Threatening social media post made to Aspen School District poses no threat to community, superintendent says

Aspen School District Superintendent Dave Baugh said a threat posted on social media on Sunday targeting Aspen schools did not pose a threat to the community.

Parents of Aspen School District students notified Baugh of a post made to the social media platform Snapchat over the weekend threatening the school district, he said. Baugh notified the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, who investigated the post and found it posed no threat to students or the surrounding community.

The post, which “referenced a shooting in the school,” according to a press release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, was made by a student who does not live in Colorado. Pitkin County law enforcement is working with law enforcement in the area in which the student lives to determine appropriate criminal charges.

Baugh said the district “fully intends to press charges” once the sheriff’s investigation is complete.

New details: Dead male at Glenwood Caverns was a Roaring Fork High School graduate

A male discovered dead at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Saturday had weaponry, ammunition and explosives on him, according to details released from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

Carbondale resident Diego Barajas Medina, 20, was found dead at the Glenwood amusement park shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday. The death, which park officials suspected as a suicide, prompted an investigation by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office said Medina was found in the women’s restroom prior to the park opening to the public and the death was not related to any of the rides or exhibits at the park. A Monday news release from the Garfield County Coroner revealed that Medina was found with a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound of the head and that there were possible explosives near him.

“At this time, both law enforcement and coroner’s office investigators secured the area and waited for the Grand Junction Bomb Squad to make the scene safe,” the release states. “On October 29, 2023 at approximately 4:30 p.m., the scene was deemed safe and the coroner’s office was able to recover the decedent.”

Based on a preliminary investigation it appeared that Medina illegally entered the park after hours, when no employees or patrons were present. He is believed to have driven through a service road to enter the park, according to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.

“He was dressed in black colored tactical clothing, bearing patches and emblems that gave the appearance of being associated with law enforcement,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a Monday statement. “The suspect had been heavily armed with a semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic handgun and multiple, loaded magazines for both weapons. He was wearing body armor and what appeared to be a ballistic helmet. Additionally multiple improvised explosive devices, (IEDs), were discovered with the suspect and in a vehicle associated with the suspect.”

The Garfield County Coroner’s office is in the process of conducting an autopsy, though the sheriff said they believe the death was a suicide. Medina appears to have shot himself with a gun in the corner of a women’s restroom in the park, with writing on the wall next to him reading, “I am not a killer, I just wanted to get into the caves,” Vallario said during a Monday press conference.

Smaller text underneath the phrase has not yet been identified, and it is not certain what was used to write out the message, or whether the man was the one to write it, Vallario noted.

The Garfield County Sheriff revealed that the two guns found on Medina’s body, the AR-style rifle and the semi-automatic handgun, both appear to be ghost guns, meaning that they were not purchased over the counter. Ghost guns are untraceable firearms that are purchased as “ghost gun kits” and built without a background check, making them easier to obtain than regulated firearms.

A search of the man’s person, room, and home did not reveal any motive for his actions, nor do the police believe the man had any criminal history at this time. Vallario said the man went to high school in Carbondale, and that the response team is working with the man’s mother and brother, whom the man lived with, to figure out the full story.

“Although he was very highly prepared, very highly weaponized, he chose not to take advantage of any of that, whatever his preparation was. He chose instead, as we believe at this point, to commit suicide,” Vallario said. “We are, to say the least, extremely lucky that he did not fulfill whatever plan he may have intentioned. It could have caused … a devastating impact on his community, potential for many, many people to be killed and injured. And again, for whatever reason that we may never know, he chose not to take that path. And certainly we all breathe a sigh of relief from that.”

At the request of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Grand Junction Bomb Squad responded to the scene and with their expertise were able to render the devices safe, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed on Monday that only some of the explosive devices found on the man were real; they found fake military-style grenades, as well as some fake explosives. The bomb squad carried out controlled detonation of the bombs, according to the sheriff. Vallario also said during the Monday press conference that he does not believe the explosives were obtained legally.

