Bomb scare closes parking lot at Buttermilk, site of Winter X Games in Aspen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” A suspected car bomb shut down the parking lot at Buttermilk, site of Aspen’s upcoming Winter X Games, for hours Tuesday while a bomb squad was called in from Grand Junction.
A search by the Grand Junction Hazardous Response Team at 4 p.m. revealed only a 12-gauge shotgun and shells in the suspicious vehicle, a red SUV parked at the base of Buttermilk.
Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo said the original call came in from a bank teller in Glenwood Springs who overheard a conversation between two men.
The teller was specific enough about the vehicle and where it was parked, that law enforcement took the threat seriously.
Ken Jackson, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who responded to the scene at Buttermilk, identified Benjamin Pearce as the man overheard by the teller.
Pearce was arrested Tuesday by Glenwood Springs police, though it is unclear if he will be charged with any crimes, DiSalvo said. Pearce had been arrested for possession of marijuana in Glenwood Springs Saturday night and released.
Information about Pearce’s age and residence were unavailable Tuesday night.
The threat did not shut down any major operations at the upcoming Winter X Games. Buttermilk stayed open and athletes continued with practice undisturbed.
“This threat was not specific to the X Games,” said DiSalvo, who mentioned the threat had a more rambling, general nature having to do with the state of the world.
“We always encourage everyone to be safe rather than sorry,” said Stan Ancell, a member of the Grand Junction bomb squad. Ancell did not use a bomb suit or robot to execute the search.
A dog trained to sniff out gunpowder and explosives was brought out early in the day and helped the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office decide to keep a small scope to the area closed.
“Since the dog didn’t hit anything we were able to keep the small perimeter,” said DiSalvo. “The first thing they pulled out was a shotgun that the dog missed. It’s safer to trust in human beings than a dog sometimes.”
Ancell said the hazardous response team carefully searched the vehicle before calling an all-clear around 4:45 p.m.
The parking lot at Buttermilk, containing hundreds of cars, was closed until that time and people were not allowed to access them.
“It’s frustrating,” said Justin Worth, of Snowmass Village, who waited hours at Bumps Restaurant where the Aspen Skiing Co. put out free food for those stuck at Buttermilk. “I was hoping the bomb would get my Jeep so I could get the insurance money.”
The X Games are scheduled to begin on Thursday.
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