Skipping out on hotel bill and stealing pillows: The Record for June 30, 2020.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
3:24 a.m. Steamboat Springs Police Department officers were called about a bear in the dumpster at Whistler Village Townhomes
4:55 a.m. Police responded to a report of a bear and two cubs trying to get in a trash can in the 800 block of Broad Street.
10:29 a.m. Police were called about a man sleeping in one of the vacant offices in the 400 block of Anglers Drive. Officers issued a trespass warning and the man left the scene.
11:10 a.m. Police were called about graffiti at the Howelsen Hill Skate Park. Officers said it is an ongoing issue, with new graffiti daily.
12:04 p.m. Officers responded to a report of a car versus pedestrian hit and run in front of the Post Office. The pedestrian declined medical attention.
If you have information about any unsolved crime, contact Routt County Crime Stoppers. You will remain anonymous and could earn a cash reward.
Submit a tip • Call: 970-870-6226 • Click: TipSubmit.com • Text: Send “NAMB” and your message to 274637
12:27 p.m. Police received a report of a theft at a hotel in the 1000 block of Walton Creek Road. Someone left without paying for one night of lodging and stole several pillows.
12:31 p.m. Police were called about a motorhome versus building hit and run at a bank in the 200 block of Anglers Drive. There was damage to the corner of the the roof of the building.
4:47 p.m. Police received a report of illegal dumping of furniture in the dumpster at a business in the 1000 block of Yampa Street.
6:16 p.m. Officers responded to a report of an intoxicated man hanging around outside a bank in the 1900 block of Pine Grove Road. The man made some comments to a janitor about wanting to be let inside.
Total incidents: 46
Steamboat officers had 33 cases that included calls for service and officer-initiated incidents such as traffic stops.
Sheriff’s deputies had six cases that included calls for service and officer-initiated incidents such as traffic stops.
Steamboat firefighters responded to five calls for service.
North Routt Fire Protection District firefighters responded to one call for service.
Oak Creek Fire Protection District firefighters responded to one call for service.
The Record offers a glimpse of police activity and is not a comprehensive report of all police activity. Calls such as domestic violence, sexual assaults and juvenile situations typically do not appear in The Record.
Learning to live with COVID-19 in Routt County
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Given the loosening of restrictions, the 13 new COVID-19 cases in June aren’t really surprising, said Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow.
But they do serve as a reminder of the continued need for vigilance.
“The virus isn’t going away,” Ladrow reminded the Routt County Commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Public Health. “We are in it for the long haul.”
As a handful of states set records for the most new cases in a single day, it is more than evident the virus is still here in the United States — and in no small way.
The goal still is to limit transmission in order to protect the most vulnerable and not overwhelm health care resources, but for places like Routt County that have successfully flattened the curve and prevented outbreaks from spiraling out of control, the future also consists of learning to live with the virus.
“We can’t live in a lockdown,” said Lauren Bryan, an infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs. “I think we expected this,” she said. “We are going to see outbreaks throughout the summer.”
The goal now, is “to suppress large outbreaks until we have effective treatment and a vaccine,” Bryan said.
And on that note, she added, there is a lot of encouraging news and developments both on treatment options and finding a vaccine.
“We need herd immunity,” Bryan acknowledged. But “it is far preferable to get that through a vaccine rather than have the disease decimate the population.”
Routt County Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington emphasized the difference between mitigation and suppression at Wednesday’s meeting. Suppression means getting to zero, he said.
“Mitigation accepts having cases but keeping it at a relatively low but stable rate,” Harrington said.
While suppression may still be an ultimate goal, it is important to “differentiate between the two and what we are willing to accept,” he said.
Ladrow described the current goal as “trying to maintain a manageable disease burden within the community.”
Bars and restaurants
At Wednesday’s Board of Health Meeting, the Routt County commissioners clarified that Governor Polis’ decision to close bars does not apply to Routt County because of the approved restaurant variance. Bars are still allowed to be open in Routt County if they are able to comply with all of the requirements of the county’s restaurant variance.
The commissioners also had a robust discussion on the state’s announcement to allow counties to apply for next phase of COVID-19 virus containment called Protect Our Neighbors.
“We learned that our restaurant variance supersedes any changes at the state level,” said Commissioner Tim Corrigan. “We don’t have to close our bars, and we will just continue to implement the Routt County variance as it is now.”
The majority of the new Routt County cases were traced back to small gatherings, and two involved people who traveled out of state where they contracted the virus before bringing it back. None of the June cases known about at this time involved visitors to Routt County who came sick and got tested here.
“Private gatherings are a considerable risk,” Ladrow told the commissioners.
The state’s public health order still limits private gatherings to 10 people.
“Coronavirus isn’t going away just because we are tired of it,” Bryan said. “We are going to keep seeing these oncoming waves, and we have to be prepared.”