“The Glenwood Adventure Caverns property was then swept by members of the bomb squad as well as operators from the Garfield County All Hazard Response Team (AHRT) to ensure no other (improvised explosive devices) had been planted around the park or rides. Our investigation has so far indicated that nobody in the public was at risk; it would appear that the suspect’s actions were limited to the property of the Glenwood Caverns,” the Sheriff’s Office said in the statement. “The initial two days of the investigation have been carried out in a slow, methodical manner in order to search the property, as well as the suspect’s residence to ensure the safety of the public and to begin to determine the extent of his criminal activity. The safety of the public, bomb disposal personnel, law enforcement and other first responders was the priority as well as making sure the Caverns were safe to reopen.”

A preliminary investigation indicates that the male trespassed on park property, which is surrounded by state-owned public land, outside park hours, Glenwood Caverns said in a Monday afternoon statement. No employees or guests were on the property at the time.

“This very sad and tragic incident reminds us how much our Glenwood Springs community means to us,” said General Manager Nancy Heard. “We appreciate the swift action and thorough work of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department and Coroner’s Office, as well as the Garfield County All Hazard Response Team and other authorities assisting in the investigation, working together to ensure the park is safe to reopen. Thank you for all you do.”

To keep guests, team members and assets safe, multiple security programs are in place, including an extensive network of security cameras, alarms, fencing, gates and posted signage, the Caverns said.

“Lock-out protocols provide protection for engineering, ride operation and ride restricted areas, as well as sensitive buildings,” the Caverns said in the statement. “The incident on Oct. 28 did not take place in any of these areas and was not related to any rides or attractions.”

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office wishes to thank the employees and maintenance staff of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park for their patience and ongoing assistance with this investigation. “(The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office) would also like to extend our thanks to the Grand Junction Bomb Squad, Garfield County All Hazard Response Team, the Carbondale Police Department, the Garfield County Coroner, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in this ongoing investigation,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office is working with the FBI for this investigation and will hold additional press conferences as more information becomes available.

“There is much more we do not know right now that we do know,” Vallario said. “The FBI and others will be helping us. We’ll be going through his phone, we’ll be going through his social media, we’ll be talking with family, friends, classmates, schoolteachers, in order to find out what caused this person to do what he did, what caused him to take these steps and what caused him, again, to change his mind and take his own life instead.”

The Roaring Fork School District confirmed on Monday night that Medina graduated from Roaring Fork High School in 2021.

The district said it is unable to provide any additional details about Medina, nor is it privy to details of the incident’s ongoing investigation. It asks “the public and community respect the family’s privacy during this challenging time.”

“In our small communities, everyone is connected. This tragedy will impact our school community significantly. We are responding to the news of this incident by providing wrap around support services to students, staff and families in need,” RFSD Superintendent Dr. Anna Cole said in a statement. “In the Roaring Fork Schools, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority. We are deeply committed to investing in and implementing best practices in school safety. This includes prevention education, community collaboration, crisis response drills, and secure schools and facilities.”

The Aspen Times will update this story when more information becomes available.

Aspen police advise public to stay aware after recent car theft

With holidays right around the corner, the Aspen Police Department would like to remind the public to be vigilant and proactive after police received several theft reports within the overflow parking lot of the Truscott Apartments.

“Of course we understand that Aspen is a safe place, and we all want to feel safe and comfortable here,” said Aspen Assistant Chief of Police Bill Linn. “But we also need to take just some basic precautions like locking the doors to your house and taking the keys out of your car and maybe even locking your bicycle. But we don’t want to push too hard.”

APD also recommends not leaving anything of value inside vehicles and if you witness any suspicious activity to report it immediately.

On Oct. 10, a silver Toyota Camry belonging to a resident of the apartment complex reported their car as being stolen. The car was found by police, abandoned later that evening in a parking lot in Carbondale, according to Linn. 

“That’s a fairly common resolution for stolen vehicles in Aspen; they’re not usually hauled off to a chop shop or something like that,” he said. “They usually are a very short-term theft and end up parked some place until local PD runs the plates on it.”

The following day, on Oct. 11, another Truscott resident reported their car had noticeable signs of entry with the center console having been rifled through with some personal belongings missing. In both instances, the keys had been left in the vehicles.

The reports came just days before the Aspen Municipal Golf Course, which is located within the same area, was vandalized. Police do not believe the incidents to be related. The car theft and trespass remain under investigation.

