Investigation into Cropper incident nearing conclusion
PTARMIGAN – Frisco officials hope an internal investigation, an independent third-party investigation by Vail Police Department and a review by the district attorney will help them get to the bottom of an incident involving an innocent family, four law enforcement agencies and a stolen vehicle.On the evening of Feb. 9, an auto thief stole a pickup truck from a Frisco driveway and abandoned the vehicle in Lee and Mary Pat Cropper’s driveway in the Ptarmigan neighborhood at Silverthorne, unbeknownst to the family. Two Frisco police officers, as well as officers from Dillon Police Department, Silverthorne Police Department and Colorado State Patrol, arrived at the Croppers’ home shortly after to investigate.According to accounts by the Croppers and Frisco Police, officers questioned the couple and their son, 14-year-old Quinn, and cleared them of any connection with the stolen vehicle.But the Croppers have accused police of acting unnecessarily aggressive during the investigation, during which Lee and Quinn Cropper found themselves lying face down as police patted them down and tried to determine whether they were suspects.According to a press release issued Friday jointly by the towns of Dillon, Silverthorne and Frisco, “All the agencies involved have committed to implementing the necessary changes to prevent these types of situations from happening in the future.”Frisco Police Chief Tom Wickman, who has apologized to the Croppers, would not say Friday whether the statement in the press release implied that his officers had in fact acted inappropriately or violated any protocol.The Frisco Police Department has completed an internal affairs investigation, but the report is not available to the public. Wickman has outsourced its investigation to the Vail Police Department for review and recommendations. Thus far, Vail Police have interviewed the Croppers and Frisco Police, but have not yet issued a report.The chief will also have the incident reviewed by District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and the Frisco Police Citizens Advisory Committee. Wickman said the town can’t release any further information until the inquiry is complete.Mary Pat Cropper, although angry that the incident occurred in the first place, said she is pleased with how the three towns and their police chiefs are handling the aftermath.”We’re just watching and waiting now,” she said.Given the pending investigation, she declined to comment on discrepancies between her family’s account of the incident and Frisco Police Officer Michael Sineni’s account of what happened.
Frisco town manager Michael Penny said he hopes the investigations will be complete by March 22, and that the town will be able to review the results with the Croppers shortly thereafter.Silverthorne Police Chief Kent Donahue said his internal investigation is nearly finished.”We have a fairly complete understanding of what transpired during this situation,” Donahue said.Dillon Police Chief John Mackey is also undertaking an internal review regarding his officers’ role in the incident.The Frisco Police Department is evaluating its internal training and communication procedures. According to Wickman, communication and search-and-seizure training will be enhanced in the near future for all Frisco officers.Differing accountsHe said: “I did not know whether I was talking to a resident of the house or a possible suspect at this time. The man stepped onto the patio and the woman was now in my view behind a sofa, holding onto two large, short-haired dogs. I told the woman I was Officer Sineni with the Frisco Police Department and showed her the badge on my uniform on my left breast.”- Officer Michael Sineni, Frisco PD, in an incident reportShe said: “My husband pulled back the shade to look, and all we could see was a man dressed in black pointing a gun at us … When the door opened, we saw other men dressed in black with long guns pointed at us. We saw no badges, patches, hats, name tags or insignia to indicate that they were police.”- Mary Pat Cropper, Ptarmigan resident, in a letter to the Summit Daily NewsHe said: “En route to Hummingbird Circle, I contacted dispatch for the name of the resident and a phone number for the house. Dispatch told me that the exact address was unknown, but they would attempt to find a phone number and name through the phone book. None was found. I wanted to contact the resident(s) of the house to see if they were OK or if a possible suspect(s) was in the house … I told (Frisco PD) Sgt. Heminghous of the totality of the circumstances, and he and I agreed that an attempt to contact anyone in the residence was a good plan.”- Sineni, in the incident reportShe said: “Is there no system by which officers can check who lives in a house they are converging on? … Why were there no senior officers at the scene or even consulted?”- Cropper, in the Summit DailyJulie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at email@example.com.
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