The new local cases, and the more extreme situations happening in nearby states including California, Arizona and Texas, also serve as a reminder on the basics like hand washing and masks, Bryan said.
“It’s important to keep up the measures that inhibit transmission,” Bryan said. “It’s been very demonstrative recently that wearing a masks works. even a cloth homemade one.”
COVID-19: Follow our coverage
Before immediately heading to the hospital, people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 have several resources, including:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is providing a phone line to answer questions from the public about COVID-19. Call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911 or email email@example.com for answers in English and Spanish, Mandarin and more.
UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center offers Ask-A-Nurse, a 24/7 call line staffed by registered nurses who can assess symptoms and provide advice on seeking care. In Routt County, Ask-A-Nurse can be reached by calling 970-871-7878.
Virtual Visits can be done from the comfort of your home and only require a computer or tablet with a working webcam, speakers and microphone, or a smartphone.
If patients are experiencing severe symptoms or having difficulty breathing, they should visit the hospital’s emergency department.
Take precautions in everyday life:
Frequently and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Stay home if you’re sick and keep your children home if they are sick.
Clean surfaces in your home and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.
Be calm but be prepared.
Employees at businesses and customers are required to wear a mask, according to a Routt County public health order.
Bryan also emphasized the continued importance of 6-foot distancing.
Ladrow said the June cases were largely found to be person-to-person transmission — people in close proximity of each other, without masks, for an extended period of time. She described them as primarily being “several clusters of cases.”
Harrington said he was heartened to see an increased acceptance across the country that masks do matter, including from Vice-President Mike Pence.
As other states see huge spikes in cases, Ladrow and Harrington noted the importance of also looking at hospitalizations and deaths to get a bigger picture in terms of disease prevalence.
Based on June’s cases, blaming tourists doesn’t hold up at this time.
“There’s plenty of room amongst ourselves in our own community to do our best, and that’s where we should start,” Harrington said.
But the nationwide trends are without doubt concerning, Harrington added.
“I’m concerned about two months down the road when school begins,” he said, and getting into “cold and flu season.” Models currently predict Colorado will continue to see rising disease rates, Harrington said.
Before then, there’s July as the biggest month for tourism, he added.
And while eight of the 13 recent positive COVID-19 cases involved people younger than 30, Ladrow emphasized the young people involved with the positive cases and related contact tracing were very responsive.
“They acted quickly to prevent further transmission,” Ladrow said. “It’s important to recognize our youth when they are doing things right.”
And no one should be vilified for getting the virus, she said. Just as we wouldn’t vilify people who get the flu.
If traveling, Bryan recommends paying close attention to what is happening in your planned destination, as well as exercising caution during any type of gathering. Those will most likely be the higher risk situations as opposed to a brief encounter with a motel or gas station clerk, she noted.
For those shorter encounters, hand washing and hand sanitizer remain important precautionary measures, and if staying at a hotel, Bryan recommended wiping down high touch surfaces, like television remote controls and doorknobs.
If you do decide to fly, wear a mask, she said.
The fundamental theory is similar to avoiding radiation exposure, Bryan observed.
“It’s all about distance and shielding,” she explained. “And shielding is the only thing that will protect you on an airplane.”
And while Colorado is not seeing the drastic increase as in some other states, “We are never in a bubble,” Bryan said. “What happened in the rest of the United States of course affects Colorado and Routt County and the people who travel in and out.”
As Routt County is likely to see more cases, the importance of contact tracing, testing and isolation only increases as does cooperation from the whole community, Ladrow said.
Routt County has a team of 16 contact tracers, all volunteer, who go through multiple trainings. And the more they trace, the more they learn and improve the process, Ladrow said. The team leads spent their careers with the Centers for Disease Control.
Ladrow said the county is working on creating a form of payment for the contact tracers, though she noted some might still choose to do it on a volunteer basis.
Participating in contact tracing isn’t about getting anyone in trouble, Ladrow urged. Instead, timely participation can play a big role in testing and isolating additional cases and stopping further spread.
While the county does currently have adequate testing supplies, Ladrow said one of the challenges is in the turnaround time from the lab, which is now taking about three to five days.
Community testing is available by appointment, though public resources must be prioritized, Ladrow noted, in the event of an outbreak. But there are many other private providers offering testing, including to asymptomatic people.
Right now, community testing is available only to symptomatic testing. Appointments can be made by calling 970-870-5577.
In addition to Casey’s Pond, Ladrow said the public health department and private partners are working with businesses to provide diagnostic tests to employees with high public interaction.
On Wednesday, the community testing event set a record with 144 people getting testing in a single day, Ladrow said.
Whether any of those come back positive remains to be seen.
“The virus is amongst us and with us, and we need to learn how to live with the virus in our community and really focus on protecting the people who are most vulnerable,” Ladrow said.
