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September 11, 2012
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Snowmass man charged in Owl Creek incident

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - A Snowmass Village man faces three misdemeanor charges in the wake of an 18-hour standoff that prompted the closure of Owl Creek Road on Sept. 10.

Edward Russ Armstrong, 36, was charged with prohibited use of weapons, harassment and reckless endangerment, according to an arrest warrant filed late on Sept. 10 by Brad Gibson, an investigator with the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

Armstrong spent the night of Sept. 10 in Pitkin County Jail on a bond of $1,250. As of the afternoon of Sept. 11, he was awaiting transport to a mental-health facility in Grand Junction, officials said.

Gibson's warrant spells out the incident, in which it appeared Armstrong once drove away from his rental cabin in the middle of the morning and fired a shot near Owl Creek Road before returning home.

Armstrong also is alleged to have made threats toward Michael Buglione, director of operations for the Sheriff's Office. Among Armstrong's threats were that he had a bullet with Buglione's name on it and he would have Mexican Mafia members in El Jebel take care of one of his relatives. He also told Buglione that he had another bullet reserved for Aspen Police officer Adam Loudon, the warrant alleges.

The episode began shortly after 11 p.m. Sept. 9 when a suicide-prevention program reported to authorities that Armstrong was suicidal and had fired three shots. The call came after Armstrong's mother phoned an Aspen-based suicide hotline earlier that evening, the warrant says.

Soon after, four deputies set up at the Airport Operations Center, located off of Owl Creek Road, before establishing an observation post near Armstrong's rental cabin just up the road.

At 12:10 a.m. Sept. 10, Buglione called Armstrong and learned that he was in possession of a rifle, shotgun and handgun, the warrant says. Armstrong fired three more shots at 12:44 a.m., and the gunfire appeared to be from his home, located at 1370 Owl Creek Road.

"Through the evening (two deputies) reported the rounds fired appeared to be from both a rifle and a handgun," the warrant says.

More shots were fired that morning, from Armstrong's front-porch area and his driveway, the warrant says. But Buglione took note when Armstrong told him, during one of their numerous cell-phone conversations, that he could see an officer doing a car stop. This was at approximately 2 a.m.

"According to Deputy Buglione, Armstrong stated he had an officer in his 'crosshairs,'" the warrant says.

Buglione checked with dispatch to confirm a car stop was actually taking place. And there was, as officer Loudon had done a stop at the time of Armstrong's alleged comment, the warrant says.

"Based on my knowledge of the area, I know that from Armstrong's house there is no possible way for him to see the intersection of Owl Creek Road and Highway 82," Gibson wrote. "The only way for Armstrong to be able to see that intersection was for him to be in a car."

Realizing that Armstrong was no longer in his house, Buglione instructed authorities to not make any traffic stops until they knew his location.

Armstrong returned home later in the morning. And at 7:35 a.m., the Sheriff's Office closed Owl Creek Road. Armstrong and another friend, who joined him at an unspecified time Sept. 10, exited the Owl Creek cabin and surrendered to sheriff's deputies, without confrontation, at approximately 5:38 p.m. Sept. 10, law enforcement said. Owl Creek Road re-opened at 6:23 p.m.

On Sept. 11, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo reflected on an episode he said could have turned tragic. DiSalvo said the best course to take was to wait it out, rather than have officers confront Armstrong in the cabin.

"This is probably one of the tensest situations I've had as a sheriff," DiSalvo said, noting that when a second person became involved, the incident morphed into a potentially more dangerous situation.

"It was relatively easy for him to get into the house without being seen," DiSalvo said. "(Armstrong) probably felt proud that he could get his pal in past us."

At one point the friend, who apparently hiked into Armstrong's residence, was considered to be both a threat to deputies and a potential victim of Armstrong's, DiSalvo said.

"Primarily, I feared for his safety," he said.

But shortly before 5 p.m., DiSalvo's office had Verizon, the cell-phone carrier used by Armstrong and his friend, to divert all calls they made to the sheriff's department. That marked the turning point in the standoff, DiSalvo said.

"After we diverted their calls, they knew we could do things they never thought of," he said.

The friend then realized the magnitude of the situation, and convinced Armstrong to surrender, DiSalvo said.

DiSalvo said the friend, whose name has not been released, faces "the potential for charges."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 11, 2012 06:34PM Published Sep 11, 2012 06:31PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.