislation is designed to protect from,” he said.

Deras said he’s the only one on the Glenwood force that is trained in the proper use of chokeholds, but he would not use one in any situation because it is against policy and already banned by the state.

“This department is not trained in [choke] holds. It’s not part of our use-of-force continuum,” he said.

Deras said he’s “not overly concerned here in Glenwood” about litigation following the elimination of the qualified immunity defense, but he said it could be a problem for some agencies.

“Among officers, generally speaking, qualified immunity will take some time to understand and reconcile,” Deras said. 

Deras is more concerned about the financial ramifications of the body camera provisions of the bill, which he called an unfunded mandate. Through his work with other police departments, he said he has dealt with releasing body camera footage. That can be very expensive and very time-consuming, he said.

Part of that time is spent redacting people who appear in video footage but are not relevant to the case, in order to protect their privacy.

“You have to buy redaction software, then it takes staff time to put it into practice,” he said.

That extra time would likely require reassigning existing staff or hiring another employee, Deras said.

“Do we hire somebody new or redirect somebody who’s here?” he asked.

Deras said that there are still details that need to be ironed out.

“They were very quick to enact this, and things still need to be looked at,” he said.

New Castle Police Chief Tony Pagni also pointed out that some of the provisions in the police accountability bill were put in place years ago.

“Many of the things that people are astounded by had already been adopted in the past,” he said, referring specifically to the use of chokeholds.

Pagni said New Castle officers also complete sensitivity and racial bias training every year.

The bill’s big impact, at least locally, is the cost associated with the release of body camera footage, Pagni said.

“Policing in small-town Americana just got dramatically more expensive,” he said.

“Today in New Castle when a primary car goes on call he turns on his camera,” he said. “We’re eating up two hours of a 10-hour shift downloading, categorizing and attaching footage to case files,” he said.

“Now, every officer will be filming the same incident, so instead of one person recording, now all four will be running footage.”

Pagni said he expects the time related to certain aspects of video management to increase four-fold.

“They haven’t thought through that; when we send files to the DA’s office there’s a bunch of editing that has to be done. The parties not concerned have to be pixelated. The DA does pixelating now, but when we have to release files to the public, we’ll have to do the pixelating,” he said.

The time spent working on video footage may take time away from contact with the public.

“Any time you’re looking at having more work to do in the same time period you can’t help make that assessment,” he said.

Generally speaking, though, Pagni said meeting the requirements of the bill shouldn’t be too hard. There is still a lot of time to figure things out, he said.

“That bill gives us until 2023 to get it activated and running,” Pagni said.

But he won’t be waiting that long to start implementation.

“I’ll make sure my plan is in action in one year or less,” he said.

Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said his department also has already made some changes, and will continue to make more.

“There are some things in it that are very good, I believe. There are some things in it that are a little concerning to some officers,” Klein said. 

“We’ve made some changes to our policy based on information that is in the new legislation, a lot of the things we already had in our policy, like duty to intervene. If an officer sees another officer utilize too much force, they do have a duty to intervene based on our current policy.”

For Klein and his department, the most significant change will be removing any types of chokeholds from the policy, and the cost of body cameras for all officers, or anyone in the department that has the potential to interact with the public.

“A lot of these things are in our policy as it is written now. We have changed our policy in terms of neck holds over time,” Klein said. 

“At one time, officers were allowed to use the carotid restraint as a force option since it causes a person to pass out but does not prevent a person from breathing,” he explained. “We later moved the carotid restraint technique to the deadly force category.”

Choking holds that disrupted breathing were an option only when deadly force was authorized by law in a given situation, Klein said.

“The new law removes the option of all neck restraints and we removed those holds from our policy prior to the governor signing the legislation,” he said.

Klein said he originally had reservations about body cameras, but has since changed his stance and believes they can provide a lot of good evidence.

“I’ve really thought about it and felt like it was time to switch over to body cameras,” he said. 

“We started getting estimates before Mr. Floyd’s murder, so we were moving in that direction already,” Klein said. “That’s a lot of money for us … it’s an upfront cost, that is a great deal for an agency of our size. 

A requirement that agencies collect and report data, including when an officer unholsters his weapon, will also add additional time to the department’s duties, Klein said.

“We already have in our policy if our officer points a weapon or taser we consider that a force situation, and we record information on that, so it is an easy thing for us to do.” Klein said.

