Roaring Fork Valley schools reopened after general threats made, suspect in custody
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information from law enforcement, judicial and school officials.
Schools up and down the Roaring Fork Valley were reopened Wednesday morning following a valley-wide “Secure” lockout due to online threats made by a suspect against Summit County schools, but who has local connections and was located in the valley.
Charles Draughn, 26, of Glenwood Springs, was being held in the custody of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office on an active felony warrant out of Summit County on Wednesday, a press release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department states. He was expected to be transferred to Summit County to face charges.
According to the Pitkin County release, the sheriff’s department was notified Wednesday morning by the Garfield County Communications Authority of an individual who made a threat to schools in Summit County. The individual was believed to be in Pitkin County, and information obtained from law enforcement sources suggested the individual was armed.
All schools in Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork School District, as well as Garfield Re-2 in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, went on “Secure” lockout status at approximately 8:50 a.m., according to the release. Location data obtained from law enforcement partners indicated the individual was in the Old Snowmass area.
Watson Divide Road and Snowmass Creek Road were closed to restrict the public’s access to Old Snowmass to ensure the public’s safety and to allow law enforcement to operate safely.
The suspect was taken into custody at 10:02 a.m. at an address in the Old Snowmass area. Road closures were lifted at approximately 10:15 a.m., and the school lockouts were subsequently lifted, as well.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum said in a Wednesday news release that Draughn allegedly made threats Tuesday on the Summit Daily newspaper’s Instagram account, threatening teachers and Summit School District staff, including Superintendent Tony Byrd.
Draughn faces charges of felony and misdemeanor menacing, and interference with staff/faculty and students of educational institutions.
“I want to thank the reporting of these posts to Summit County law enforcement, and the immediate attention and subsequent investigation by the Frisco and Dillon Police Departments, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to locate and apprehend this defendant,” McCollum said in the release. “This quick and coordinated response, along with assistance from both Pitkin and Garfield County law enforcement agencies, most certainly helped to avoid what could have been another tragic incident in our community.”
Draughn was expected to be transferred from Pitkin County to Summit County for prosecution, the release said. He is being held on a $100,000 cash/surety bond and was to be advised of the charges against him in Summit District Court on Thursday.
Law enforcement tracking of the suspect led to Carbondale and eventually to Old Snowmass on Wednesday morning before Draughn was arrested.
Suspect tracked to Carbondale
A separate news release from the Carbondale Police Department said Draughn’s phone GPS location pinged in Carbondale, and eventually tracked to a local business where Draughn worked.
“The man’s car was found in the parking lot,” the Carbondale release states. “The man had started his shift and was tracked to Old Snowmass. The man was located and safely taken into custody by Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputies.
“Carbondale officers determined there was no direct threat to Carbondale schools,” the release stated. “School districts lifted the ‘Secure’ after determining there was no threat.”
That lockout status was lifted just before 10:30 a.m., according to an email from RFSD Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez to district parents, students and staff.
“We know that situations like this are frightening for staff, students, and parents alike. The safety of students and staff is our first priority, which is why we implement our protocols whenever there is any possible threat to safety,” Rodríguez wrote in an email.
District Public Information Officer Kelsy Been also clarified that schools were not on full lockdown, but were on Secure lockout status at the direction of local law enforcement, though some schools in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs were inadvertently asked to go on lockdown before amending the order.
A “lockout” protocol occurs whenever there is a potential threat outside the building, and means students must remain inside but classes continue as normal, whereas a “lockdown” is implemented when there’s an internal threat, she explained.
“We know that asking students and staff to go into Lockdown can be traumatic,” the district said in a statement explaining the situation. “We will be working with law enforcement to ensure that the correct precaution is always called. We appreciate our partnership with law enforcement and the prompt response from all of our schools.”
Likewise, an email from Aspen School District states the district was notified by police there was a credible threat made that resulted in all ASD schools going into Secure, meaning doors were locked and no one was permitted to enter or leave the building. Students were made aware they should remain in the building, however “business as usual” remained in the building and students could use the restroom and transition between classes normally.
Law enforcement secured all building entrances and the lockout was in place for approximately 90 minutes, the ASD email states.
Threats related to Summit schools LGBTQ+ student stance
The Summit County School District also sent an email to families alerting them to an increased police presence at all schools “as multiple law enforcement agencies investigate a threat outside of Summit County.”
The email, which was shared with Summit Daily, stated that students and staff at school Wednesday were safe and that the threats were made against administration not students. The school district restricted visitation and planned to hold recess indoors, but schedules operated as normal, according to the email.
The incident stems from threatening Instagram comments allegedly made by Draughn on Tuesday, according to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
An Instagram profile posted several statements to the Summit Daily’s Instagram page on a post about Summit School District leaders defending an LGBTQ+ resolution.
That post linked to and contained information from Summit Daily reporting on a Jan. 12 meeting of the Summit School District Board of Education. About 100 people turned out to that meeting, many demanding board members rescind the resolution and refrain from teaching anything related to gay, queer and transgender identities to kindergarten through third-grade students.
School officials at the time defended the resolution and said sexual content is not taught to the district’s youngest students. After the meeting, Byrd told Summit Daily that the public comments “absolutely got more aggressive than I’ve ever seen in this district and frankly more aggressive than I’ve seen in my career” and described a concern for school officials’ safety.
The Instagram user took aim at Byrd and Summit County teachers in the comment section Tuesday, making comments like “people WILL start d Y i NG in summit county,” “the teachers in summit they will know my name and my ar really nicely” and “Tony Byrd will stop breathing soon.”
Byrd said Tuesday that there is no evidence that the commenter making threats was responding to the resolution in support of LGBTQ+ students.
The Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education last fall also addressed LGBTQ+ issues, passing a resolution of support for LGBTQ+ students and staff and supporting an LGBTQ+ “toolkit” designed to support and affirm gender expansive and nonconforming students.
Audrey Ryan of The Aspen Times [email@example.com], Ryan Spencer [firstname.lastname@example.org] and Glenwood Springs senior reporter and Interim Managing Editor John Stroud [email@example.com] contributed to this report.
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