Post Independent Staff
Rick Warde wants people to know the whole story.
He is the father of Eric Warde, 13, who witnessed the tragic July 20 shooting death of a 9-year-old boy in Battlement Mesa.
Warde aches for his son, who watched his best friend die.
His anger and hurt revolve around the incident that occurred in his home. According to Garfield County Sheriff’s reports, 9-year-old Taylor DeMarco was shot and killed on July 20. Law enforcement officials later arrested 14-year-old Eric Stoneman in connection with the shooting.
The tragedy has rippled outward from that day, impacting all three families. Stoneman’s mother Val has moved away. The DeMarcos have also moved from the Battlement Mesa neighborhood.
Warde stepped forward because he wants to set the record straight about what happened at his home.
Warde has reconstructed the events based on his son’s interviews with Garfield County Sheriff’s investigators. He was present with his son during those interviews.
According to Eric Warde’s statements to sheriff’s investigators, the three boys were playing with toy guns at the Warde home at 204 East Carson Circle on the afternoon of July 20.
“The boys started arguing,” Warde said.
Warde said his son and DeMarco were best friends. He also said he thinks Stoneman was jealous of the two boys’ relationship.
“Taylor was at my house all the time,” Warde said. The home was a magnet for many of the neighborhood kids, according to Warde, who has five children.
Warde said he thought Stoneman was a difficult child.
“I didn’t really like him there (in his house). The kid was trouble … Everyone knew he had problems.”
One time Warde said he caught Stoneman trying to break into a lockbox in the Warde home.
On the day of the shooting, Stoneman allegedly took some video games from the home and Eric Warde later called and asked Stoneman to bring them back.
“That’s when everything happened,” Warde said.
Stoneman allegedly returned to the house with a .22-caliber pistol. According Ward, his son told sheriff’s investigators the boys passed the gun around.
“Even Taylor held it. Then Eric Stoneman pointed it at Eric (Warde),” Warde said. “Eric heard a click. He put his head down and heard a bang.”
Warde said his son told investigators Stoneman pointed the gun at him, pulled the trigger, and the weapon failed to discharge.
“He swung the gun around at Taylor and it went off,” Warde said, recounting what his son told sheriff’s investigators.
Taylor then ran out to the porch and up to the front gate, then ran back to the porch. He fell to his knees and said, “Oh, man,” Warde said.
His son then looked for the phone and Stoneman said, “You can’t call the police. I killed him,” Warde said. “But Eric said no, he’s OK.”
Warde’s son told investigators that Stoneman put the gun in his mouth and threatened to kill himself. Warde said that once again his son told Stoneman, “No, it’s OK. We need to get the police here. He’s OK,” not realizing his friend was mortally wounded. The two boys were still arguing when Eric finally got through to 911. Stoneman then took the phone and said he was going to kill himself.
“He (Stoneman) stayed until the police came,” Warde said.
One of the reasons Warde chose to speak out about the July 20 shooting was to correct a version of the events that appeared in some newspaper reports. Some reports said Stoneman made Taylor get on his knees and beg for his life. Warde said that is “totally false.”
Garfield County Sheriff’s officials declined to comment on Rick Warde’s accounts of the incident.
Warde said he came home after work about 2:30 p.m. to see a white sheet on the porch and an EMT giving CPR to someone. “I knew something bad had happened.”
Warde is convinced Stoneman is guilty of murder.
“I didn’t particularly like the kid and I didn’t particularly have anything against him. But it was premeditated murder. They argued, he left, got the gun and came back. I have no doubt,” Warde said.
Warde also has high praise for the work of the sheriff’s department in investigating the incident.
“The sheriff’s office has been wonderful. They’re doing a very professional job,” he added.
Warde is upset that a child would have access to a gun, and believes that a parent should be held criminally responsible. He hopes legislators will hear about the shooting and take action.
“I’m angry at the fact there isn’t a law” that holds parents responsible for their children using their weapons to commit a crime. “As a gun owner, it’s our responsibility to police ourselves. Every time something like this happens, it hurts gun owners and it’s a stake for antigun people to use against us. There needs to be consequences for your actions.”
He said that he owns a gun, but keeps it secured.
The aftermath of the shooting has been hard on Warde and his family.
“It’s been terrible for all of us,” he said. “I want people to know that this 13-year-old watched his best friend die.”
People who know the family are supportive, Warde said. Others are suspicious. Although some people question why Eric Warde was left alone at home, Warde defended his son, saying the his son is a responsible 13-year-old.
Warde is also looking ahead. He is working with the local parks and recreation department to set up a fund to make improvements to a nearby skate park “so they can have a safe place, a fun place to go.”
“I can’t change what happened yesterday but maybe I can change what happens tomorrow.”
Stoneman is due back in court on Sept. 28. At that time it, will be determined if he will be charged as an adult in the shooting death of DeMarco.
Stoneman is currently being held at a juvenile detention center in Grand Junction.
Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510
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