New Castle cop charged in road rage incident
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – A New Castle cop who claimed to be a victim instead faces criminal charges in connection with an April 22 road rage incident in Fruita.Howard Lee Prince, 45, a Fruita resident and patrol officer with the New Castle Police Department, was issued a summons Thursday for misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault causing injury, second-degree trespassing and criminal mischief.Prince’s first court appearance is set for 8:15 a.m. on June 18, according to a Fruita Police Department news release.Fruita Police Officer John Coughran said an investigation into the April 22 incident was turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, which served Prince with the summons on Thursday.Coughran declined to release reports in the case – charging information filed in Mesa County courts wasn’t immediately available.Prince, who was off duty around 3:15 p.m. on April 22, was allegedly involved in a confrontation with a juvenile male in the 500 block of North Maple Street in Fruita, which escalated with Prince and the boy traveling in separate vehicles to an address on O Road, according to Coughran.According to radio traffic during the incident, a rifle was brandished. “I have nothing to discuss with you, thanks,” said Prince, hanging up the telephone phone during a brief conversation Thursday afternoon.Prince – who has a lengthy background working for law enforcement in the Grand Valley – had plenty to say during a telephone interview with the Free Press days after the incident.Prince claimed his private vehicle was rear-ended by a man in a pickup around 1712 and K 12 roads. He said he got out of his car to inspect damage, but the driver of the truck backed up and drove around him. Prince claimed he was “clipped” by the truck as it passed, but wasn’t hurt.He said the truck sped away.The veteran 21-year cop said he failed to get a license plate number.Prince said he followed the truck to a rural property off O Road. Once there, he claimed the man confronted him with a rifle.Sued Mesa CountyNew Castle Police Chief Chris Sadler said Prince’s status with the department “hasn’t changed” despite the criminal charges – he remains on active duty.”The matter is under review,” Sadler said.Prince has worked there as a patrol officer since August 2006.Before that, he was patrol officer with the Fruita Police Department from 1996 to 1999.Prince was a patrol deputy with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office from 1987 and 1994 – he was fired in February 1995.Prince unsuccessfully sued former Mesa County Sheriff Riecke Claussen, claiming among other things he was fired for supporting then-sheriff candidate Bob Silva during Mesa County’s 1994 general election, according to records filed with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit on summary judgment – the appellate court upheld that decision in 1999.According to the same court records, Prince was fired by the sheriff’s office following an internal disciplinary committee investigation on allegations of abuse of power through intimidation of a subordinate employee, insubordination, abuse of leave policies and failure to report damage to a patrol vehicle.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.