Lawsuit alleges police
A local resident is leveling
charges of brutality at the Durango and Farmington police departments.
However, Jerome Gardner, son of former La Plata County Sheriff
Bill Gardner, has also been charged with assault on a police
officer, a case that is currently being tried.
The incident occurred Sept.
1 last year during the Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally in a house
west of Durango on Highway 160. According to police, who were
trying to break up a party at the house, Gardner, a 22-year-old
Fort Lewis College student, refused to leave when asked, resisted
arrest and punched an officer.
Because of the Iron Horse
Rally, seven Farmington police officers also were on assignment
with Durango police. According to the incident report, Gardner
was pepper-sprayed by a Farmington officer around the eyes.
Gardner and other witnesses
allege that officers pushed, yelled, swore and threatened to
arrest or pepper-spray people who did not leave. Gardner said
that he had permission to stay because he was playing with a
band that night at the house. But an officer, who was tapping
a baton in his hand, told Gardner he had to leave. Gardner alleges
officers then surrounded him, ordered him to leave and handcuffed
him. He said that he was pepper-sprayed in the face for no apparent
reason, at which time he fell forward and was beaten with batons.
Gardner is filing a civil
lawsuit alleging assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment,
negligent imprisonment, and use of excessive force. He said
the $500,000 suit is not financially driven.
“Basically, the real
reason that I’m trying to be active in pursuing a civil
suit is I want to see some change,” Gardner said. “The
change is the relation between college students and police.
A lot of my friends were afraid to go out after that night.”
Gardner added: “I don’t
want to perpetuate a negative cycle and point fingers and blame.
I just don’t want to see police treat people this way.”
Gardner’s suit has been
filed, but it will be dormant until criminal charges against
him are resolved. Gardner was charged with assault on a police
officer, a case that went before a motions hearing Oct. 11.
A final determination on whether or not the case will be pursued
will be made Nov. 15. Gardner is disappointed that the case
is on such a slow-track.
“It’s been really
frustrating for me because it’s been more than a year
now,” he said. “The motions hearing was supposed
to happen in March. Everything’s just taken so long.”
Meanwhile, Gardner said he
has asked for an internal investigation of the incident. He
said an investigator was supposed to be working on it in Farmington
but said as far as he knew, nothing was happening in Durango.
Captain Dale Smith said that
force was used in the apprehension, but that he doesn’t
believe Durango Police were at fault for misconduct. “Our
stance, of course, is that we disagree with the allegations,”
he said. “This incident occurred well over a year ago.
We’re now in the middle of a hearing and the defense is
raising the allegations.”
Smith confirmed that Gardner
has requested an internal investigation. “We have received
a letter from Mr. Gardner asking for an investigation, but there
has not been an internal investigation as of yet,” he
Arson possible in trailer
Arson is suspected as the cause of a fire
that quickly consumed a north valley mobile home last week.
Durango Fire & Rescue Authority officials are awaiting results
from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation before making a ruling.
The fire started around 5 p.m. Oct. 9 in
the Durango North Village trailer park on County Road 203, just
south of Trimble Lane. Crews responded, but the fire burned
hot and the trailer was completely lost within 10 minutes. The
home was owned by Ray Grossardt and his girlfriend, Joy Mason,
and the fire occurred shortly after Grossardt left to get a
pack of cigarettes.
“It does look like it was intentionally
set,” said Dave Abercrombie, spokesman for the Durango
Fire & Rescue Authority. “We do not have any suspects
at this point.”
CBI is making a final determination as
to whether arson was involved.
Abercrombie said results should be available
by next week.
“Obviously, everyone’s concerned
if we have arson in the area that we take care of it as quickly
as possible,” he said.
City cracks down on BK
The new Burger King at the corner of Camino
del Rio and Main Avenue is continuing to ruffle the feathers
of city of Durango officials. The franchise’s brightly
lit sign is in violation of a city ordinance, and the city said
the owner of the business has two weeks to replace it.
Since its construction, Burger King has
gotten into repeated trouble with city planners. First, the
restaurant installed blue mullions, the separations between
window panes, rather than the approved bronze. The building
also has a two-story playground structure rather than the one
and one-quarter story that was originally planned. There also
have been concerns about the amount of light pollution the restaurant
“The owner of the Burger King relied
on contractors who ended up doing the wrong thing,” said
City Planning Director Greg Hoch. “There were a whole
bunch of issues related to the property, and signage is one
of the last things they have to address.”
The large, square sign’s white background
is the essence of the problem. The city requires white lettering
on dark backgrounds, particularly when the sign is backlit and
on at night.
On July 30, members of the planning department
met with the owner of the franchise and gave him 90 days to
replace the sign.
“He’s given us notification
that he’s going to comply, but we’re still waiting,”
Burger King’s 90 days expire at the
end of the this month.
City defends political
In separate city of Durango signage news,
the Planning Department defended itself against charges that
it was expressing campaign sign favoritism toward Democrats.
Randy Hubbs, chairman of the La Plata County
Republican Central Committee, charged in a letter to the Durango
Herald that Democrats had been allowed to put their signs up
early and in public places. Hubbs said that on the other hand,
the city had sent a warning to Republican headquarters to not
do the same. Campaign signs cannot be placed in the public right
of way and cannot be erected more than 30 days prior to an election,
which includes early voting.
“I was notified that there was a
complaint about political signage cropping up in town early
and in the wrong places,” said Planning Director Greg
Hoch added that early voting allows signs
to be put up as early as September, and there is widespread
confusion about who owns the public right of way. In addition,
Hoch said that warnings were given to both Democrats and Republicans.
In closing, Hoch said that this issue somehow
seems to come up “every two years.”
Tallwhiteman guilty in
The Ignacio man responsible for a Main
Avenue stabbing this spring was found guilty last week.
Roy Allen Tallwhiteman was found guilty
on several charges, including attempted reckless manslaughter,
which could carry a maximum of 38 years in prison.
On March 26, Tallwhiteman stabbed then-Durango
resident Augie Giordano with an 8-inch knife. He was also accused
of running the knife across a tourist’s chest in a menacing
After a jury deliberated for more than
10 hours Oct. 11, Tallwhiteman was found guilty of attempted
reckless manslaughter, first-degree assault with intent to cause
serious bodily injury, first-degree assault with extreme indifference,
menacing with a deadly weapon and reckless endangerment.
He faces a maximum of 38 years in prison.
Sentencing is scheduled for 8 a.m. Nov. 22 in District Court.
Assistant District Attorney Craig Westberg
had asked the jury to convict Tallwhiteman of first-degree attempted
murder but said he was pleased with the outcome and would be
pushing for maximum sentence.