BASALT - The Basalt Police Department was honored by the Town Council on Tuesday night for its good work in general and the investigation of a bank robbery in June in particular.
The department has been in the spotlight after the November resignation of its former police chief, Roderick O'Connor. This time the spotlight glare was a little more manageable.
Sgts. Penny Paxton and Stu Curry were singled out for recognition by the council along with Officer Phil Martin.
Paxton was the first law enforcement official on the scene of the June 22 robbery of Vectra Bank in El Jebel. She took control of the scene and launched the investigation, according to Avon Police Chief Bob Ticer, who read a narrative honoring the officers. Paxton interviewed a bank employee who said they saw the suspect shed a ski mask and some clothing in an irrigation ditch near the bank. Paxton recovered the items, and DNA from the ski mask helped solidify the case against the eventual suspect, according to Ticer.
Curry came to the bank even though it was his day off, Ticer said. He gathered information on the description of the robber and the vehicle he was driving and shared it with law enforcement agencies throughout western Colorado. The Aspen Police Department spotted the vehicle and detained the occupant, Jeremy Harmon, for questioning by Basalt officers. Based on what they learned, Basalt authorities were able to get an arrest warrant approved by a judge. Harmon eventually pleaded guilty to felony robbery and took responsibility for four bank robberies, according to prosecutors. (See related story, page A1.)
The bank robber was sentenced to six years in a halfway house in Durango.
Paxton, Curry and Martin accepted the recognition on behalf of the department, and each shook hands with the members of the Town Council. Paxton and Curry, in particular, have faced some thankless days on the job in recent months. Supporters of O'Connor have suggested that members of the department stirred a mutiny against the former police chief. Curry and Paxton are senior officers in the department. They have remained mum on the controversy.