High Country Crime: Hostages in 2016 standoff on Independence Pass sue gunman
June 11, 2017
Three men held hostage at gunpoint by a Colorado Springs man on Independence Pass last summer sued the gunman in Aspen District Court on Thursday, June 8.
Brian Buchanan, Mark Meredith and Blake Ramelb claim Brolin McConnell, 31, assaulted, battered and falsely imprisoned them during the ordeal July 28 on Lincoln Creek Road, according to the lawsuit.
Buchanan and Meredith had planned to rock climb and camp along Lincoln Creek Road that day, but soon found out that soft-sided tent camping wasn't allowed at the time because of bear activity, the lawsuit states. When they turned around to find another area, they passed McConnell, who walked up to them.
Buchanan asked if he needed help and McConnell said, "Hey guys, I'm a little lost," according to the lawsuit. McConnell then pointed two handguns at the men and ordered them out of the car and repeatedly told the men he was going to kill them.
Ramelb pulled up 20 minutes later and McConnell ordered him out of his car at gunpoint. At one point, McConnell made the three men line up and told them "he was going to try and kill them with one bullet by shooting them through their heads," according to the lawsuit.
Not long after, Buchanan and Meredith were able to run away when McConnell was distracted. Ramelb, however, recently had surgery on his foot and was wearing a walking cast that made it difficult for him to flee.
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With Ramelb begging for his life, McConnell fired one shot toward his leg and another "that whizzed by his left ear," the lawsuit states.
"(McConnell) started laughing," according to the lawsuit. "Ramelb resigned himself to death."
Ramelb was eventually able to limp away from McConnell, who was then arrested by police.
It is not clear why McConnell, a real estate agent, was in the Aspen area that day or what prompted him to take the men hostage. Tests later discovered only a small amount of marijuana in his system.
McConnell has been charged with numerous felonies and remains incarcerated at the Pitkin County Jail. His case is in limbo at the moment, however, because prosecutors have appealed a decision by District Judge Chris Seldin dismissing or reducing some of the charges.
The case will not move forward until the Colorado Court of Appeals issues a ruling.
Felony burglary for $11.73
A young man was arrested on felony burglary charges after Rifle police say he attempted to steal $11.73 worth of products from Walmart.
Rifle police were dispatched Sunday evening to Walmart, where the store's security had apprehended a 22-year-old suspected of shoplifting.
The store's asset protection specialist started following the young man in the store because he was wearing "an unusually bigger coat." She reported seeing him conceal two drinks and a toothbrush and toothpaste pack.
She also spotted him use lotion in an aisle and leave the bottle.
Walmart's computer system had records of him stealing from stores in Arizona in 2012, and in Missouri in November. In the later case he was issued a trespass order, barring him from returning to any Walmart.
Searching him, officers found a bag containing a broken glass pipe containing residue that later tested positive for methamphetamine.
He was arrested on charges of second-degree burglary, a felony, possession of a controlled substance, a drug felony, and petty offense theft.
Craig resident gets 9-year prison sentence for dealing meth
For up to nine years, Craig resident Duane E. Newton, 47, will be incarcerated for bringing methamphetamine into Routt County.
Newton was arrested by the All Crimes Enforcement Team on Feb. 16, 2016, after being pulled over for speeding on Rabbit Ears Pass.
Newton also did not have proof of insurance, and his registration was fictitious.
Boomer, the Routt County Sheriff's Office drug dog, was brought in to sniff the vehicle and indicated there were drugs in the car.
While searching the car, police found 28.8 grams of methamphetamine in a container. Police suspected Newton was trafficking drugs. He later told police he recently lost his job and was selling drugs to get by.
He was subsequently charged with two felonies.
As part of a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to one of the felonies.
In addition to prison time, Newton was ordered to pay more than $3,500 in fines.
Aspen man nets felony charges for alleged credit card scam
A 31-year-old local man who allegedly stole a credit-card number from a man he met online and ran up nearly $9,000 in charges was returned to Aspen on Wednesday, June 7, and charged with four felonies, according to police and court documents.
Ronald Mitchem Heffner was arrested May 7 in Las Vegas by U.S. marshals, booked into the Pitkin County Jail on Wednesday and charged with theft, identity theft, computer crime and unauthorized use of a financial device.
A Utah man told police in early February he met Heffner on Grindr, an online gay networking application, during a stay at a local hotel and spent the night with him, according to the affidavit. When the man woke up, Heffner was gone.
The Utah man told police Heffner must have copied his American Express card number before he left, the affidavit states. The man didn't know the number had been compromised until he spoke with police.
Pitkin County Dry Goods, a local clothing store, contacted police Feb. 1 and reported that a man calling himself "Mitchem Heffner" purchased two pairs of shoes and a candle for $937 in December with an American Express number he said belonged to his father, "Ronald Heffner," according to the affidavit.
The charges were later disputed by the card's owner, though the Pitkin County Dry Goods employee was able to track down Heffner by email and communicated with him about repayment between Jan. 10 and Jan. 28, the affidavit states.
"The emails from Heffner were a series of excuses for nonpayment," according to the affidavit written by Aspen police Sgt. Chip Seamans.
Seamans spoke with Heffner the same day, who admitted he owed money to Pitkin County Dry Goods and then hung up the phone when the sergeant asked him for the name on the credit card he used at the business, the affidavit states.
The total amount of fraudulent charges on the card was $8,795.
The Utah man also later identified Heffner from a photo lineup.
Compiled from reports by The Aspen Times, Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and Steamboat Today
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