Officers respond to shooting
morning, local law enforcement was greeted by a shower of bullets
from a burning home near Ignacio. Officers apprehended and transported
Eugene Nick Martinez, 46, to the hospital after he apparently
turned a gun on himself.
The mayhem began at about 5:45 a.m., when a neighbor woke up
to see a fire burning near his home about 12 miles southwest
of Durango. The man called 911 and then got in his car and drove
over to investigate. As he approached, his car was stuck and
disabled by at least three bullets, and he fled on foot.
Minutes later, two Southern Ute Tribal Police officers approached
from opposite directions, and they too came under fire. Onepatrol
unit was fired upon at least five times and struck at least
twice, in the grill and left front tire.The officer was not
injured and drove back through the possible ambush zone to warn
nearby residents to seek cover.The second patrol car was also
struck at least three times.Bulletsstruckthe hood, rear window,
windshield and rear view mirror, narrowly missing the driver.A
fourth vehicle, a private truck driven by a volunteer fireman
was also struck by gun firethree or four times including the
hood and rear window.
All told, the shooting spree lasted about 15 minutes. No shots
were fired by officers since they could not determine where
the shots were coming from.Eventually, personnel from La Plata
County Sheriff's Office and Colorado State Patrol arrived on
scene and began to search the area.They found a home, two pickup
trucks, a storage building, a horse trailer, and a flat bed
trailer, all onfire. They also found two rifles on the ground
near county road at the entrance to the property.
At about 7:15 a.m., officers found a Martinez sitting in a
pasture about 150 yards from the torched house. He was suffering
from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the
face, from under the jaw. He had three rifles and two semi-auto
pistols with him.Martinez was flown to a hospital in Grand Junction
and then to a hospital in Denver. He is being held on charges
of arson and attempted murder.
Lt. Dan Bender of the La Plata County Sheriff's Office, commented
that it was a miracle that nobody else was severely injured
or killed. "I viewed all four vehicles that were hit, and I
would call it aChristmas miracle for those first four people
who responded to the fire," he said. "At least three of them
had bullets pass within inches of their heads and the only injury
was the glass in one officer's face."
Communal living moves forward
A group of
locals is trying to put a new spin on Durango development. The
Earthrise Housing Cooperative is working to bring a 12- to 15-home
community that will focus on environmental values and human
relationships to the corner of Florida Road and North College
Damian Leuthold, vice president of Earthrise, said the development
would take a village approach to living, maximizing quality
of life while minimizing expenses. The rammed-earth townhomes
would include shared greenhouses, community meals, shared technology
and play areas, and a shared pool of vehicles, among other things.
Earthrise has been in the works for two years and hopes to break
ground this summer. "We're hoping to get something that's a
cross between the co-housing idea and the eco-village idea,"
Leuthold said one dilemma for the group was whether to stay
in Durango or buy cheaper land in a rural area. "The problem
with making something out in the middle of nowhere is you don't
have an economic base," he said. "These kinds of projects often
go where land is cheap but then people have no way of making
a living without commuting."
On Dec. 23, the Durango City Council amended the city's comprehensive
plan to allow Earthrise to develop. Leuthold said if the Earthrise
experiment works, it could be something promising for Durango's
future. "Certainly, we would love to be an example of how to
build better," Leuthold said. "This is kind of an initial small
test project. If we are successful with this we'll be looking
at continuing to develop more good stuff like this."
Earthrise is hosting an introductory meeting for anyone interested
in the concept at 6 p.m. at Jan. 6. For more information, call
259-9488 or log onto www.earthrisecommunity.org.
Resort enjoys banner holiday
the holiday season, Durango Mountain Resort is reporting visitation
numbers that are on par with some of its best holidays ever.
Early this week, Matt Skinner, DMR communications director,
commented: "The holiday numbers have been good so far. We're
just slightly behind last year's pace which was one of the best
holiday seasons we've had."
Skinner was also optimistic that the surge and the snowfall
would continue through this weekend, possibly putting visitation
over last year. "This year's holiday season is spread out more
than last year's so we're hoping to see continued good numbers
through Jan. 4," he said.
The latest storm to hit the San Juans brought DMR's base to
42 inches, one of the more respectable snowpacks in the state,
and the mountain is 100 percent open. After this weekend, DMR
will enter what is typically its slowest time of the season,
January. However, if the snow continues, the resort could continue
to draw visitors.
Real estate market remains
in La Plata County finished 2003 in peak form, and the market
looks to remain strong in the coming year.
Gina Piccoli, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Heritage House
Realtors, commented: "It's definitely steady. Last year, we
saw increases and strong appreciation. We had a strong seller's
This was particularly true inside Durango city limits, Piccoli
said, where a lack of inventory drove prices up. Average sales
prices in town went up by 20 percent at the same time the number
of homes that changed hands dropped 21 percent below the previous
"There wasn't a lot of inventory, which makes the prices go
up," Piccoli said.
In the county surrounding Durango, average sales prices actually
dropped by 4 percent, which corresponded to a 4 percent increase
in the number of homes that changed hands.
Piccoli said that if current trends continue, Durango and La
Plata County real estate should retain and gain value.
"If outside forces remain the same and interest rates remain
reasonable, the market should continue to be strong in 2004,"
-compiled by Will