Yampa Valley Kitchen serves up local, farm-fresh food
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Hannah Hopkins describes the new Yampa Valley Kitchen & Drink Bar as a dream come true for her and for the staff who has been a key part of creating the concept.
“It’s a pretty dreamy place to work,” Hopkins said of the restaurant, which opens Saturday. “We have always dreamed of having a beloved neighborhood restaurant where you can go and feel really good about the ingredients that are used in the food.”
It’s a feeling shared by co-owner Jeremy MacGray and members of the staff including executive chef Joe Campbell, manager Kendra McQuarrie, sous chef Ryan Allen-Parrot, cocktail curator Rena Day and gardener Pat Tormey.
The restaurant will open in the 100-year-old farmhouse at 207 Ninth St. that once was home to Cloverdale and Low County Kitchen. The inside has been completely redone by Jeremy’s wife, Krysta, to create a welcoming environment with a farmhouse feel. The new owners feel like Yampa Valley Kitchen’s concept will reach a broad demographic including families and those looking for quality ingredients produced locally.
The new restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week offering both breakfast and lunch menus. In the afternoon, Hopkins hopes the setting will offer guests a place to come for a bite to eat and to hang out and enjoy a wide selection of beverages or soft-serve ice cream during happy hour, which runs from 3:30 to 5 p.m. each day.
“I think what’s special about our lunch menu, especially because we go to 5 p.m., is that we have some really amazing entrees,” McQuarri said. “It gives people who like to eat a littler earlier dinner or later lunch an option to come and get happy hour cocktails and a delicious entrée around 4 p.m., which is awesome.”
The restaurant will use organic, sustainable ingredients of the highest quality for its dishes and will rely on local producers and those in Colorado whenever possible.
“They’re all small farms — small batch, no hormones, no antibiotics,” MacGray said. “We have this reverse pyramid where local is our number one grab. If we can get high-quality local foods, that’s what we’re doing. If we can’t get high-quality local foods, then we go regionally to Colorado.”
The restaurant’s outside gardens feature many of the ingredients used in the dishes found on the menu including tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, edible flowers, thyme, rosemary, fennel, tarragon and kale just to mention a few of the items. It will also offer a pleasant place for guests to eat outside.
“This is not a production garden,” Allen-Parrot said. “We are growing a representative sample of some of the things that we have on the menu. These greens and these plants were selected because they can grow in a 60-day growing climate, which is a challenge.”
Campbell, who is also the executive chef at both Bésame and Mambo, was thrilled to create a menu using the best ingredients.
Breakfast offerings will include a selection of crepes, omelets and Rueben Benedict that uses house-made pastrami and Kimchi. The lunch menu features entrees like a salmon miso bowl and Wagyu steak au poivre. The chef believes the avocado toast and gravlox on rye will be among the choices that will stand out.
Campbell said the restaurant will also offer a vegan hotdog where a carrot is whittled down to look like a hotdog before it is marinated and smoked to give it a hotdog flavor. It will be served with housemade dill kraut, pickled Fresno and mustard seed on a poppy seed bun.
“I’m extremely excited about this menu,” Campbell said. “I feel like American cuisine is generally where I shine the most, and we’ve gotten to absolutely do that with our breakfast and lunch menu. We’ve taken a lot of classics and just put modern twist on them.
“When you’re tasting these dishes, you can taste the difference in the quality of the ingredients,” Campbell explained. “The ingredients shine for themselves.”
Many of the ingredients will come from businesses based in the Yampa Valley including Bee Grateful Farm, Hayden Farm Fresh, Moon Hill Dairy, Mountain Bluebird Farm, Truly Family Farms and Innovative Ag Colorado. The restaurant will also highlight other Colorado producers including 7X Cattle Company of Hotchkiss, Haystack Mountain Cheese of Longmont and Boulder Ice Cream, which will provide the base for Yampa Valley Kitchen’s soft-serve ice cream.
The standards found in the kitchen will also be found at the bar where the ingredients are an important part of Yampa Valley Kitchen’s forward-thinking bar program.
“Hannah actually found these really amazing spirits from London called Seedlip. They are zero-proof spirits, and they all have different flavor profiles,” Day said. “So you still get that feeling of having a drink, even if you don’t want to have one. Of course, there’s also a spirit version, as well, so you can get one with alcohol.”
But at the foundation of everything Yampa Valley Kitchen is doing is a passion for providing really good food.
“Uncompromised food is the motto,” MacGray said. “So that’s going to be everything down to salts, spices and sugars, all the way up to the proteins and ice cream and everything between.”
Steamboat’s Gilbertson returns to coaching after 7-year hiatus
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ten years ago, Chris Gilbertson was helping Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Brett Camerota to historic podium performances at the Vancouver Olympics. After seeing such great success on the sport’s greatest stage, Gilbertson stopped coaching in 2013.
