Victim of alleged downtown Saturday assault critical of Glenwood Springs police handling of incident |

Victim of alleged downtown Saturday assault critical of Glenwood Springs police handling of incident

A downtown patron walks through Bethel Plaza near the Chocolate Moose shop where the Saturday afternoon altercation took place.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The victim of an alleged assault in downtown Glenwood Springs Saturday is calling on city officials and law enforcement to do more regarding the safety of patrons and business employees who interact with the local homeless population.

Evan Miller, owner of the Chocolate Moose, alleged that Sean D. Hurt assaulted him during an altercation Saturday after Hurt entered the downtown ice cream shop and refused to leave.

“As I came into work I was going to relieve my employee working in there, he was coming out the door. She’d already asked him to leave,” Miller recalled.

“He was in the process of kind of leaving, cursing yelling, f-word flying, and I told the guy ‘you’ve been told you’re not allowed on the property you need to leave,’ and he was just ready to fight just immediately,” Miller said.

Officers arrived and ultimately issued Hurt a summons for misdemeanor assault, a municipal ordinance violation.

Miller claimed it was less than 10 seconds from the time he walked into his business and confronted Hurt to when he was punched in the face.

“I kind of came in right at the right time to catch it,” Miller said.

Miller said that his biggest concern wasn’t the altercation that he found himself in with Hurt, but the way the incident was handled by law enforcement afterwards.

“My issue is with the fact that at the end of everything they let the guy go. He’s still swinging his arms still agitated and they let him go to sit 15 feet in front of my business for the rest of the night,” Miller said.

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras said Monday that, while the Garfield County Jail is currently operating under COVID-19 restrictions as to the types of offenders who are jailed, in this instance the suspect was unlikely to have been booked even without those restrictions, since Hurt was cited for a misdemeanor.

“Our officers made the determination that it was a municipal code violation,” Deras said in an interview Monday.

Miller said that Hurt was just as agitated when he was released from police custody as he was right before the assault occurred.

Now Miller has safety concerns over leaving his employees alone to work at the Chocolate Moose.

“Now I feel uncomfortable leaving them there,” he added.

Deras said help and resources are offered to those who need it, including the chronically homeless in the town’s downtown area, but it’s often refused.

“It’s the old adage that we can take a horse to water but we can’t make him drink. We find that they are choosing that lifestyle. They decline those services at every opportunity. Specifically with Mr. Hurt — he just chooses not to accept any offers of assistance that we provide him and we have to be respectful of his civil liberties,” Deras said.

Deras said that law enforcement in the city has reached out many of the homeless people police officers frequently deal with, “but when they refuse those services there’s not a lot we can do to kind of force upon them some kind of treatment.”

“In this event last Saturday, we’ve done everything we can and we can’t force it upon him,” Deras added.

Deras noted how that is not the case when a traditional family becomes displaced due to the loss of a job or other financial circumstances.

In those situations, the family almost always accepts any help that is offered, he said.

“Those are not the people who are in trouble in that downtown corridor area and in this case, sometimes it becomes violent unfortunately,” Deras lamented.

Glenwood Springs community activist Debbie Wilde was hired in spring of 2019 by the city to delve into the complexities of the city’s homelessness issues and work on providing resources and support in a more robust manner.

Wilde said traditionally the small, non-profit groups have been the support system for the homeless in the region, but that’s an undertaking that has become too big for those small groups to handle.

“The amount of effort and understanding and growth of best practices involved in this is astounding to me. It’s just that it’s in front of us, there’s acceptance that we can’t just kick it down the road,” Wilde said. “The more you become educated, the more you have a different perception about all of this.”

Wilde said the issue is complex, and that’s exactly how the city is starting to treat it.

Since hiring Wilde in 2019, the city has started a network of coalitions, including a recovery continuum task force of 75 community members. The network of coalitions were started prior to Saturday’s alleged assault incident.

Regardless of the approach, Wilde said it comes down to working with one person at a time.

“Communities are reaching 0% homelessness. It has been demonstrated several times and that’s what the Built for Zero model is really for,” Wilde said.

“Any work that you do, you can’t make people do stuff. But the main thing is to have that support there and we’re figuring out the best practices to prevent it.”

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