Tapes show mix-up
911 reports about trashed house not relayed to officers
Steamboat Springs — A “demolition party” nearly destroyed a home on Walton Creek Road despite multiple complaints to Routt County Communications about the party, records show.
On Monday, the Pilot & Today obtained audio recordings from Routt County Communications that contain conversations among dispatchers, police and two people complaining about a party April 3 at 2075 Walton Creek Road.
The 911 audiotapes show two people called Routt County Dispatch to report a violent party at the house and that “the house was getting ripped apart.” But despite the calls, the dispatcher reported the situation to police as a loud party.
It was not until the next day that police and one of the new owners of the property discovered how destructive the party truly was.
“The builder thinks it could be $200,000 (to repair the home), but we just don’t know yet,” said Jon Wade, who had closed on the house with investment partners just hours before the party at the house. Wade said the tenants he inherited essentially threw a demolition party at the house.
Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said the three officers on duty that night would have made the call a priority had they known more about what the callers reported.
“It would have warranted immediate response based on the call,” Rae said Monday.
Windows, doors, appliances, carpet and fixtures had been destroyed. Graffitti, trash and beer bottles were everywhere. When Wade and police discovered the damage, the tenants had left.
“I’ve been trying to deal with this in good humor, but I don’t know how that will be at the end of this week and we find out what insurance will and won’t cover,” Wade said Monday.
Police know who the tenants were, and Detective Jerry Stabile said Monday he is meeting with the District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday to discuss appropriate charges.
The first call about the party came in at 11:32 p.m. The male caller, who did not want to tell dispatchers his name, called from the Thunder Mountain Condominiums across the street.
“There is a party going on that just turned rumpus and violent,” the man told the dispatcher, adding that there were about 20 people in the parking area and people were fighting.
Rae said the two officers on duty and in Steamboat at the time were tied up with a domestic violence incident. The dispatcher told Sgt. Nick Bosick there was a loud party and people were seen fighting in the parking lot.
Officer Doug Scherar checked on the party at 12:16 a.m. “It looks like its breaking up right now,” Scherar told the dispatcher. “There are a lot of people leaving.”
John O’Carroll lives in the apartment below where the party took place and called Routt County Communications at 12:52 a.m. to report the party.
He told the dispatcher he had just walked by the party and described it: “It sounds like they are being very destructive. All I know is things are getting torn up. It sounds like things are getting ripped apart. It is more like construction noise, more like destruction. I don’t know how else to explain it, but people are tearing apart a house basically.
“It looked like a very large group of people. Quite honestly, vandalism is the best word I can think of for it at this point in time.”
“Be advised we have a noise complaint pending,” the dispatcher told Bosick.
There was no information relayed to officers, who were responding to reports of a fire at the time, about the destruction.
Twenty minutes after the second call came in, Bosick drove by the party.
“That party is over,” Bosick said to dispatch. “There is no one there.”
Police did not discover the destruction until 6:18 p.m. the next day, when police met Wade at the house.
On Monday, Wade said he was disappointed the information about the destruction had not been relayed to police.
“I have a hard time understanding how that could be a miscommunication,” Wade said. “Damage could have been prevented, and they could have seen the guy swinging the hammer and cuffed him.”
Rae said officers on duty “acted appropriately based on the information they knew.”
“They were dispatched to a noise complaint and that’s what they thought was going on,” Rae said. “We have to act on the info we know.”
He said there was “a breakdown in communications.”
“We obviously have issues to work out,” Rae said. “I don’t want to place blame on anyone. It’s what can we do to improve communications.”
Routt County Comm-
unications officials already have begun revisiting its policies and procedures in light of a church skit that left some children and adults fearing for their safety last month.
The skit involved an actor who was posing as a homeless man with a gun. Some members of the youth group, which consists of about 100 teens, were not aware the gun was fake and reportedly dove under chairs thinking what was happening during the skit was real.
The church had informed communications the skit was being performed, but a lack of communication with police could have resulted in someone being injured if an officer had responded to the church and not known the skit was fake.
David Hill was named the director of Routt County Communications after the church incident.
Rae said he met with Hill on Monday to talk about the April 3 incident.
“There were some concerns about getting clear and accurate information,” Rae said.
“We both agree that we can strive to improve communications,” Hill said.
Hill said he believed the calls relating to the demolition party were handled correctly by dispatchers.
“It was simply a matter of communicating,” Hill said. “We made the right calls all the way around as far as the priority of the calls.”
He did not think the dispatchers were to blame for anything.
“We can second guess all we want, but the dispatchers who made the calls that evening, I’m not in the position to second guess them.”
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Work to form a new strategic plan for the Steamboat Springs School District will start next week with the first sessions of a listening tour aimed at getting broad community feedback.