He’s spent the last seven years focusing on being a father of a now Junior National Nordic Combined Team member but is now returning to coaching as head ski jumping coach for the U.S. Men’s Nordic Combined National Team.
“Honestly, I missed the whole sport; I missed coaching the athletes,” Gilbertson said. “I had spoken with (USA Nordic Executive Director) Bill Demong about getting back into the sport somehow at some level.”
USA Nordic announced Gilbertson’s return to the sport last week in a news release in which newly-appointed Nordic Sport Director Jed Hinkley praised the decision.
“Chris is not afraid to share his opinion, which I value,” he said. “And I know nobody will work harder to help us achieve our goals in athletics and as an organization.”
Gilbertson didn’t expect to be hired to coach at the World Cup level right away but is certainly not complaining about the opportunity. Despite spending seven years out of coaching, he’s confident he can return without losing any ground. While technology and equipment might have improved, the sport itself hasn’t changed much.
“I feel a little bit overwhelmed but also really supported,” Gilbertson said. “The amount of people that have congratulated me has been unbelievable. I’m pretty excited to have all those people support me. I just hope I can live up to their expectations.”
Gilbertson wasn’t completely removed from the sport for the last seven years. His son Gunnar is a Junior National Nordic Combined Team member and competes at a high level. Of course, Chris Gilbertson said he rarely allowed himself to go into coaching mode with his son, leaving that up to the staff at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
“We always tried to maintain a separate relationship in that regard,” Gilbertson said. “If he asked questions I’d say, ‘Do you want the Dad hat, or the coaches hat?’”
The USA men’s national team is almost an entirely new roster since Gilbertson last coached them, aside from Steamboat native and Olympian Taylor Fletcher. The rest of the crew, Gilbertson hopes to get to know quickly. When he gets to Park City next week, he plans to sit down with the team and allow them to ask questions about him while he figures out what their goals are.
He wants the team to focus on qualifying for major events before worrying about performing well in them. Once they regularly qualify, then he will adjust the focus to earning points and placing well.
“My five-year goal is to get guys back on the podium again,” Gilbertson said. “That’s where the fun is, and that’s really the ultimate result that we’re trying for.”
Howelsen Hill hosts visiting teams but not annual 4th of July competition
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Just as much as people filling up Lincoln Avenue, summer ski jumping at Howelsen Hill is a sign that the world is starting to reopen.
Usually, action on the larger hills on the first day of July is training for the annual Jumpin’ and Jammin’ competition, which is traditionally held over the Fourth of July holiday. The event, which features roller ski racing down Lincoln Avenue and a ski jumping competition on a sprayed-down plastic-covered hill, was canceled for the first time in its 15-year history.
“Really, it’s not as worrisome for the actual event as it is for people gathering at the bottom,” said Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic Combined Director Todd Wilson. “We thought it was the safe, right thing to do.”
Still, hometown kids and visiting teams are taking advantage of the facility and the summer weather to get in some training. In addition to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes, eight Park City athletes are using the hills on Howelsen. Park City practices at a separate time, and the SSWSC athletes train in small groups and maintain a 10-foot social distance.
The athletes aren’t using the locker rooms, and all training is conducted outside. Physical contact with peers and coaches is avoided unless absolutely necessary. When walking up to the large jumps, or on the magic carpet lift near the small jumps, there are markings indicating how far apart athletes should be. The SSWSC is making sure jumpers don’t crowd at the start structure at the top of the jumps.
“We’re a lucky sport,” Wilson said. “There’s some sports, like wrestling, that are just impossible to do under the circumstances. But we only have one athlete on the jump at a time, and there’s no physical contact with another athlete, so it’s pretty easy to keep the distancing that’s required.”
Wilson added that if extra training sessions are needed to help maintain social distancing, they will add them, but as of now, things are running smoothly.
Starting July 6, Howelsen will host the USA Nordic Fly Girls and Fly Guys camps, starting. Wilson said Park City being thrown into the mix was a bit of a test, and the Fly Camps will determine whether Howelsen is able to host other teams in the near future.
Steamboat author publishes timely novel that studies Tulsa’s historic Black Wall Street riot
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When the news broke out that President Donald Trump was holding a rally on Juneteenth in the city of Tulsa where a Black community was destroyed a hundred years ago, the London family’s cellphones in Steamboat Springs started to ring.
Douglas and Kathy London fielded calls from family and friends for days.
“Everyone around the country called and said ‘How did he know?” said Kathy London in reference to her husband’s amazingly prescient new book, “Sinister Silence, Tulsa’s Black Wall Street Legacy.”
Douglas London was an AP Enlgish teacher at a private high school in Oklahoma City in 2016 when he started researching ideas to engage his honor students as they read Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” a novel based on the true life of an escaped slave.
“I came across a couple of stories of what happened in Tulsa (in 1921), and I asked the whole class if anyone knew about it,” said Doug London. “Only three African-American kids (in the class) knew it took place. I was shocked.”
