Top cop defends response to bar fight
Carbondale’s police chief has refuted accusations that his officers failed to protect the public recently when faced with the prospect of walking into a bar full of angry Hell’s Angels.
Police Chief Gene Schilling also said that, while no investigation of the Nov. 19 brawl is under way, if anyone who was injured wants to talk about it, the matter will be investigated.
Schilling explained recently that the only two officers on duty in town that night responded to a call about a fight at the Black Nugget. Once there, the officers did their duty as police policy and circumstances dictated, he said.
“When the two officers got there, there were no longer any of the people involved in the fight there,” Schilling said.
According to Schilling, officers Matt Gardner and Tony Kornasiweicz got the call at 11:09 p.m. while on routine rounds of the downtown bars; they arrived at the Nugget within a couple of minutes, just as several people wearing Hell’s Angels attire were leaving.
Schilling said the officers talked with Glenwood Springs resident Kevin Hilgeford, who suffered a broken jaw and a couple of broken ribs in the fight. Hilgeford, who underwent four hours of surgery that night to repair his jaw, said he told the officers that he wanted to press charges before an ambulance took him to Valley View Hospital.
According to Schilling, however, “that’s not what it says in [the officers’] reports.” They claim no one wanted to talk to police about what transpired between Hilgeford, Carbondale resident Kurt Trede and the Angels.
“We had no cooperation from any of the people involved,” Schilling said after reading the officers’ reports.
Schilling said Trede had left the scene by the time the ambulance arrived; Trede declined to discuss the matter with The Aspen Times.
According to a local woman who was at the party that night, the fight started after Trede and Hilgeford taunted the Hell’s Angels. Hilgeford said that is not accurate.
Hilgeford said he was drinking in the bar when a Hell’s Angel suddenly yelled at him, then took a swing at him and missed, and finally dragged him to the floor of the bar. After that, Hilgeford said, other Angels stomped him for a few minutes. He escaped during a lull in the fight and stumbled outside.
Hilgeford has accused the officers of being too afraid to enter the bar, standing around outside for as long as 45 minutes waiting for backup. He said friends who stayed around told him that the officers never interviewed any of the Angels or others in the bar.
“That’s not true, at least not according to their report,” Schilling said, adding that the officers did call for “a cover car,” or a squad car from another police department or the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, but were told that none were available.
He said the officers then entered the bar, checked around and were told that the Angels and everyone else involved in the fight had already left. The officers cleared the scene at 1:50 a.m. on Nov. 20.
In response to a statement by Hilgeford demanding that police investigate the incident, Schilling said, “We can investigate it … we know people who know the Hell’s Angels that were there. We’ll be happy to investigate if [Hilgeford] comes in and wants to cooperate with us.”
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