Aspen Police secure arrest warrants in 2021 Louis Vuitton burglary case

Aspen Police Department have secured arrest warrants for two men in connection with the 2021 burglary at Aspen’s Louis Vuitton store, located at 206 South Mill Street.

Mauricio Andres Gandolfi Bahamondes, 37, and Diego Hernan Enrique Reyes Bahamondes, 33, have been charged with second-degree burglary, class 4 felony; theft, class 3 felony, conspiracy, class 6 felony; and criminal mischief, class 1 misdemeanor. 

According to a press release, both men are Chilean citizens, and are currently on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer at the Downtown Detention Center in Nashville, TN, where they were arrested for aggravated burglary. Both men have a $100,000 bond for those charges, as well as each carrying a $500,000 bond for the charges in Aspen. 

Aspen Detective Sgt. Rick Magnuson told city officials that the Colorado Information Analysis Center shared a burglary bulletin with all other states. From there, a detective in Brentwood, TN, saw the bulletin, which is what Magnuson said eventually led to a “big break in the case.”

When the two suspects were apprehended for allegedly breaking into a residence in Brentwood, their rental car vehicle was detected through a license plate reader.

Additionally, Kansas State Patrol pulled Bahamoondes over for speeding, which helped with identification due to the officer’s body camera showing his face, as well as a distinctive tattoo on his arm, which was visible on the Enterprise Rental Car surveillance footage obtained in Denver.

“Securing these arrest warrants marks a significant advancement in our ongoing investigation. The diligence of our team, in collaboration with other agencies, has been pivotal,” stated Aspen Police Chief Kim Ferber. “I also want to underscore the invaluable role that our community has played. Their prompt response to our video surveillance request was instrumental in reaching this critical milestone.”

Magnuson said in a statement police obtained video footage from not only Louis Vuitton, but also Wheeler Opera House, Aspen Jewish Center, Panerai Aspen, the Aspen Store, Enterprise Rental Car in Denver, and RFTA to help assist in the investigation.

Between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on June 5, 2021, the two suspects reportedly entered an unlocked hallway in the back of the Louis Vuitton store and proceeded to use an unspecified cutting tool to a hole in the drywall to gain access into the storeroom, according to police. 

The suspects were said to be in the store for approximately an hour before leaving with $439,000 worth of merchandise. 

The following morning, after employees discovered that the store had been burglarized, surveillance video was examined and two rental vehicles were identified as being used by the suspects. 

The surveillance footage also showed a woman who appeared to have been involved in the burglary, as well. As of Monday, police were unable to comment as to whether it’s believed additional suspects are still at large.

The Aspen Police Department investigations teams worked with the Colorado Information Analysis Center, Kansas State Patrol, and the Brentwood Police Department in Brentwood Tennessee to determine the identity of the two suspects.

Every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent unless and until his or her guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Garfield County investigation leads to major drug bust

Ongoing Special Problems Enforcement and Response (SPEAR) investigations led to the seizure of various illegal drugs and firearms in Garfield County in August and September, according to a Tuesday Garfield County Sheriff’s Office news release.

The drugs seized during the investigation include the following:

  • 3,026 fentanyl pills
  • 1 gram of fentanyl powder
  • 226.66 grams of methamphetamine
  • 17.2 grams of crack cocaine
  • 1.18 grams of cocaine
  • 13 morphine pills
  • 86 Xanax pills
  • 3 hydrocodone pills

The efforts of SPEAR, a multi-jurisdictional task force based out of the Garfield County area, also resulted in the seizure of five firearms — one with no serial number — and two illegal sound suppressors.

Three men were identified as distributors of illegal drugs and firearms in the Battlement Mesa area and were arrested during the ongoing investigation: Christopher Vanvalkenburg, 44, Huley Mayer, 25, and Justin Raulerson, 39. Additional charges and arrests are expected.

Anyone with information on criminal activity is encouraged to call SPEAR at (970) 945-0453 or contact your local law enforcement agency.

Navigating mental health challenges in Pitkin County’s criminal justice system

More than half of the average daily population in Pitkin County’s jail has a serious mental health issue, according to a 2022 report by Justice Planners.