London is talking about a piece of history that most Americans didn’t know about until Trump scheduled a June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Juneteenth, a holiday recognized by many in the Black community. It commemorates Union Army General Gordon Granger arriving in Galveston, Texas, to proclaim all slaves were free, two years after much of the nation had already been informed.
As Trump’s rally garnered criticism from the Black community, many Americans learned that Tulsa was once home to Black Wall Street, a name given to the Greenwood neighborhood — one of the nation’s most prosperous black neighborhoods in the early 20th century.
London’s book, researched and written in the past three years, takes much of the real history of what happened that day and weaves the actual characters throughout the book, which takes place in 1921 and 2017. In the modern era, London follows a Black family living in the heart of Tulsa with a popular athlete son who has parents in the education system.
London doesn’t shy away from several controversial topics in the book, including juvenile sexting, school shooters and institutional racism. But at the same time gives incredible insight into what happened that led to the destruction of one of the country’s most prosperous Black neighborhoods.
“I use their actual names and actual roles they all played in the riot based on what I read,” London said of his 1921-era characters. “My fictional piece of it is adding my opinion of what was motivating them.”
In the book, London follows how one newspaper publisher created the spark that led a concerted effort by some white community members to destroy and take over valuable land where the wealthy Black community resided.
“That was the interesting part … two papers were competing and a lot of it resonates for me because of what is going on in the present,” London said. “You have Fox and CNN, and in Tulsa. you had the Tulsa World and Tulsa Tribune. You had two papers competing for the reading audience. They decided to take two very different spins on all of the current events that were happening back then.”
The modern plot in “Sinister Silence” has today’s adolescents looking at the Tulsa riots and its impact still felt today. He hopes readers gain understanding in light of today’s riots and protests.
“When are we going to address that racism still exists and how does this legacy of hundred years ago impact the conversation now?” London asked.
The book also makes it clear the riots weren’t actually a spur-of-the-moment action by hotheads.
“There were actual platoons of people going through Greenwood and destroying things,” London said. “It was also the first time in America they ever used planes to organize an assault from the air. White residents used planes to drop Molotov cocktails on certain areas.”
He also lays out clearly that every situation is complex, and in the book, he highlights the many good people, white and black, who came to the rescue of the Black Wall Street residents.
“There’s multiple layers,” London said.
The author said he titled the book “Sinister Silence” because residents quickly buried the memory of the Tulsa riot.
“A century has gone by, but is there a lot of progress with how we interact with each other?” he asked. “Burying the problem like Tulsa did is not helpful. We need these conversations.”
“Sinister Silence, Tulsa’s Black Wall Street Legacy” can be purchased online or found at the local library.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Triggered: How one of Colorado’s smallest protests became most violent
ALAMOSA — The protesters, about a dozen in all, gathered June 4 in the intersection of State Avenue and Main Street. Like protesters across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police, they were demanding police accountability and racial justice.
The group occupied the crosswalk during red lights, then stepped to the curb on green. Letting traffic pass, they figured, would keep things peaceful.
Some drivers honked in solidarity. Others, cranky that skinny-jeaned millennials were chanting “Whose streets? Our streets” in the city’s main intersection, flipped them the bird.
Just before 6 p.m., a man driving a Dodge Ram pickup pulled up to the red light, then accelerated into the crosswalk.
A video of the scene shows protesters lurching out of the way. It also shows one protester, a white man dressed in black, pulling a gun from his waistband and shooting the driver in the head.
Their June 4 run-in lasted five seconds, less than an average yawn. That’s all it took for one of Colorado’s sleepy protests to become its most violent.
The shooter, James Edward Marshall IV, 27, is facing a slew of charges, including attempted murder. He knows a thing or two about what he’s up against because he is a defense lawyer.
The Ohio native graduated in 2018 from the University of Colorado Law School and worked for 10 months as a public defender in Durango. In June 2019, he moved with his wife, Mariah Loraine, to Alamosa and opened the office of “Marshall Law.” He told people he wanted to defend clients at fees they wouldn’t need to sell their homes to afford.
Christine Canaly, whose office is next to Marshall’s, found him friendly, but also nervous and stressed out. Others say he is a loud talker whose tailored suits stood out in a town more accustomed to jeans and work boots.
At Milagros Café, he would chat with Aaron Miltenberger, head of a local nonprofit. Recent conversations turned to COVID-19, Floyd’s killing, Black Lives Matter and police violence. Miltenberger said Marshall often vented about a criminal justice system he saw as broken, violent and corrupt. “I remember feeling like whoa, James is really on edge.”
Marshall and his wife, who was openly carrying a pistol, showed up for one of the first protests in town after George Floyd’s shooting.
One of the 30 or so protesters that night, Elizabeth Oxer, said Marshall was the loudest in the crowd: “But, like, not in a good way.”
