Suspect facing felony charges in Glenwood Springs High School homecoming incident | PostIndependent.com

Suspect facing felony charges in Glenwood Springs High School homecoming incident

Cesar Esau Membreno

The suspect arrested following a threatening incident outside the Glenwood Springs High School homecoming dance late Saturday night, which prompted a more-than-two-hour lockout that prevented students from leaving the event over safety concerns, is now facing felony menacing charges.

Cesar Esau Membreno, 18, was advised in 9th District Court in Glenwood Springs by District Judge John Neiley Tuesday of four counts of menacing, a class 5 felony. His bond was increased to $15,000, from the initial $250 bond at the time of his arrest on misdemeanor obstruction charges.

The new felony charges relate to an incident in the Roaring Fork School District parking lot next to the high school around 10:45 p.m. Oct. 6, in which Membreno allegedly made threatening comments to a group of students in what the suspect later told police was a fit of jealousy over a girl, according to a Glenwood Springs Police affidavit filed with the court on Tuesday.

During the confrontation, he claimed to have a gun in his backpack and later made threatening comments in a phone call to his girlfriend, saying he may shoot himself, "or any cops that try and stop me."

The threat was taken seriously enough that police decided to place the school where hundreds of students were at the dance, on lockout, meaning doors locked and no one except authorized personnel allowed in or out of the building. Facebook posts at the time of the incident indicated the term "lockdown" was initially used, meaning occupants are to take cover. However, school officials and police later clarified that it was a lockout.

According to the police affidavit, after Membreno was arrested, at 1:25 a.m. Sunday, students were eventually allowed to leave the building. During the incident, numerous parents were outside in vehicles waiting for the lockout to be lifted, so that they could pick up their students.

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According to the police affidavit, officers were first called to the scene at 10:53 p.m. on a possible weapons violation.

When police arrived, Membreno was seen west of the high school building near the stairway leading down to the Roaring Fork River and the Red Mountain pedestrian bridge. He took off running toward the river, according to the report.

Officers talked to a group of witnesses inside the school, including the female student in question who is a minor, about what had happened. The girl indicated that Membreno was mad because she was with the other boys, and that he began arguing with them.

At one point during the encounter, Membreno allegedly reached into his backpack and appeared to point what the students thought was a gun through the bottom of the pack at them. The girl said she stepped in to break up the argument, telling Membreno, "Don't shoot, put it away and leave."

While the officer was talking to the girl, Membreno called on her cell phone, which she answered on speaker, according to the report.

"During the phone call, I overheard Membreno tell [the girl] that he wanted her to come outside, and if she didn't he would shoot himself and any cops in the area," the officer's affidavit states.

In the meantime, the inter-agency All Hazards Response Team was called in to help search for Membreno, who was believed to be hiding in the bushes by the river. The AHRT BearCat vehicle was stationed on the bike path to use as cover and for lighting.

Police were eventually able to make phone contact with Membreno, who ultimately surrendered to officers on 14th Street near the school and was placed under arrest. He was not found to be in possession of a gun.

The girl, who was taken to the Sheriff's Office to assist negotiators, was later released to her parents.

During an early-morning interview at the Glenwood Police Department, Membreno claimed he never actually had a gun. According to the affidavit, at one point during the interview he stated, "Don't you think that since I was so mad, I would've used it? Of course I would have. So, since they're not dead, I didn't have a gun."

"Membreno told me he was just trying to scare the boys and that he was jealous," the officer wrote in his report.

On Monday, police returned to Glenwood Springs High School to interview the male students who were involved. Their account of the incident was the same as the girl's, according to the affidavit, leading authorities to level the more serious felony menacing charges.

"We had enough consistent information from our sources that led us to believe there was a threat, credible or not, and that it was taken as such," Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson told the Post Independent on Tuesday. "People were fearful for their safety, and that was enough for us to work with DA's office to up the ante on the charges."

During Membreno's advisement hearing in court, Deputy District Attorney Sarah Nordgaard said the charges stemmed from "concerning allegations," and requested the $15,000 bond. Due to the suspect's immigration status, she said there is also a flight risk.

"He caused quite a bit of uncertainty and unrest … and it definitely appeared that he had no reason to be there [at the dance]," Nordgaard said.

A protection order was also granted, prohibiting any contact with the students involved should he make bail, and preventing him from coming within 100 yards of GSHS. Membreno is due back in court for formal filing of charges on Oct. 17.

jstroud@postindependent.com