The high incidence of mental health issues among incarcerated populations is no coincidence; the lack of support for people struggling with mental health often results in entanglement with the criminal justice system.

The criminal legal system and mental health are deeply intertwined and can be tied to the rise and fall in the use of mental asylums, according to Mental Health Colorado President and CEO Vincent Atchity.

“We went through a phase as a nation where we recognized that warehousing people in giant asylums was not productive of good health outcomes,” Atchity said, noting mental health treatment facilities did not replace the asylums. “Our jail and prison populations have grown as a consequence, as has our homeless population, but there are people who are ill and can’t survive in our economy without supportive housing.”

The nebulous path to finding appropriate resources and the high cost of care can make it difficult to get the support one needs, especially before their mental health reaches a breaking point met with institutionalization or incarceration.

“We have a group of parents that come to us with their stories and their advocacy. And they are famously being told in many instances by people (to) wait until (their loved ones) do something egregious enough that the police will come and take them away and arrest them so that you’re not worried about where they are or their safety and they may get some access to care,” Atchity said.

In some cases, jail is the only way to access mental health services due to the prohibitive cost of accessing mental health care, according to Atchity.

“Jails and prisons are the number one largest psychiatric facilities in every state in the country,” he said.

The lack of an accessible pathway to care can result in people ending up in crisis — they might lose their homes, turn to hard substances, or act compulsively in a way that ends up with law enforcement becoming involved, Atchity said.

During the pre-trial period, people who are charged with a crime are held in jails, establishing a connection to the jail regardless of conviction status.

According to Interim Detentions Divisions Chief Dan Fellin, Pitkin County law enforcement aims to divert people from jails by connecting people with alternative resources when responding to calls.

“We haven’t ever really had that hard-line, hard-nosed approach,” he said. “Everybody around here, all the agencies … we all see the need to help people versus taking everybody to jail.”

For calls involving substance use or mental health, law enforcement partners with the Pitkin Area Co-Responder Team (PACT). The program pairs mental health professionals with law enforcement officers with the objective of decriminalizing mental illness and improving access to resources for people struggling with mental health or substance use.

“Our goal is to, when possible, keep people out of jail and out of the hospital and keep them within the least restrictive disposition,” Pitkin County Public Health Planning and Programs Manager Jenny Lyons said. “Whenever possible, the team is going to do their utmost to resolve things on scene. A huge area of focus is just helping people stay safe and connecting them to resources without unnecessary transportation elsewhere.”

Of the 173 active calls where a PACT clinician responded on-scene in 2022, only six individuals were transported to jail, according to PACT’s annual report. Of those incidents, 113 were resolved on scene; in other cases, individuals were transported to emergency departments or put in touch with other community resources.

For people with serious mental health or substance use issues, being isolated from their community and cut off from systems of support can exacerbate those issues. 

PACT aims to connect people with resources so they can remain in their communities while receiving support, rather than introducing additional stressors associated with being transported somewhere else, according to Lyons.

Acknowledging that being in jail is a punishment in itself, Fellin said the county jail offers mental health services to inmates with the goal of reducing recidivism and providing inmates with the support they need.

“People with mental health issues can deteriorate in jail, which is why I think it’s a big deal for us to be offering all the services that we can and as much help as we can provide to people when they’re inside and then continuing that care once they’re outside,” Fellin said.

The jail contracts with Turn Key Health Clinics to provide mental health services to inmates.

For inmates who have already received diagnoses prior to their incarceration, Turn Key facilitates continuity of care, including access to medication and follow-up appointments with medical providers, according to Turn Key Director of Psychiatry and Mental Health Services Dr. Jawaun Lewis.

During the intake process, inmates complete a medical screening, as well as a mental health screening. If the patient is determined through the intake process to need mental health support, Turn Key will provide support for starting or continuing relevant medications. Turn Key itself does not diagnose patients; they only treat symptoms, Lewis said.

If people come into jail without a diagnosis, Turn Key will refer patients to an outpatient provider for a diagnosis. In those cases, an assigned case manager or therapist works with the individual to set up an outpatient appointment for a diagnosis.