On May 29, Marshall advised his Facebook friends on “How not to die while protesting.” “ 1. Be white. 2. Carry a freedom stick,” — slang for firearm. In the days following, he wrote several posts decrying police and National Guard violence against protesters. He described his views as anti-fascist, which he wrote “is the default stance in a democracy.”
Four and a half hours before the shooting, he posted: “It’s really hard to go to school for over 20 years, pay $200,000, pass the bar exam and swear an oath to defend the Constitution to then watch high school bullies with badges and guns trample on civil liberties in the name of ‘law and order.’”
Your typical Texan
Danny Pruitt, the 49-year-old gunshot victim, has spent most of the past three weeks in a coma, the bullet still lodged in his brain.
He grew up in Texas’s cow country and served as an electronics tech in the Army. A 15-foot fall disabled him, and he hasn’t worked since, his lawyer said.
Pruitt bought some cheap land a year ago about an hour east of Alamosa. He spent much of the past year building a small cabin where he planned to live with his 5-year-old daughter, Melody, for whom he was battling for custody.
Brent Thompson, a minister and friend who lives down the hill, describes Pruitt as “your typical Texan — a cowboy-hat-wearing, pickup truck-driving, downhome, morally sound kind of person” committed to a new life with his daughter in Colorado.
“Been here with god (a) while now. Ain’t no way I’m leaving,” Pruitt posted on Facebook in May with a selfie taken on his property. “I’ll raise my daughter and build things back in my life. Home this is home!”
Thompson said Pruitt was uninterested in the news, but Pruitt’s Facebook page shows he was following it closely.
On May 28, he posted an article about a soldier credited with saving lives in Kansas by ramming a shooting suspect with his pickup truck. He previously had posted a picture of his own Dodge Ram 4×4, writing, “How does it go if you can’t Dodge it ram it if you can’t see it well hit it.”
Over the next week, he shared a meme picturing Black looters and reading, “I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t look like they’re grieving to me.” He also shared a photo of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry with his gun drawn, and a reference to the line, “Go ahead, make my day.”
The May 25 killing of George Floyd, who was Black, by a white Minneapolis police officer set off a national soul-searching. Public officials across Colorado acknowledged protesters’ grief and frustration, some promising to reconsider their own communities’ policies and practices.
City brass in Alamosa said nothing.
“We do not have the big city issues with law enforcement officers. Our law enforcement officers care and I care about them,” Ty Coleman, the Black mayor of a town with a 1% Black population. “We know how to get along with each other here.”
The city’s mix of Adams State University professors, local business owners, federal employees, cannabis growers, good-old-boy ranchers and the immigrants who tend their stock, big city transplants and old-timers have learned to coexist. In years of July 4th and Pride parades, climate action and anti-abortion marches, there has been little turmoil.
But this spring was different. Alamosans, like all Americans, followed the spreading protests. They tracked the looting and tear-gassing in Denver and Colorado Springs.
In an urgent June 1 email, city Economic Development Director Kathy Rogers Woods warned civic leaders and business owners of reports about a group planning to gather on Main Street that night “for what is thought to be similar activity we’ve been seeing in cities across the nation, of late.”
That group turned out to be some high school students whose plans to spray paint downtown buildings police easily thwarted. Cathy Garcia, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s southern regional office director, immediately replied all to Wood’s email: “Group will be in Pueblo at 6 pm tonight. Heard from Trinidad that a group will be there sometime soon and that buses would be coming from Colorado Springs.”
Within hours, phones were buzzing with anxious text messages about a purported caravan of radical agitators headed to bust up the town. Managers at the Alamosa Walmart closed early that evening, barricading the doors and windows.
A posse of volunteers showed up downtown that night carrying sidearms and semi-automatic rifles to protect businesses. City police officers joined them.
“We heard that supposedly that they were sending antifa down here to paint our town and terrorize our streets, and we weren’t going to let that happen,” said Larry Jack, one of the locals who stood guard.
“We had quite a big turnout, at least 80 of us downtown. … There was really a buzz going on,” added Eric Gile, owner of a roofing company in town.
Buzz was all there was. That night and three other nights of protest passed with little more friction than a Black man insulting a gaggle of armed posse members and a white man mooning protesters with “All Lives Matter” written on his butt.
Protesters started showing up at State and Main after work June 4. They were mostly women, mostly young and white, though led by a Latina organizer.
Marshall came with his wife and carried a sign reading “Murder is murder no matter BLUE did it.” He was yelling louder than the others, as he had several nights prior.
The video, captured by a nearby bookstore surveillance camera, shows a dark gray pickup approach the protesters as they stood in the intersection, slow down, then accelerate toward them. Marshall’s wife, among others, jumps out of the way.
