Basalt council honors law officers for peaceful end to manhunt
The law enforcement agencies of the Roaring Fork Valley drew praise from the Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night for the peaceful ending of a manhunt for two fugitives last week.
The council gave a round of applause for the effort, and then Councilman Auden Schendler went into detail about how the incident could have ended differently and cast the valley in a whole different light.
“If you look at nationwide news, these stories are playing out differently,” Schendler said, referring to numerous incidents of African-American men being shot by police officers. “You had two African-American kids in the community, maybe with guns.
“Our story was, ‘Well, everything is OK,’ but ‘everything is OK’ takes a ton of work and a ton of effort and a lot of thought,” Schendler continued.
The Basalt Police Department and sheriff’s office’s of Pitkin County and Eagle County coordinated their efforts well, he said.
“It’s pretty remarkable that it turned out with nothing at all,” Schendler concluded.
Nicholaus Alexander Ameral, 19, of Carbondale, and his cousin, Benjamin Weeks, 19, of Tulare, California, were apprehended after a 37-hour manhunt stretching from 9:30 a.m. Feb. 21 until 10:22 p.m. Feb. 22. They are suspected of robbing a Carbondale convenience store at gunpoint Feb. 16.
The men disappeared after the robbery but resurfaced Feb. 21 when a bus driver noticed them board a bus in Snowmass Village. They transferred to a downvalley-bound bus at Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road and law officers took pursuit. The men jumped out of an emergency exit when the bus stopped to let out another passenger at Holland Hills, about 2 miles east of Basalt.
Ameral and Weeks ran through the Roaring Fork Club golf course and into the hills. They were able to lose their pursuers.
Law enforcement officials tracked the cellphone of one of the men and thought they were headed toward the Fryingpan Valley. On the night of Feb. 22, they observed a vehicle belonging to an associate of the men drive up the Fryingpan at about 10 p.m. The vehicle was pulled over when it re-entered Basalt 20 minutes later.
Ameral and Weeks were taken into custody after officers carried out a “high-risk” stop. The men were taken to Garfield County Jail, where they are being held on $100,000 bond each.
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