After release from jail, case managers continue to work with individuals for a set period of time. Funding for case management, mental-health treatment, and other mental health services is provided by Colorado’s jail-based behavioral services program.

According to Atchity, incarcerated individuals are the only people in the United States with a constitutional right to healthcare.

“You should not need to get arrested in order to access care for your mental health or your substance use condition,” Atchity said. “That care ought to be accessible to you in your state of liberty in the community.”

Aspen police, city discuss tech that gleans phone, tablet, license data

Aspen City Council’s work session Monday pivoted between the urgent need for law enforcement to track a suspect and the 4th Amendment right to privacy.

Aspen Police Chief Kim Ferber reviewed stats that showed that crime had dipped slightly and announced a new hire would enter the police academy in January. She described how newly implemented technology, SmartForce, helped direct and track bike and foot patrols this summer.

And she described the newly created Digital Forensics Expert job. The expert could use technology to gather data from cellphones, license plate readers, and tablets that might possibly otherwise require a warrant for access.

Ferber was asked whether laws were keeping pace with this technology and protecting the 4th Amendment’s Constitutional defense against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Ferber said that from her observation, courts were scrutinizing requests for warrants even more closely. But her observation did not address the question of whether obtaining information from an electronic device without a warrant was likely to be challenged in court.

One council member noted examples of when the technology had been used successfully to catch a suspects, but welcomed further discussion of the underlying legal principles.

License plate readers were famously used to track Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four Idaho university students, as he drove across country. This summer, license plate readers helped Aspen police track a local man accused of beating his wife and kidnapping one of their children as he drove into New Mexico.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Carpenter v. United States (2018) the justices ruled 5 to 4 that the 4th Amendment applies to cellphones. Cellphone data collected by most providers documents a “detailed chronicle of a person’s physical presence compiled every day, every moment over years” and accessing it would require a warrant, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wrote in his opinion.

Ferber also said that Detective Lauren Turner had standardized evidence processing which should “increase ongoing accuracy” in a high liability area.

Glenwood Springs Police arrest local man suspected of committing multiple sexual assaults against minors

A Glenwood Springs man is suspected of committing multiple sexual assaults against juveniles between 2014-2023, Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras said in a news release on Wednesday.

Jesus Armando Granados Mejia, 46, was arrested for sexually assaulting at least three juveniles. The GSPD is concerned there are additional victims.

Jesus Armando Granados Mejia
Courtesy photo

“Glenwood Springs Officers were made aware of a sexual assault, which began in 2014 and continued through 2023,” the release states. “The initial victim was a juvenile at the time of the various assaults. As detectives investigated the allegations, they identified two additional juvenile victims.”

Each case, which did not occur simultaneously or while other victims were present, has a consistent pattern of Mejia providing the juveniles with alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine before the assault occurred.

“As they were under the influence of the above substances, the suspect assaulted the victims,” the release states.

According to a victim’s statement to detectives, on one occasion, Mejia intimidated her with a firearm. He directed her to delete text message exchanges which corroborated the victim’s statement to police, the release states.  

“Those messages implicated Mr. Mejia,” the release states. “When the victim objected to deleting the messages, Mr. Mejia displayed a firearm in a threatening manner and again directed to her (to) delete the messages.”

Mejia has since been released and has a court date scheduled for November.

“Based on the investigations thus far, we believe there are additional victims,” the release states. “If anyone has information regarding this suspect and potential/similar crimes, we urge you to contact the Glenwood Springs Police Department. We respect every person’s right to a fair and impartial process through our courts and all are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Inmates return to revamped Pitkin County jail, for now; a modern expansion begins to be envisioned

Ten Pitkin County inmates who were being housed in the Eagle County jail returned to Aspen earlier this week, following the completion of safety improvements to the jail’s facilities.

The upgrades were designed with detainee and deputy safety in mind and selected based on best practices, according to Pitkin County Sheriff Michael Buglione.

Changes include the installation of steel, anti-ligature doors and toilets, concrete bed frames, and new lights and flooring, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The renovated jail also includes the addition of a cell that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a dress-out room with a shower.

