Woman shares account of events surrounding trooper shooting
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Steven Appl had seven bullets and wasn’t going to go to jail.
Instead, he shot himself to death while strung out on methamphetamine in a pickup truck at a police checkpoint. He was hiding under some blankets behind the seats of the truck at the checkpoint. He’d shot former Colorado State Patrol Trooper Brian Koch the night before on Oct. 24, 2006, during a traffic stop near Silt, triggering a massive manhunt.
Cori Graham was driving the pickup when it arrived at the police checkpoint.
“I told him we’re not going to make it through the road block. You need to grow a pair and tell them what you’ve done” Graham said. “He told me there was no way he was going to jail ” he only had seven bullets and it was either him or the cops.”
She believes Appl knew he couldn’t make it past the road block.
Graham shared her accounts of that night during an interview with the Post Independent in her attorney’s office.
Graham was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory to the shooting. She was sentenced Friday to four years of probation. She said she only drove the vehicle because Appl, a meth dealer, was strung out and had a gun. She said a woman who was her friend, Nichole Brownell, set her up by not telling her Appl was at her place and asking only for a ride home from DeBeque. Graham said she was innocent of the charges but didn’t want to go to trial and risk being separated from her three kids in jail or prison.
Graham had a phone number to reach authorities in her pocket, but that wasn’t an option when she arrived and realized Appl was there, in Brownell’s home owned by Wayne Hangs on Dry Hollow Road near Silt, she said.
“I was actually trying to back out of the driveway by myself,” Graham said. “They both came out of the house yelling and screaming. He was shoving a gun down his pants. I really felt like I had no choice. I was scared.”
She said Appl was acting “psycho” and she worried he might shoot her at the police checkpoint, or that she’d get caught in a shootout between him and the police while she was pregnant.
When they pulled up to the checkpoint, Graham said she tried to nod and point her eyes to behind the truck’s seats to alert an officer that someone was in the truck, but the officer took it as if Graham were annoyed at being stopped.
Police reports said Graham got out and tried to run away. Graham said she got out and ran straight to a female officer, still scared of getting shot.
Her attorney, Walter Brown, said police surrounded the truck and shot it with tear gas over an hour before confirming Appl was dead, despite the fact that Graham told police the shot she heard while running from the truck must have been Appl shooting himself.
Brown said an insurance company determined that the truck was totaled due to dents, broken windows and other damage from tear gas canisters.
Graham used to be friends with Brownell. But she said she was later trying to keep her distance since she’d decided to quit using meth and get her life together. She said she’s been clean for almost three years.
“I can’t believe (Brownell) only got five years for it,” Graham said.
She also thought Wayne Hangs, who owned the home and also knew about the crime the night of the shooting and tried to help Appl, should have also gotten harsher punishment. Hangs won’t have any convictions if he completes an 18-month probation under a deferred judgment and sentence. He had to testify against Brownell and was expected to testify against Graham as part of the deal.
In court in June, Hangs said he wished he’d spoken up about the shooting. He said, “I had a part in that and I wish I would have said something about it a long time ago.”
Graham and Brown both said they felt that authorities tried extra hard to punish the accomplices since they couldn’t punish Appl for the crime.
“I feel like they couldn’t get him so they had to get somebody,” Graham said.
Graham said she plans on remaining in DeBeque where her family is, getting a job and continuing to try and improve her life.
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