New Castle chief released on bond following initial court appearance

New Castle Police Chief Tony Pagni is free on a personal recognizance bond pending a Wednesday court hearing following his Friday night arrest on suspicion of felony menacing involving an armed confrontation with a neighbor.

According to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit, Pagni, 58, was allegedly intoxicated when he approached a neighbor on his front porch on Navajo Street outside New Castle town limits about 8:30 p.m. Friday and threatened him by pressing the muzzle of an AK-style semi-automatic rifle into the man’s chest.

Pagni later allegedly barricaded himself in his house and was refusing to come out when police arrived but gave himself up a short time later.

During the exchange with the neighbor, Pagni allegedly accused the man of killing his wife and said he needed him to open the door to the house so he could confirm or disprove his suspicions, the affidavit states.

Pagni also allegedly threatened to “muzzle thump” the man if he didn’t open the door, the affidavit states, and at one point pressed the rifle into the man’s chest.

The neighbor told deputies he did not feel threatened by Pagni despite him brandishing a rifle and making baseless accusations and that he had known Pagni for 19 years and described him as a good neighbor and friend.

Pagni remains on administrative leave from the police chief’s position he has held since 2014. 

He faces a charge of menacing involving a deadly weapon, a class 5 felony, and two misdemeanors: prohibited use of a weapon while intoxicated and harassment.

Pagni appeared in Garfield District Court for an initial advisement hearing Saturday and was allowed to be released on a personal recognizance bond. He is due back in court at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. 

According to the affidavit, the neighbor called his wife, who he said was out walking their dog at the time, and explained what was happening. Pagni then walked away and was allegedly observed walking down the street with the rifle pointed at the ground. The neighbor then called police and locked his doors for safety.

Officers arrived shortly after 9 p.m. to find Pagni in his nearby house on Navajo Street but refusing to come out. He surrendered after about 20 minutes and was placed under arrest, according to the affidavit.

A search of the house turned up the rifle in question, which had a round in the chamber and a fully loaded magazine, the affidavit states.

Pagni was appointed New Castle police chief in 2014 after serving as interim chief for six months, and had been an officer with the police department for several years prior to that.

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