“I wanted to get inmates back,” Buglione said. “I thought it was important that they spend their time in our jail if that’s where they’ve been arrested and most likely reside.”

The Sheriff’s Office reached an agreement with Eagle County in January after Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario terminated an agreement to house inmates while the jail in Aspen was under renovation.

“As sheriffs, we’re going to help each other out no matter what, and that’s what it came down to,” Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said. “We had the capacity, we were able to handle it, and it gave Pitkin County time to be able to finish doing what they were doing and making their detention center safe for the inmates and updated, and so (it was) mutually beneficial for everybody without too much of a logistical nightmare.”

The short-term agreement allowed Pitkin County to make safety improvements to the jail deemed necessary following safety incidents that led to inmates being relocated in 2021.

“We looked at what we can do, and we were able to bring 13 beds up to a level that is safe for the detainee, as well as the jail deputies,” Buglione said.

While the average daily population of the jail exceeded 13 inmates prior to 2020, changes in arrest restrictions have led to fewer inmates. With the current restrictions, he said he does not expect the number of inmates to surpass the capacity of the jail.

Renovations at the Pitkin County Jail include bathroom facilities.
Courtesy photo
Old door knobs in the Pitkin County Jail were replaced with anti-ligature handles to make cells safer from suicide attempts.
Pitkin County/Courtesy photo
Old door knobs in the Pitkin County Jail were replaced with anti-ligature handles to make cells safer from suicide attempts.
Pitkin County/Courtesy photo

The work release program at the Pitkin County jail was closed last month to accommodate other inmates. Those who qualify for work release in Pitkin County have the option to do it through Garfield County instead.

“We are looking at options to improve our old work release up here in Pitkin to provide it again here,” Buglione said. “Once we get that squared away, we’ll see if we can implement the work release up here.”

The jail’s facilities team is planning infrastructure improvements for the work release program’s housing, such as resolving plumbing issues.

The recent updates to the jail are only a temporary solution, as the sheriff continues to look at plans for a significant redesign of the jail in its current footprint.

Van Beek did not say whether Eagle County would again hold inmates in the case of another construction phase but said he would “entertain the conversation.”

“The renovation was … to get the Pitkin County inmates back in Pitkin County and not house them elsewhere,” Buglione said. “The vision for a new jail, whether that be in the same location, is still being worked on currently.”

He said some of the upgrades to the jail could be incorporated into a future jail design, such as the dress-out room and the door and bathroom fixtures.

Though a long process between the current phase of the plan and the beginning of construction, he said, he is hoping to get plans underway as soon as possible.

“I’d love to get a shovel in the ground within a year,” he said. “That’s being very optimistic.”

According to him, a structural engineer who reviewed the jail as it is said the current footprint would allow the possibility of adding 7,700 square feet in a potential redesign. That would be in addition to the current area, which Buglione said is around 19,500 square feet.

“It’s going to be a new jail brought up to better standards, higher standards as opposed to just kind of a Band-Aid on a 35- to 40-year-old jail,” he said. “If there’s a new jail that’s never been built, I want to build that. Not just secure walls and doors and everything else — I’d love to be on the cutting edge of what a new jail looks like.”

One of the priorities for the new jail will be enabling greater flexibility in configuring beds according to separation by classification (inmates requiring low, medium, or maximum security, risk, and need).

“It gives us more options to move people around,” he said. “The future jail — hopefully, it’s in this footprint that we’re here, now — we’re going to try to achieve that with being creative.”

In addition to the greater flexibility for configurations, a new jail would have expanded areas for programming such as Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, spiritual group meetings, and yoga, as well as a space for one-on-one conversations with attorneys.

Buglione said he does not think that mental-health and detox facilities should be attached to the jail.

“The trend is that you don’t want to do that because someone who’s having a mental-health crisis or issue, they think they’re still going to jail,” he said. “The jail is not the place for someone having a mental-health crisis.”

Instead, he suggested a long-term goal of constructing a regional facility that would be jointly funded by other law-enforcement agencies in the valley.

“It’s expensive,” he said. “I don’t think Pitkin County should bear that cost alone.”

Van Beek emphasized the need for sheriffs across the region to work together.

“We support each other as sheriffs,” he said. “One of our mottos is we’re always going to take care of each other no matter what.”

