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‘We’ve learned from this’

Communications officials to revisit protocol after church fiasco

Teens: This does not define us

Teens who attend Steamboat Christian Center's weekly youth group said they are concerned about perceptions of the group based on Wednesday's incident.

"We are a very welcoming and loving group," said Carter Moore, a sophomore at Christian Heritage School. "It's a breath of fresh air and something I look forward to as soon as I get out of school on Wednesday."

Devon Barker, a home-schooled senior, said the group is one of the strongest in the Yampa Valley, attracting between 75 and 100 teens.

"What happened Wednesday does not define us," he said. "We have done mission work in Mexico and are planning trips to Israel and an Indian reservation, in addition to the ongoing community service and food drives we do."

Fifteen-year-old Kaydee Peckham agreed.

"Our youth program gives teenagers something to do besides party," Peckham said. "It teaches respectable morals and leadership and creates an environment where there are no outcasts."

Barker said Wednesday's skit, meant to send a message about how to deal with fear, was one creative example of using alternatives to reach teens, a technique the group often utilizes.

"(Steamboat Christian Center) doesn't just recite some boring message and send everyone home," said attendee Lainie Thorsen. "They help teens with their everyday life problems and change lives for the better."

— Routt County Communications officials will revisit its policies and procedures in light of a church skit that left some children and adults fearing for their safety.

The skit, which was performed during a weekly meeting of Steamboat Christian Center’s youth group “Elev8,” 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.

Jake Hothem, a youth pastor with Steamboat Christian Center, said on Thursday that he called Routt County Communications earlier to inform them of the nature of the skit and not to be concerned if they received 911 calls reporting the event.



The skit, which Hothem said got out of control, was not intended to focus so heavily on the use of the fake gun.

“We were more concerned about people calling a suspicious person because our homeless actor was pretty convincing,” he said.



Dispatcher Sharon Clever on Friday said the center did not receive any 911 calls as a result of the skit Wednesday night, and only fielded one call from a concerned mother at about 9:15 p.m., which two Steamboat Springs police officers mediated.

Regardless, officials will examine protocol for handling routine test drills, lockdowns and skits in the future because of the situation.

“In the past, we’ve never questioned people calling in letting us know what’s going on,” she said. “With all of this occurring those are concerns we will be addressing with our new director. It’s an unfortunate incident that is making us look harder at our policies.”

Routt County Communications has been without a director since Faith Mendoza resigned in November. A new director begins next week.

Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said there was a lack of communication with the police department.

“None of our officers knew what was going on,” he said. “That’s a huge concern to us because obviously we want to know what the heck is going on especially when it’s something involving something as serious as this, or the perception of something as serious as this.”

The lack in communication could have resulted in someone being injured if an officer had responded to the church and not known the skit was fake.

Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan said protocol will be put in place to mitigate anything like this from happening in the future.

“However experienced or inexperienced the dispatcher was who received the call from (Hothem), they weren’t mindful of the incident,” he said. “We’ll make sure there is protocol in place for our dispatchers to follow in handling these types of calls – including informing the police.”


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