“Then there was the gunshot. Which was not great,” recalled Oxer, a 23-year-old Americorps volunteer from Iowa. “At first I thought it was the guy in the truck that had done it.”
Pruitt, hit in the back of his head by the 9mm bullet, managed to drive 12 blocks toward the Adams State campus before passing out.
Marshall ran from the scene with his Glock 43, phoned a prominent defense lawyer, drove home to East Alamosa separately from his wife, changed his clothes and shaved off his beard, according to his arrest report. Police arrived two hours and 40 minutes after the shooting.
He told a detective he shot Pruitt after “he observed the truck come into contact with” his wife and feared for her safety, the report shows. The detective wrote: “As the conversation continued I told James the video footage does not show his wife as he explained and he responded the video would be wrong.”
Marshall’s booking shot shows him in a lawyerly dress shirt, head cocked back and grinning. He is facing an attempted second-degree murder charge, among six others. His wife bailed him out the next day and the couple left town almost immediately:
“They don’t feel safe there,” his lawyer, Randy Canney, said.
Pruitt — the bullet still in his brain — came out of his coma this week and is recuperating at his sister’s place in Alamosa.
City police, still investigating the case, have questioned him. They are focused on whether the traffic light was red or green when Pruitt accelerated toward the protesters, and whether any were hit. None of the five we interviewed said they were.
The city, in the meantime, has launched what it calls a “public education campaign” to keep protesters out of Alamosa’s crosswalks.
About 3,500 people have over the past three weeks donated $149,000 for Pruitt’s and his daughter’s care.
Conservative, alt-right and fake news outlets have been playing up the story as proof of a national antifa uprising, some going so far as to report that Pruitt died of his gunshot wound. Local law-and-order types frame Pruitt as a heroic patriot with an inalienable right to drive unobstructed on his way to grab a burger.
“When people are hindering (people) from getting where they need to go and blocking traffic, basically that’s a small riot. … It’s destructive and, yes, a line needs to be drawn,” added Larry Jack, one of the gun-toting volunteers in the armed posse downtown.
He figures that he, too, would have tried to drive through them. “I think the country in general is sick of this, the violence, the hatred, the racism from all sides.”
Language like Jack’s implying white folks are victimized by racism — and by protests against it — galvanized many protesters in the first place. But that point, several say, was lost the moment Marshall pulled the trigger. Oxer’s diary entry that night reads: “This whole thing just reinforces what detractors believe: That we all secretly just wanna set shit on fire and shit.”
Pruitt made the first provocation by driving into the protesters, Oxer wrote. So “while he was the victim, he was also the instigator.
“But it’s hard to say (that) about someone on life support.”
Oxer hopes Marshall gets the “maximum punishment” and notes, fully aware of the irony, that Alamosa police seem to be doing a good job on the investigation.
Mayor Coleman understands that “protesters didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“But sometimes the reality and the perception are different in people’s mind,” he said. “And sometimes people forget what the original purposes of the marches were all about.”
This story is powered by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative — a nonprofit formed to strengthen local public-service journalism in Colorado. More than 40 news organizations, including the Steamboat Pilot & Today, share in-depth local reporting to better serve Coloradans.
14th Judicial District awarded $30K grant for new adult diversion program
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 14th Judicial District, which includes Routt County, received a $30,000 grant from the state Tuesday that will fund a new adult diversion program.
The program will provide an alternative to prosecution and incarceration for certain lower-level offenses and provide rehabilitative services that might not otherwise be available in the criminal justice system.
District Attorney Matt Karzen said that to his knowledge, the program is the first of its kind for the 14th District. A diversion program for juveniles has been in place for some time.
The program is targeted toward people whose criminal activity stems from factors like a substance abuse disorder or mental illness, issues that likely would not be resolved in prison, according to the district attorney.
“This is more focused on proactively getting them what they need to recover,” Karzen said.
Alleged perpetrators of certain crimes, such as sexual assault and murder, would not be eligible for the program, according to Karzen.
Karzen said the program aligns with his goal of criminal justice reform. He aims to work toward a system that balances human decency with public safety. Rather than face criminal charges, an offender participating in the diversion program would work with a case manager to identify his or her needs, then receive appropriate treatment.
If the person makes a good-faith effort at rehabilitation, prosecutors would formally dismiss the criminal case, according to Karzen.
Studies have shown that diversion programs can reduce recidivism, better rehabilitate offenders and lead them to employment, which results in cost-saving benefits for taxpayers footing the bill of the criminal justice system. One report, published in the Center for Health and Justice, analyzed the effects of the Kings County Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison program in New York. From 1990 to 2011, there were 1,349 participants, leading to estimated cost savings of more than $92 million.
“Investing in adult diversion has a ton of potential,” Karzen said. “It can be hugely positive, I think.”
The judicial district requested a $100,000 grant from Colorado’s Adult Diversion Funding Committee, but budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic substantially reduced the amount of available funding.
