Candidate in Eagle County’s sheriff’s race taken into custody for outstanding traffic tickets following debate

John LaConte
Vail Daily
Candidate Paul Agneberg, left, and Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek debate Wednesday night at the Eagle County building in Eagle.
Ali Longwell/Vail Daily

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek told attendees at Wednesday night’s Vail Daily candidate forum at the Eagle County building in Eagle that he was the only candidate in the two-person sheriff’s race who didn’t have outstanding warrants.

Van Beek’s opponent, 37-year-old Paul Agneberg, was subsequently taken into custody outside the Eagle County building following Van Beek’s closing statements.

Undersheriff Dan Loya participated in the arrest, and said Agneberg had outstanding traffic tickets in both Eagle and Lake counties.

“He has a no-bond out of Lake County, so he needs to address that,” Loya said. “So Lake County will come get him or we’ll take him to Lake County.”

Agneberg was presented with the warrant during the arrest and expressed concern that it did not contain a judge’s signature.

“It’s not a legitimate warrant,” Agneberg said.

“You can take it up with the judge,” Loya replied.

The arrest followed a candidate forum in which Agneberg and van Beek discussed a variety of topics such as community policing, fentanyl, Proposition 122, extremist groups, Colorado’s red-flag law, and behavioral health and services.

Agneberg introduced himself as a pacifist who was spurred to run for office by what he called a countrywide wave of police becoming “a little too violent, a little too heavy-handed, and a little too militaristic.”

Van Beek, in his introductory statements, said in his eight years as sheriff there’s been a dramatic change in the sheriff’s office as it has grown.

“I’m proud of the record that we’ve set, and I’m proud of the team that we have here at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office,” van Beek said.

On what to expect if elected, van Beek said he thinks the sheriff’s office will continue to grow in the coming years.

“We’ve expanded dramatically since I’ve taken office, and so one of the first things I did was transparency, opening up communication, and that’s tantamount to being able to connect with the community, and the community being able to connect with us,” van Beek said.

Agneberg said if elected he will view crime as a community problem, not an individual problem, and focus on healing more than punishment through restorative justice rituals.

“You get the victim and the perpetrator together in the same room and you learn why and how they crossed paths with each other,” Agneberg said.

Van Beek took issue with a question related to fentanyl, in which moderator Tony Mauro cited the 2022 Fentanyl Accountability and Prevention Bill in suggesting that criminal penalties related to fentanyl have increased.

“There was actually a decrease in the criminal penalties for fentanyl,” van Beek said. “Myself and the County Sheriffs of Colorado, we did come out against the actual decreasing of it, and the state legislature still went ahead and passed it.”

Agneberg didn’t make mention of the bill, but said through the decriminalization of certain natural substances “we can make plant medicine way more appealing than fentanyl, and people can have safe access to this stuff.”

A question on Proposition 122 — which would legalize psychedelic mushrooms and allow licensed healing centers to administer them in supervised settings — received a negative endorsement from both candidates, but for different reasons.

“I believe we’re gonna see the same aspects we see where there’s safe centers for people to shoot up heroin and things along those lines throughout the state of Colorado, and those areas just become cesspools and crime-infested areas,” van Beek said.

Agneberg said he’s against Prop 122, out of a distrust of the New Approach PAC which is supporting the effort.

“If we allow corporations like Monsanto to grow mushrooms for us, the results will be disastrous, especially for our youth,” Agneberg said. “Freedom to cultivate and share these medicines locally and furthering decriminalization leads to safer access to these medicines, and allows people to have a direct relationship with nature without interference from governmental appropriations.”

In addressing extremist threats, van Beek mentioned his involvement in investigating the 1998 arsons on Vail Mountain, which were claimed by the environmental group Earth Liberation Front.

“Since that time, we’re not seeing that,” van Beek said. “Making threats, and true terrorist acts which I would define as a violent act against another group, we don’t normally see that.”

Agneberg defined terrorism as using violence to achieve a political aim.

“I think that includes our government, too,” Agneberg said. “IRS agents, police officers who seize our property and steal from us for victimless crimes.”

It was a theme Agneberg returned to in his closing statement.

“A crime actually requires a victim and a perpetrator,” Agneberg said. “The state is claiming to be injured by our actions, and it creates victimless crimes in order to enforce its perception of morality, and to generate revenue. The sheriff’s office is generating revenue off of traffic tickets.”

Agneberg stayed for part of the remaining candidate forum, leaving during the county commissioner debate.

Loya, dressed in plain clothes, said he was outside the building with Deputy Jordan Harrison when he spotted Agneberg leaving the event. Loya said they were not there waiting for Agneberg, but upon seeing him they felt they had to make the arrest.

“This is the violence I’m talking about,” Agneberg said as he was being arrested. “They use violence and intimidation.”

Loya said he was making efforts to treat Agneberg “with the utmost respect.”

Agneberg was handcuffed and helped into a blue Ford Explorer, an unmarked vehicle driven by Harrison. Loya said Agneberg was being transported to a holding facility in Eagle County before being taken to Lake County.

Loya insisted Agneberg wore his seatbelt, despite the discomfort expressed by Agneberg, who was seated in the front seat in handcuffs with his arms behind his back.

“Your safety is my No. 1 concern, Paul,” Loya said. “I may be working for you.”

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