Craig Dance gets 13 years in prison for shooting at Garfield County deputy
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Craig Dance, who admitted trying to shoot a Garfield County deputy during an armed standoff in 2011, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Wednesday, despite pleas from neighbors and a self-styled “addictionist” (addiction counselor) who felt he should get a lesser sentence.
Dance, 62, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted first degree assault “with extreme indifference to human life” last December, a day before he was to go on trial on charges of attempted murder.
He faced a possible sentence of 16 years in state prison, under a plea bargain reached between Dance’s attorney, Greg Greer, and Ninth Judicial District Deputy DA Anne Norrdin.
District Judge James Boyd, however, opted to ply a middle course in the case, rejecting Norrdin’s request that Dance get the maximum penalty as well as requests from Dance’s friends and supporters that he be sentenced to the minimum of five years in prison.
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Dance, 62, was living in the Westbank subdivision south of Glenwood Springs when, on Dec. 12, 2011, Deputy Grzegorz Choinkowski went to Dance’s house after being dispatched for a “welfare check,” which was prompted by a call from a worried neighbor.
Dance did not come to the door immediately, Choinkowski said during the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, but shouted, “Go away.”
As Choinkowski turned back toward his patrol truck, the deputy said, Dance opened his front door and walked out carrying a pistol, which he pointed at Choinkowski but did not fire before turning and walking back into the house.
Moments later, Dance again emerged from his house, pointed his pistol and tried to fire but could not.
He then “jacked” the loading mechanism and proceeded to fire four rounds into Choinkowski’s patrol car, Choinkowski testified, while he crouched behind the vehicle with a rifle in his hands, not firing back but watching as Dance “tracked” him with the pistol and continued firing.
Dance then returned to his house, precipitating an armed standoff that lasted hours and finally ended with his surrender to authorities.
During the sentencing hearing, several of Dance’s neighbors testified that he was a quiet man who, once one got to know him, was a good neighbor who went out of his way to help others.
Choinkowski, clearly nervous and speaking in accented English, at one point told the judge that despite what he termed “a growing gap” between citizens and police officers, “You just don’t shoot at people. You just don’t do it.”
He said the incident at Dance’s house had changed him, and not necessarily for the better.
Now, when he comes upon a situation that leads to confrontation, “Less and less, I’m willing to give the person the benefit of the doubt.”
He said he is quicker to grip the butt of his handgun when confronted, suggesting that other officers have experienced similar changes after living through situations such as the Westbank standoff.
“If there is less and less trust between citizens and police officers, it’s not a good way to go,” he said, and called the recommendation for the maximum sentence a “just” one.
After the sentence was handed down, Choinkowski stood from his bench seat in the gallery and was immediately surrounded by about 10 mostly silent fellow officers, who each shook his hand, or patted him on the back, and spoke to him as they filed out.
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