A troubling incident and a tragic loss of life | PostIndependent.com

A troubling incident and a tragic loss of life

Randy Essex



911 if anyone is in danger

1-800-273-8255, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

888-207-4004, Mind Springs Health crisis line


• Threatening to hurt or kill oneself, looking for means (such as firearms) to kill oneself, and talking or writing about death or suicide.

• Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use

• No sense of purpose in life

• Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time

• Feeling trapped

• Hopelessness

• Withdrawal from friends, family and society

• Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

• Engaging in reckless or risky behaviors, seemingly without thinking

• Dramatic mood changes.


Mantherapy.org, Colorado’s website geared toward men

To check the schedule for mental health first aid classes:


Garfield County Suicide Prevention Coalition, information on prevention classes, 970-948-6108

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings: http://www.aa-westerncolorado.org

Narcotics Anonymous meetings: http://www.na.org/meetingsearch

Mind Springs Health locations across the Western Slope: http://www.mindspringshealth.org/treatment/locations

Find a licensed psychologist in your community for ongoing therapy.

Online depression assessment: psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com

We heard last week of a local tragedy. We were told that a young man had committed suicide after being suspected of propositioning a 15-year-old girl.

The story is one overlaid with complications that can be created by modern communication tools, which can both help solve crimes and enable people to jump to conclusions.

We are left, in this instance, to say how things appeared without knowing precisely what happened. But we think it is important to talk about suicide to make some inroads to prevention.

A week and a half ago, Glenwood Springs police posted on their website a photo of a young man and said they were seeking to identify him because an inappropriate solicitation of a 15-year-old girl at the Glenwood Springs library. The police now have marked the case as closed and aren’t elaborating. That’s appropriate — no one was charged.

The photo had the appearance of having been taken in the library, and someone looking at it might conclude that the girl took the picture. She may have thought quickly and used her smart phone to protect herself. Smart girl.

The Post Independent included mention of the case in three sentences at the end of a series of crime briefs published last month, and included a link to the police news release. The PI did not publish the picture in print or digitally because, unlike, for example, surveillance footage of a robbery, the person pictured was not obviously doing anything wrong and no charge had been filed in the case.

From the police standpoint, if the young man indeed was propositioning underage girls, they needed to talk with him and take appropriate action. They would be remiss not to use all the resources available to find him before he encountered a girl who might be less resistant.

From our standpoint, we work to make the PI a good citizen and share information that can enhance public safety. Last summer, publishing a photo from the Alpine Bank robbery in West Glenwood led a Rifle motel operator to recognize a lodger who skipped out on a bill — wearing the same clothes he wore when he robbed the bank. Jack Lee Wright awaits sentencing in federal court in Denver for that robbery and one in Texas.

Similarly, we posted, from the police website, surveillance video of a man suspected of following and assaulting Post Independent contributing columnist Mari Rose Hale at Glenwood Meadows. Police got tips that led to his arrest.

It might bother us to think about our loss of privacy, but all of us often are on camera these days, even in small towns. Smart phones just add to the likelihood that people doing things they shouldn’t will be caught in a photo or video.

In the latest case, we have limited information because no one was charged, and we can’t begin to know everything involved — at the library or subsequently.

We know that our crime briefs that included mention of the incident were shared 31 times on Facebook, but can’t know what item people intended for their friends to see. Social media spreads word quickly, compounding the implications of a society that’s almost always within view of a lens.

From the information we have, it appears that a disturbing encounter at the library led to a troubling loss of life. The young man was a son, perhaps a brother — and, if in fact he did something wrong, certainly a human being capable of both mistakes and redemption.

All too often in Colorado, in the Roaring Fork Valley and in Garfield County and Glenwood Springs, suicide is seen as an option.

A relatively young Glenwood business owner took his life before Christmas as well, part of the suicide epidemic in seemingly idyllic mountain towns of the American West. People in the region are working to raise awareness of suicide and mental illness and improve preventive resources, including Glenwood Springs’ Heartbeat group. It meets the second Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church and is free for anyone affected by suicide.

This is clearly needed. Moreover, perhaps, we must believe in our own potential for improvement, even in darkest times.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It only causes more pain.

Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.

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