Off and on for more than two years Tucker’s Tavern owner Jeff Christiansen has been the target of an unusual crime of vandalism.
One day back in March 2012, Christiansen arrived at work to find a foul-smelling substance poured on the floor and front door to Tucker’s Tavern. Periodically over the course of the next two years, Christiansen or one of his employees would arrive to find a similar substance covering the doors, windows or tables on the back patio.
On another occasion, Christiansen said his employees found a caper jar containing a frozen mixture of the mystery liquid taped to the underside of a bar chair. That incident occurred early on, Christiansen said, before he realized he was a repeat target.
After a short hiatus, the vandal struck again last week, Christiansen said, bringing the total number of acts of vandalism to nine.
“We’re under siege, so to speak, and we have this substance here and no one knows what it is,” Christiansen said. “This is definitely an effort to intimidate and make it more difficult to operate a business.”
Christiansen has reported the ongoing crimes to every local agency and organization he can think of looking for help, including Copper Mountain Security, Powdr Corporation — owners of Copper Mountain Resort — the Copper Mountain Resort Association and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. So far, Christiansen said his pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
The whole ordeal has been frustrating for Christiansen for a number of reasons, saying he thinks there are as many as three suspects working together to vandalize his business. He also said he thinks the mystery liquid poses a potential public health risk.
Although Christiansen suspects the liquid contains doe-in-heat urine — used for hunting — possibly mixed with other substances, first responders have refused to analyze the substance, despite his requests.
“This isn’t just happening to us, this is happening to the whole resort,” Christiansen said. “We had hoped the ski company would want to step up a little more because this is a safety issue and this is their resort. It’s very frustrating because we’re a respected restaurant and an asset to the resort, but the ski company and the resort association doesn’t seem very interested in helping us.”
Peter Siegel, executive director of the Copper Mountain Resort Association, said that he and the local organization are concerned about the acts of vandalism, but that the local security force is limited in what it can do.
“We’re not a police force; we don’t carry nightsticks, we don’t arrest people and we can’t hold people,” Siegel said. “We’re more resort ambassadors that work as liaisons between residents and visitors and local law enforcement, which in this case is the sheriff.”
Copper Mountain Security does from time-to-time run initial investigations, Siegel said. In this case, Copper Mountain Security acquired a photo of one of the suspects from Christiansen’s security camera, which he installed in January 2013. Security officers then canvassed local businesses trying to find out if anyone recognized the man in the photo. To date, the man has not been positively identified.
“That’s kind of the extent of our capabilities,” Siegel said. “We’ve made the sheriff’s office aware of the situation and we’ll do everything we can to help them out.”
Austyn Williams, communications manager at Copper Mountain Resort, added that the suspect’s picture has been posted prominently throughout the resort.
“We are concerned about these isolated vandalism incidents,” Williams said. “While this is clearly a law enforcement matter, our resort security team has been involved and recently posted, companywide, surveillance photos of the possible perpetrator.”
Summit County Sheriff John Minor shares in Christiansen’s frustrations, but said the local business owner clearly isn’t alone in wanting to bring an end to the case. One of the main obstacles in his office’s investigation is the randomness and infrequency of the crimes. The suspect also dresses casually, making it difficult for potential witnesses to positively pick him out of a crowd.
“This case is frustrating because this guy will show up about once every six months and then he’s gone,” Minor said. “So far, he’s been so random it’s impossible to try to predict when he might show up next.
“The only thing we can do is put his face out in the community and hope someone recognizes him.”
The suspect that has been caught on camera is described as a white male in his 50s and of average height. Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call Summit County non-emergency dispatch at 668-8600.