The Carbondale Police Department is currently in transition between current long-time Chief Gene Schilling and the just-hired incoming chief, Lt. Kirk Wilson, a former Rifle police officer who is in training to take over as Carbondale chief in September.

Schilling and Wilson shared a concern about the potential that patrol officers might be less inclined to make certain low-level types of traffic stops because of the new requirements.

“I think it’s going to be a detriment to citizens in general,” Schilling said. “On the traffic end of things, officers might be less likely to make contacts and look for the more serious stuff.”

Schilling agreed with his counterparts throughout Garfield County that the new law is redundant in terms of what his department does already. 

“We already do all of the things that they’re worried about,” he said. “It doesn’t really change a lot in terms of good officer behaviors.”

Carbondale’s officers already use body cameras, but there will be some additional cost for the new editing software, he agreed.

“I share roughly the same concerns,” Wilson added. “My other concern is how this can affect the recruiting and hiring of new officers.”

Wilson said he had already noticed fewer people applying for law enforcement openings, and enrollment in police training programs across the country has fallen off.

“I don’t think this is necessarily going to help,” he said. “Unfortunately, it can have the effect of sending a message that communities don’t trust law enforcement in general.

Wilson applauded a clearinghouse provision in the new law, though, that can flag bad cops who are let go by one agency but could potentially be re-hired by another agency.

“We do have officers out there that are a problem, but I would say the vast majority are fantastic individuals who chose this career … so they could do the right thing.”

Glenwood Springs Post Independent reporters John Stroud and Charlie Wertheim, and Rifle Citizen Telegram Editor Kyle Mills contributed to this report.

Colorado governor signs broad police accountability bill

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed into law a broad police accountability bill introduced amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

Colorado is one of several states and cities considering proposals aimed at limiting excessive force and increasing accountability after Floyd, a black man, died May 25 when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes.

Polis, a Democrat, said the new law will help restore trust between law enforcement and the community and that “black Americans deserve to feel safe.”

“We cannot go back to normal,” Polis said. “We need to create a new normal where everybody’s rights are respected.”

The measure eliminates the qualified immunity defense that protects police officers from lawsuits and it now allows them to be sued for misconduct.

The law also bans chokeholds and limits other uses of force and prohibits police from aiming non-lethal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters’ heads, pelvises or backs.

The new law requires all local and Colorado State Patrol officers who have contact with the public to be equipped with body cameras by July 1, 2023. Unedited footage from body cameras must be released to the public within 21 days of the filing of misconduct complaints.

The law bars police from using deadly force against suspects they believe are armed unless there is an imminent threat of a weapon being used as suspects attempt to escape

Grand juries under the law will be required to release reports when they decide against charging officers accused in deaths.

Polis signed the bill during a ceremony in the state Capitol with state Sen. Rhonda Fields, Rep. Leslie Herod, Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Senate President Leroy Garcia, the bill’s Democratic sponsors.

The state Legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill 10 days after it was introduced on June 3.

“This is not the end,” said Gonzales-Gutierrez. “This is one small step and there is a tremendous amount of work ahead of us.”

UPDATED: David Lesh reaches plea deal in illegal Independence Pass snowmobile case

A Colorado business owner’s publicity stunts involving illegal use of public lands could get him temporarily banned from the White River National Forest.

David Lesh, 35, the owner of outdoor clothing company Virtika Outerwear, was fined $500 on Tuesday and ordered to perform 50 hours of useful public service this summer for illegally riding his snowmobile July 3, 2019, in designated wilderness near the summit of Independence Pass. Wilderness areas are closed to mechanized and motorized travel.

Lesh and another snowmobiler who hasn’t been identified were observed sledding near the Upper Lost Man trailhead by Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation, and two colleagues. They reported the incursion to the U.S. Forest Service, which was able to track down Lesh from photos he posted on social media.

The plea arrangement involving the fine and useful public service was announced in federal court in Grand Junction.

“We’re happy to see the charges were filed and went through,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said Tuesday.

Lesh was cited for four petty offenses for the Independence Pass snowmobile event: possessing of using a motor vehicle in a designated wilderness, prohibited to operate or possess an over-the-snow vehicle on National Forest Lands in violation of restrictions, damaging any natural feature or other property of the United States, and selling or offering for sale any merchandise or conducting any kind of work activity. For such offenses, the punishment was consistent with other cases, Fitzwilliams said.

“Hopefully it sends a message that we take illegal and irresponsible behavior seriously,” Fitzwilliams said.

