Aspen hotel desk clerk wrecks shuttle, spits on cop | AspenTimes.com

Aspen hotel desk clerk wrecks shuttle, spits on cop

Justin Duke

An employee of the Inn at Aspen allegedly got drunk in town early Saturday morning, hit a taxi while driving the hotel shuttle and then spit in a police officer's eye while being arrested at the hotel's front desk, according to court documents.

Justin Duke, 31, was taken to jail wearing a spit hood, and a Pitkin County judge ordered Monday that he be tested for communicable diseases. Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely also set a $10,000 cash-only bond because Duke has failed to appear in court four times in previous cases.

When Duke complained that he was too poor to post the high bond and would most likely lose his job and his housing, Fernandez-Ely read aloud the allegations against him, which include reporting to work drunk.

"I don't think your employer is going to keep you on, anyway," she said.

Police first received a call about Duke at 2:26 a.m. Saturday, when dispatchers received a report that a Wyndham Hotel shuttle hit a High Mountain Taxi in the 300 block of East Hopkins Avenue, according to an affidavit filed in District Court. The shuttle was gone by the time officers arrived, though the taxi driver was still at the scene.

The driver said he was parked in the middle of the street picking up a customer when he saw a white Chevrolet Suburban from the Inn at Aspen backing up toward him. A passenger in the taxi told the taxi driver the Suburban driver "was intoxicated and told him to 'watch out,'" the affidavit states.

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The taxi driver quickly reversed his vehicle back a few feet, but the Suburban hit it anyway, pushing the driver's mirror in but causing no damage. The Suburban then drove forward, sideswiped the taxi and drove off, according to the affidavit.

Both the taxi driver and the passenger told police they knew the Suburban's driver as "Justin," and the passenger also knew his last name, the affidavit states.

At that point, an owner of The Square Grouper bar approached an Aspen police officer and said Duke had been inside the bar earlier, "was visibly intoxicated and (was) asked to leave the premises," according to the affidavit.

Aspen officer Adriano Minniti found the Suburban at the Inn at Aspen with damage to the front and the driver's side, and the front tire shredded.

"It appeared that the tire had been driven on while flat and damaged the rim," the affidavit states.

The officer found no one at the front desk, and a number posted at the desk for those who needed assistance went straight to voicemail. However, another officer called Minniti and told him someone recognized Duke. Minniti knew that he worked at the hotel and lived at employee housing there, according to the affidavit.

Three officers went to the employee housing units, saw only one with the lights on and knocked on the door. Duke answered the door.

"Duke was visibly intoxicated as apparent from his stumbling and using things to assist him in making his way to the door," the affidavit states.

Duke told the officer he'd just started his shift at 11 p.m., even though it was 3 a.m. at the time. He also at first denied being at The Square Grouper, and then said he'd gone there to pick up a friend in a taxi. He denied driving the shuttle.

The officers and Duke then went to the hotel's front desk, where "Duke immediately made his way behind the desk like he was working," the affidavit states.

"I asked if it was OK for him to be drunk at work," Minniti wrote in the affidavit. "He said, 'It's the night shift, so I don't see how it matters.'"

The officers then went behind the front desk to arrest Duke, who tried to get away. Two officers wrestled with Duke and "put his chest on the front desk counter to avoid further resistance," according to the affidavit. Duke continued to resist and yelled that he didn't do anything.

Duke again began to fight when officers handcuffed him and tried to search him before placing him in a police car.

"While putting on his (seat) belt, Duke said he was going to put a bullet in his head and that it was going to be my fault," Minniti wrote in the affidavit, "then he spit at my face, hitting me in the left eye."

Duke was charged with DUI, assault on a peace officer, failure to notify authorities of an accident, careless driving and resisting arrest.

He protested his arrest in court Monday, saying he wasn't in a vehicle when he was arrested, and that police arrested him as he was walking out of his apartment.

"I don't drive the shuttle at all," Duke said.

Previously, he was convicted of driving while ability impaired in 2008 and resisting arrest in 2011, prosecutor Emily Nation said.

If he gets out of jail, he will have to be monitored for sobriety.

A message left for corporate representatives of the Wyndham hotel chain was not returned Monday.

jauslander@aspentimes.com