“I didn’t think we were going to get anything,” Karzen said of the grant money. “It was the first unexpected good news I’ve had in a long time.”
He initially hoped to serve 80 people in the first year of the program. With the reduced funding, about 15 people could participate. The funding becomes available July 1. Officials hope to start taking applications for the program in August, according to Karzen.
He and other justice officials plan to use the first year as a trial period to determine the effectiveness of adult diversion. If successful, Karzen hopes to expand the program next year.
Tales from the Tread: Picking strawberries in Strawberry Park
“The first money I ever earned as anybody’s employee was by picking berries …” — J.R. Burroughs
The strawberry boom of Steamboat Springs, occurred from 1900 to 1915 in an area north of town that was eventually called Strawberry Park. Here, a Kansas farmer, L.R. Remington, produced an unusually large berry that could also sustain the cool climate and survive the journey in unrefrigerated rail cars to Denver and beyond. Local farmers jumped at the opportunity to produce strawberries, and land prices in Strawberry Park soared from $150 to $1,500 per acre.
Local author, John Rolfe Burroughs, grew up in Steamboat Springs and worked in the strawberry patches as a young boy. In his 1963 book, “Head First in the Pickle Barrel: A Rocky Mountain Boyhood,” Burroughs describes a day of work in the strawberry field:
“The berry men, paid pickers two cents (for) the heaping quart box. The job went something like this: … We kids messed around for the first half-hour or so, dropping about as many berries into ourselves as we did into the boxes, laughing and joking, throwing overripe berries at one another, and, when the opportunity offered, mashing them in some girl’s hair. But if we held up our monkey business too long, Mrs. Bergman came out of the shed and told us to settle down and get to work, which we eventually did. When all six boxes in your carrier were heaping full, you took it to the shed, where Mrs. Bergman briefly inspected the berries and, if everything was all right, punched a 5 and a 1 out of your ticket, removed the full boxes, and filled the carrier with empties. Five plus one makes six; and six multiplied by two meant that you already had earned all but three cents of the price of a pineapple ice-cream soda at Chamberlain-Gray’s soda fountain. This made you feel pretty good; and so you hurried back to your row, intent on picking another 12 cents worth in nothing flat.
“The piece-rate method of payment certainly was the carrot on the stick that kept us youngsters picking instead of playing. The first two or three carriers came pretty easy; but by 10:00 the sun was hot, the backs of our necks were blistered, our knees were sore, and the mosquitoes and deer flies had found us out. From then on picking strawberries degenerated into a job of work, and the intervals between trips to the shed with full carriers became longer and longer. Noontime eventually did come, however, and, after hurrying to the shed, we snatched up our lunches and beat it down the hill to eat in the cool shade of a spruce tree beside Soda Creek.
“‘A strawberry ticket’ was worth five dollars when it was completely punched out. It took me five days to earn my first ticket, which meant that I had picked an average of 50 quarts of strawberries per day. It occurs to me in retrospect that this wasn’t too bad a showing for a 9-year-old boy; and it also gave me an insight into the close relationship which exists between financial success and social approbation.”
For about 15 years, the local strawberry industry was hugely successful. But as labor costs rose and competition stiffened, the industry began to suffer. The boom ended when consecutive early frosts in 1915 and 1916 destroyed the crops. Soon, land prices returned to pre-boom values, and farmers looked for other crops and industries. Eventually, the strawberry days of Burrough’s boyhood memories faded away as did most evidence of Steamboat’s strawberry boom
Katie Adams is the curator at Tread of Pioneers Museum.
Incumbent Bob Rankin wins GOP primary for Senate District 8 seat
Incumbent Republican State Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale won the GOP nomination for the Colorado Senate District 8 seat over challenger Debra Irvine of Breckenridge. He will face off against Democratic challenger Karl Hanlon in November.
With 17,472 votes counted in the seven-county district as of 9:30 p.m., Rankin held a commanding 63% to 37% advantage over Irvine. The district includes Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson and Summit counties.
In Routt County, Rankin earned 1,494 votes to Irvine’s 743.
Rankin said he looks forward to continuing his work on behalf of residents in his district.
“I just would like to thank the people who supported me,” he said. “This was a strange election, and I was not able to campaign as much because I was busy on the budget committee, and then the virus.
“I have unfinished business and want to get to work on the recovery of our state,” Rankin added. “We’re in crisis, and I think I can help small businesses recover and get back to work.”
Rankin was the former three-term state representative for House District 57, including his home county of Garfield, plus Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, from 2013 through 2018.
He was appointed to the vacant District 8 Senate seat in January 2019 after he had just been elected to a fourth term in the House, replacing former Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who resigned. This will be Rankin’s first run for the Senate seat.
Irvine was a 2014 Republican candidate for the District 61 Colorado House of Representatives seat. She ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2012.
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