While relations between Buglione and Vallario got off to a rocky start with Vallario’s termination of the intergovernmental agreement when Buglione took office, Buglione said they met months ago to smooth out their relationship.

He said, “Relationships with both (Eagle and Garfield) counties are great, and I thank both the sheriffs and their agencies for helping us out when we needed the help.”

Patagonia CEO talks about company’s radical restructuring to fight climate change

Yvon Chouinard gave Ryan Gellert the simplest of tasks. All he wanted was for Gellert, his latest successor as Patagonia’s frontman, to redesign the business structure to where it could give away most of its profits to environmental causes while remaining fiscally sound.

And then, as he does, Chouinard went fishing.

“It is so classically Yvon,” Gellert said Sunday evening as part of an Aspen Ideas Festival session inside Paepcke Auditorium, moderated by comedian and writer Baratunde Thurston. “He’s just such an unbelievably contrarian thinker. He had thought for many, many years — I would say decades — about what to do with Patagonia. He never wanted to be a businessman. He lives a really simple life. He drives an old Subaru.”

With Chouinard — who founded Patagonia in 1973 en route to becoming one of the most influential people in the outdoor world — enjoying the simpler side of life, Gellert went to work. He said it took about 18 months from that initial talk to figure out the details, but last fall Gellert and the outdoors clothing company announced a radical new business approach.

With Chouinard’s blessing, Patagonia’s ownership was transferred to the Holdfast Collective and the Patagonia Purpose Trust. The idea is that the collective controls the money, and the trust controls the voting stock within the company. Any profit that doesn’t go back into the business now goes into fighting climate change.

As Gellert put it Sunday, Patagonia is a for-profit business that just happens to give most of its profits away.

“He just kept continuing to believe there was value in Patagonia continuing to exist as a model for a different kind of business,” Gellert said of Chouinard. “I’ve got two young kids. I care about them deeply. The truth is there is zero chance they will inherit the planet in the shape that I grew up with. Period. I think that ship has sailed. I think it is humanly possible that we reverse the impact that we’ve had, but I’m not confident that we will. I feel like instead we got a responsibility to just show up and do everything we can.”

Baratunde Thurston, left, leads a discussion with Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, during a session of the Aspen Ideas Festival on Sunday inside Paepcke Auditorium in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Patagonia’s restructuring is a radical new approach to business and the fight against climate change. Still, Gellert, who became Patagonia’s CEO in 2020 amid the pandemic, never tried to play up the new model as anything that will save the planet, but as a small step in making real differences. He hopes other businesses will follow suit with similar thinking, but his experience talking to other executives paints a picture of sorrow.

“There is no business to be done on a dead planet,” Gellert said of what he likes to tell businesses that choose profit over anything else. “For people in companies that think in quarters, I don’t know how to wean you off that drug. But if you are thinking in decades, it seems to me it’s radically obvious the changes we need to make.”

Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, talks during a session of the Aspen Ideas Festival on Sunday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, talks with attendees after a session on Sunday in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Patagonia’s makeover also included internal policy changes, a key catalyst being the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. His death — Derek Chauvin was later sentenced to 21 years in prison for Floyd’s murder — led to protests across the country.

For Gellert, who wasn’t yet CEO when Floyd was killed, this led to a discussion on what else the company could do to make a positive difference in the world. The same sort of discussion Chouinard had already been having for decades.

“We probably got all the technologies that we need. All the solutions are available, if we can just deploy them,” Gellert said of what’s needed to fight climate change. “Then I thought to myself, isn’t that true about eradicating poverty? Isn’t that true with feeding the population around the world? Isn’t that true with equity, equality and justice? And it has been for decades, if not longer. We’ve just not demonstrated the will to do that.”

He continued, “I’m not terribly optimistic, but I’m deeply, deeply committed to doing everything we can to reverse the climate and ecological crisis.”

Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, talks during a session of the Aspen Ideas Festival on Sunday, June 25, 2023, inside Paepcke Auditorium in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Baratunde Thurston leads a discussion with Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, during a session of the Aspen Ideas Festival on Sunday, June 25, 2023, inside Paepcke Auditorium in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times