Snowmass Village police ask for red-flag order

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Snowmass Village police became the first law enforcement agency on Colorado’s Western Slope to invoke the state’s new controversial red-flag law Monday when the agency’s police chief asked a judge to take away a local man’s guns for a year.

And while District Judge Chris Seldin did not grant the “extreme risk protection order — the subject of the request is already on probation and cannot legally possess weapons — he didn’t deny it either.

“The statute is concerned with emergency situations that could give rise to dangerous conditions involving the defendant,” Seldin said. “There’s no information at this time that (the defendant) has weapons.

“The practical effect of moving forward today is zero.”

Still, the judge allowed a temporary extreme risk protection order regarding the man to remain in place until March 16, when he will appear in District Court again. The two-week delay will allow the man and his lawyer to talk about options moving forward and speak with Snowmass’ lawyer about their conclusions, Seldin said.

The state’s red flag law — which took effect Jan. 1 after being signed in April by Gov. Jared Polis — allows a member of law enforcement, a family member or a household resident to petition a judge to remove a person’s guns if they are found to be a threat to themselves or others.

Numerous Colorado counties declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” in response to the law, feeling it violates the Constitution.

The Aspen Times is not naming the Snowmass Village resident because he has not been charged with a crime in connection with the extreme risk protection order, which is a civil, not criminal, process.

Police were spurred into action after receiving reports from the man’s friends and family around Feb. 22 about concerning statements and behavior, said Police Chief Brian Olson.

“There were statements that led people to believe violence was possible or imminent,” he said. “A behavior change was causing concern.”

At that time, family members said the man owned hunting weapons, including a rifle and shotgun, he said. Police received a search warrant for the man’s home and car but found no weapons, Olson said.

During the investigation, officers learned that a friend of the man’s was holding his guns while he was on probation. Officers contacted the friend, verified he had the weapons and asked him to drop them off at the police department, which he did, Olson said.

When they asked for the red-flag order, Snowmass Village police were aware the man was on probation after pleading guilty to felony trespassing in connection with a 2018 domestic violence incident, said Olson. However, because the man received a deferred sentence — meaning the felony offense will be stricken from his record if he stays out of trouble until the beginning of August — he would again be allowed to possess weapons at that time because he would no longer be considered a convicted felon, he said.

Essentially, police want the ability to keep tabs on the man’s behavior without weapons for a full year. If all goes well, the guns can be given back. If not, police can ask for another year extension, he said.

“The town of Snowmass would like to have an order in place for a year to allow us to keep monitoring his behavior,” Olson said Tuesday. “The red flag law creates a process for the community to protect itself.”

As of Tuesday, the man was in touch with police and stable, he said.

“His behavior is not what it was (Feb. 22),” Olson said. “Right now we’re in a good place.”

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