Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario defends decision
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Use of the Garfield County All Hazards Response Team (AHRT) was appropriate to seize Tom Shiflett’s son for medical care because of Shiflett’s confrontational history and repeated lack of cooperation, according to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.”I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think we would have been able to accomplish it with just the deputies we had on duty,” Vallario said. “The end result of what happened was based on (Shiflett’s) decisions, not mine.”The team used force to break into Shiflett’s home Friday night in Apple Tree Park near New Castle, and seized his 11-year-old son, Jon Shiflett. The boy was examined and returned hours later with the recommendation to ice his bruises and take Tylenol.Paramedics alerted the Garfield County Department of Social Services about their concerns for Jon’s health, leading to a search warrant and order for medical care. The boy had injured his face and head Thursday during some horseplay after grabbing onto the door handle of a moving car.The family criticized the manner of entry and said their rights were violated because they wanted to care for Jon themselves and never asked for paramedics or invited anyone into their home. Shiflett also said authorities never told him they had a warrant, and he would have let them in if he did.Vallario said Shiflett’s statements that his family members were thrown to the ground and that the warrant was never announced are false. He said two Garfield County deputies arrived Friday before the AHRT and explained the warrant and that they would need to take the 11-year-old boy in for medical evaluation.”He was rather vulgar in his response,” Vallario said Tuesday. “I was given a court order, and I really don’t feel I have any choice but to comply with that court order.”The AHRT also announced its presence and asked for the door to be opened before breaking it in, Vallario added. He said he would not have changed his decision to use the AHRT.Two different stories have emerged about what happened.On Tuesday, Shiflett said again that no one told him there was a warrant until after he was in handcuffs and guns were pointed in his daughters’ faces.”What (Vallario) gives you is a half-truth,” Shiflett said. “The sheriff’s going to tell you something, but you better make sure you have both sides of the story, because they’re only going to give you part of it.”Vallario said Shiflett was arrested in 2005 on suspicion of felony menacing after chasing someone down the street with an ax.”We have had encounters with him indicating that he’s potentially violent, certainly agitating, confrontational,” he said.The 2005 arrest was never prosecuted. Former 9th Judicial District Attorney Colleen Truden signed an order simply stating her office did not wish to prosecute Shiflett in District Court for the alleged crime at the time. Vallario said he didn’t know why the decision was made. Shiflett said he did.”I was completely within my rights under the Make My Day law,” he said.That Colorado law allows homeowners to use deadly force defending themselves from an intruder who is considered to be a threat.Shiflett said he picked up the ax and chased the man out of his yard after 40 minutes of listening to his threats. He said he was the one that called the sheriff’s office.”You don’t want to come to my house and tell me you’re going to do something in my house and I can’t stop you,” Shiflett said. “I’m a violent person if you come into my house and start pushing me.”The Garfield County Combined Courts office said that 2005 case was Shiflett’s only felony case in the county.”Our history with him shows that he can be violent,” Vallario said. “I knew he wasn’t going to comply with us, I knew he had to comply with this order, so I felt like for the safety of everybody that the All Hazards Team should be called and help to support the Sheriff’s Office on this.”Shiflett has said he will sue everyone on the warrant for violating his rights if an attorney will take the case pro bono, since he doesn’t have the funds. On Tuesday he said no attorney has yet taken the case.The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado said it couldn’t comment without knowing all the facts involved.Contact Pete Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org
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