While the case was winding its way through the federal court system this spring, Lesh allegedly rode a snowmobile illegally in a terrain park at Keystone ski area, which was closed because of the coronavirus. He also posted pictures recently of himself walking on a log jutting out into pristine Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon. At the time of the post, a regional closure of developed facilities was in place by the U.S. Forest Service. That prohibited access to the lake.

Lesh has also posted photos of himself snowmobiling on closed terrain on Mount Elbert and standing on a sled submerged in a stream near Steamboat Springs. A biography on one of his social media accounts says he is a part-time resident of Colorado.

Even as his court appearance in the Independence Pass case loomed, Lesh posted pictures of himself allegedly undertaking the illegal activities at Hanging Lake and Keystone. Fitzwilliams said all information collected by the Forest Service about those incidents was forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Fitzwilliams said he has witnessed several times during his career where repeat offenders of illegal activity on national forest were banned from use of public lands, at least temporarily.

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger, said in court Tuesday he intends to file charges against Lesh for the other incidents.

“All of them have been documented by photographs the defendant took and posted to social media,” Hautzinger said.

Lesh’s actions have produced a backlash. A petition posted via change.org and circulated on Facebook calls for the state of Colorado to revoke the business license of Virtika for encouraging the destruction of protected ecosystems. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 13,800 people had signed it.

The petition accuses Lesh and his company of abusing public lands to bring attention to his company. Fitzwilliams said his office has received scores of emails, texts and calls encouraging aggressive prosecution for the offenses.

“The public is very angry with this,” he said. “One thing we know is people love their national forest. It’s nice to see so many people care.”

He indicated he shares the belief that Lesh’s behavior is in pursuit of publicity.

“We hope that Mr. Lesh finds a different avenue to gain attention,” Fitzwilliams said.

Teague said she isn’t confident that Lesh is remorseful for his actions.

“I think he won’t even feel a $500 fine,” she said. 

Public service, in theory, is a worthwhile sentence, she said. If not for his other alleged infractions after the Independence Pass incident, she would have been willing to have Lesh volunteer on conservation projects on the Pass.

“There’s not a cell in my body that feels he will change, that any of his professions for remorse are genuine or that he cares for the landscape,” Teague said.

The only punishment Lesh might feel is if his company isn’t supported, she concluded. 

Any new charges against Lesh are unlikely to be unveiled before his next federal court appearance on Sept. 15 in Grand Junction. At the hearing Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher said Lesh must complete his useful public service by Sept. 5.

Hautzinger said the plea agreement was arranged after Lesh’s initial court appearance on Feb. 25. It specified that the useful public service should be performed in the national forest where the infractions occurred. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, it has been understandably difficult for Lesh to complete the service, Hautzinger said.

Lesh’s attorney, Stephen Laiche of Grand Junction, said his client attempted to arrange public service in Wisconsin, but was unable to find anything satisfactory. He said Lesh wanted to complete the 50 hours with Only One Inc., a Boulder-based organization that Laiche indicated was tied to a Native American cause. Laiche didn’t identify what type of tasks Lesh would undertake with Only One to fulfill his public service. Neither the judge nor the prosecutor inquired.

GuideStar, a clearinghouse for information on nonprofit organization, raised red flags about Only One Inc., which it classified as a multipurpose arts and cultural organization.

“This organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years,” said a notice on GuideStar. “Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.”

Efforts by The Aspen Times to reach David Atekpatzin Young, who was identified by Laiche as the contact at Only One, were unsuccessful. Previous news reports identified Young as a member of the Genizaro Apache Tribe.

Lesh’s notoriety isn’t limited to the land. Lesh was also involved in a plane crash off the coast of California in August 2019. No one was injured.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash, saying at the time that it usually takes up to a year to determine the cause of an accident.

scondon@aspentimes.com

22-year-old arrested in Breckenridge for suspected role in Minneapolis police station burning

A 22-year-old wanted in connection with the burning of a police precinct in Minneapolis was captured this week in Breckenridge by U.S. marshals.

Dylan Robinson was one of several suspects wanted for burning the police station on May 28 during protests over the death of George Floyd, the United States Marshals Service tweeted.

Robinson is being held without bail in Denver’s Downtown Detention Center, jail records show.

Federal authorities are cracking down on those involved in the violent protests that consumed Minneapolis in the wake of Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day Weekend, a killing caught on video that sparked a national movement against police brutality.

