Colorado Parks officer wrestled gun from suspect in hostage situation
March 12, 2015
Craig — Two Moffat County officers came alarmingly close to losing their lives when two suspects held them hostage, put guns to their heads and forced them to their knees in Northwest Colorado Monday, according to court documents.
What began as a suspicious vehicle check led to both officers being disarmed and held at gunpoint, and ended in the shooting death of suspect James Brent Damon about 10 miles east of the Utah-Colorado border on U.S. Highway 40 in Moffat County.
Moffat County Sheriff's Deputy Bhrent Shock and Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Manager Nathan Martinez, of Rangely, were the officers involved in the incident.
The officers believed they were going to be "executed" by Damon—who was with his wife, Georgie Louise Hand—according to Hand’s arrest affidavit. The affidavit included narrative accounts from investigators Travis Young and Doug Winters, based primarily on interviews with Hand and Martinez. Young and Winters are members of the 14th Judicial Critical Incident Response Team.
Martinez was in the area Monday afternoon when he heard that Shock was working on a suspicious vehicle check. He arrived to assist Shock in looking for the occupants of a white Ford Explorer that was damaged off the side of U.S. 40.
Martinez's dog was the first to notice Hand and Damon and began barking, which drew the officer’s attention to the pair sitting on the hillside.
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The couple — who had been together for 14 years and were en route to Utah from Mississippi, according to Young's account — had spent the night in the white Ford, which was inoperable. They were awaiting help from Damon's friend in Utah.
What Martinez didn't know when he approached the individuals was that Damon had slipped a semi-automatic 9 mm handgun into his holster as the officer approached, according to the affidavit.
Damon had purchased the gun from an unknown individual in Denver.
"Officer Martinez asked them about a box of ammunition that was visible to him," Young's account said. "Officer Martinez asked them if they were OK and what happened because he had seen the damage to their vehicle."
Winters' account said, "During this encounter…Damon pulled a semi-automatic handgun on Officer Martinez and stuck the gun to his head. Damon told Officer Martinez not to move or he was going to 'blow his f—— head off.'"
Damon and Hand then disarmed Martinez and made him throw his radio to the ground.
"Damon asked officer Martinez, 'How do we get out of this, how does everybody walk away alive?'" Young's account said.
Following a short discussion, the three walked down the hill to Shock. When they reached him, Damon immediately pointed a gun at his face and ordered him to the ground, according to the affidavit.
Damon removed Shock's duty weapon, radio, taser and other items. One account details that Damon then handcuffed Shock's right hand to his duty belt, while another indicates that he initially tried to do so and then told Hand to handcuff his arms.
"Hand said she made it look like to Damon that she couldn't get the second handcuff on Deputy Shock's arm. (Young) asked Hand why she did that. Hand said, 'Because we shouldn't have been doing what we were doing,'" stated the affidavit.
Martinez told the couple to take his car, and Hand left to get his vehicle. Damon ordered Martinez and Shock to their knees behind the Ford.
"At this point, Officer Martinez knew they were going to die, but he wasn't going to die without a fight," Winters' account said.
Damon had the officers’ guns in both hands, and Martinez made the decision to disarm Damon and get his handgun back.
Following a brief struggle, Martinez was able to retrieve his gun and fired one round into the back of Damon's head.
Martinez ordered Hand to drop the gun still in her hand. She was then arrested.
Hand was taken Monday evening to Rangely District Hospital for complaints not directly related to the shooting, Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume said. She was booked into the Moffat County Jail in Craig Tuesday.
She was charged Thursday with committing two counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of second-degree kidnapping, four counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of disarming a peace officer, two counts of felony menacing, one count of second-degree trespass-agricultural land and one count of possession of weapon by a previous offender.
The Moffat County Court ordered Hand be held without bond until a combined proof evident hearing and preliminary hearing is held at 9 a.m. April 22. The outcome of the proof evident hearing will determine if she is eligible to be released on bond.
"We believe she is a danger to society," said 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey at her initial bond hearing Wednesday. "She is clearly a flight risk. She has no ties to this community."
Both Hand and Damon have warrants out for their arrest in Colorado, Mississippi and Utah. The affidavit also revealed that both Hand and Damon were regular methamphetamine users.
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.