Oak Creek shooter had history of domestic violence, was repeatedly let out on PR bond
Editor’s note: This story discusses instances of domestic violence.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steven Patrick Padilla Jr., who the Routt County Sheriff’s Office has named as the suspect in the Wednesday Oak Creek shooting that resulted in two deaths and two injuries, had a history of domestic violence charges and had been repeatedly let out on personal recognizance bonds.
Routt County Combined Court records show Padilla, who was killed in the shooting, had four prior cases against him, including two that directly involved domestic violence, violation of a protective order and violation of bail bond charges connected to the two domestic violence charges.
Padilla was released on personal recognizance bonds on Sept. 16, Oct. 13 and Dec. 9, 2020, according to court records. Each time the fee for violating the bond increased, from $500 to $1,500 then to $5,000.
Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney Matt Karzen said personal recognizance bonds have been commonly used, especially during COVID-19 as jails have limited their capacities. Such a bond allows a defendant to be released, unsupervised, without them offering a payment unless they fail to appear in court.
“I don’t know if we can say this was preventable, but it’s definitely something to look at,” Lisel Petis, executive director of Advocates of Routt County, said of Wednesday’s incident that left Padilla dead along with another man who has yet to be identified. “The only person who’s at fault here is the shooter, but if there’s something we could’ve done to prevent this, we need to explore that.”
While personal recognizance bonds are commonly used in Colorado, larger communities also use pretrial services such as ankle monitors and assigned probation officers to monitor defendants let out on bond.
“Domestic violence offenders should be required to get ankle monitors, that is certainly going to make our victims feel significantly safer,” Petis said.
Karzen said domestic abusers also are often issued a protective order after their arrest, but “a piece of paper won’t stop a gun or a knife blade.”
“I’ve seen the scenario many times where someone gets arrested for domestic violence, they get out, and they’re arrested again within days,” Karzen said. “At that point, the victim is terrorized, the victim loses trust in the system, and then the offender, to the extent there was hope of recovery and rehabilitation, is now facing more serious charges.”
Though, Petis and Karzen agreed that Colorado’s personal recognizance bond system was created with good intent. It was made to ensure the bond system is equitable and lower-income defendants were treated the same as wealthier defendants. But the system has often backfired on domestic violence victims when their abuser is let out with no supervision and returns to abuse them, again.
“It has not worked out well in my opinion,” Karzen said.
The two also agreed the ability to track a defendant with an ankle monitor would be particularly helpful in domestic violence situations and could potentially prevent further abuse to a victim.
“Being able to track someone is huge,” Karzen said. “If you see someone moving towards the victim, you can mitigate whatever is about to happen.”
Pretrial services are used heavily on the Front Range, but it’s lack locally is concerning, Petis said.
Routt County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Doug Scherar said law enforcement has not confirmed whether or not Wednesday’s shooting was domestic violence, adding they are still investigating.
“That is the assumption from a lot of people,“ Scherar said.
The family of one of the the man killed has set up a GoFundMe.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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