A 23-year-old St. Paul, Minn. man was charged last week with aiding and abetting arson for his role in the incident.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Arrest along I-70 Sunday evening nabs suspect who allegedly made gun threat in Glenwood park

An altercation in a Glenwood Springs park Sunday evening in which a gun was allegedly brandished led to an arrest by police after a traffic stop on Interstate 70 near the West Glenwood interchange.

The 26-year-old male suspect, who according to police reports is a registered sex offender on parole, also had two juvenile females, ages 12 and 14, in his vehicle with him at the time of the arrest.

After the man was arrested at gunpoint, the girls were removed from the vehicle at gunpoint for the officers’ safety, but were later released to their parents without charges, according to the arrest affidavit.

“Both juvenile females were also taken out of the vehicle at gunpoint for our safety and for the fact that we did not know that they were victims at the time,” the affidavit states.

What turned out to be a “look-alike” revolver-type BB pistol and an AR-15 replica air rifle were found in the vehicle. A later search of the suspect’s belongings also turned up a baggie containing a substance that tested presumptive positive for methamphetamine, leading to an additional drug possession charge.

Given the circumstances, the safety of the two girls was the highest concern for police, according to the affidavit.

“It was apparent that both (girls) were extremely shaken up over the ordeal,” the arresting officer stated in his affidavit.

In addition to felony menacing, the suspect was arrested on felony charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and misdemeanor child abuse “for putting them in this situation,” the officer wrote, adding, “it’s my belief that they could’ve been far more victimized had we not stopped the vehicle.”

The suspect appeared in court Monday for advisement of the charges. Bond was set at $1,500, but he remains on hold for the alleged parole violation, according to court documents. He is due back in District Court on July 16.

The incident started when police were called to Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs just after 6 p.m. on a report of a weapons violation.

According to the affidavit, the suspect was confronted by the reporting party about playing loud music from his vehicle. As the verbal altercation escalated, the suspect reportedly pointed the rifle out the window and made a threatening comment before leaving as the police were being called.

One of the responding officers located the suspect’s vehicle entering I-70 at Exit 114 (West Glenwood) and initiated the traffic stop, then waited for backup to approach the suspect with guns drawn. He was taken into custody without incident, according to the affidavit.

One of the females said she was told to hide the guns in the back seat. The BB gun and air rifle were both seized.

A review of the suspect’s parole documents revealed he is a registered sex offender, with an original charge of sex assault on a minor under the age of 13.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Man arrested at El Jebel City Market after gun threat

Basalt police officers arrested a Texas man Tuesday morning after he entered the El Jebel City Market, put his arms in the air and yelled that he had a gun.

Brandon Smith, 40, was taken into custody without incident, according to Basalt Police Lt. Aaron Munch. The man had no gun and no one was injured, Munch said. Smith was found in possession of brass knuckles, the officer said.

Smith was arrested on suspicion of felony menacing and possession of a legal weapon, Munch said. He was taken to Eagle County Jail.

Police received the initial call at 10:06 a.m.

“We got a call that a man came into the store, put his hands in the air and said, ‘I’ve got a gun,’ ” Munch said.

Munch arrived on the scene within six minutes and was informed by a woman in the parking lot that the suspect was inside by the Starbuck’s counter, he said. Munch said he approached the man at the counter and quickly suspected there was a mental health issue. He said Smith was talking incoherently.

“He felt as though people were out to get him,” Munch said. “He was compliant and cordial.”

He placed Smith in handcuffs and led him outside the store without incident. The man had apparently come to City Market to get a cup of coffee. Upon arrest, Smith asked Munch if he could bring his coffee with him. Munch said he told him “no” and didn’t see that he had a drink anyway.

Smith apparently drove to the grocery store and said he was staying with friends in the El Jebel area.

Making the incident even stranger, Munch said, was that a customer in a mask had approached Smith during all the commotion because of a concern that Smith wasn’t wearing a mask.

“It was not a safe thing,” Munch said of the customer approaching the man who claimed to have a gun.

Munch said he didn’t witness any pandemonium when he first arrived on scene. People were milling about their parked vehicles outside. Managers inside were moving people toward the exit or in the aisles away from the suspect. Munch and three other Basalt officers responded to the scene.

Social media rumors quickly and erroneously labeled the event an active shooting incident. Whole Foods Market briefly went on lock down out of concern, Munch said.

Basalt police posted information on Facebook at about 12:30 p.m. to dispel the rumors.