Gun incident at La Plata Peak trailhead linked to string of auto burglaries

The two men arrested for pulling a gun on a man sleeping in his car at a popular trailhead near Twin Lakes last weekend allegedly burglarized five or six cars between there and Utah, according to law enforcement documents.

A search of the men’s hotel room in Lakewood — where they were caught Saturday — turned up a “very realistic” BB gun as well as women’s clothing, jewelry, sunglasses, “random shoes,” backpacks with sports equipment, a set of golf clubs, multiple cellphones and chargers, electronic tablets, multiple screwdrivers, knives and a pry bar, according to an arrest warrant affidavit from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Also found were more than 40 gift cards valued at about $1,000.

One of the burglaries the men committed might have occurred in the Carbondale area, a Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputy said Wednesday.

Duane Sandridge, 49, of Durango or Silt or Salt Lake City, and William “Billy” Putnam, 25, of Salt Lake City, were being held at the Lake County Jail, according to a statement from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and 5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown. Sandridge has a Colorado driver’s license issued in Durango, Brown said, though an internet search turned up a LinkedIn profile stating that he lives in Silt. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said he’s from Salt Lake City.

At about 3:50 p.m. Friday, a 29-year-old man parked at the La Plata Peak trailhead parking area, next to Highway 82 west of Twin Lakes, called emergency dispatchers to report that two men pulled a gun on him, according to the affidavit. La Plata Peak is one of the 54 14,000-foot-plus peaks in Colorado, which attract sizable numbers of hikers and climbers.

The man said he’d been lying down in the back of his pickup with a camper shell on the back when he felt the truck shake, according to the affidavit. At that point, he saw someone looking into his car but laid back down again, the document states. Not long after, he felt the truck move again.

“The second time he looked and saw a white male ‘rifling through the cab portion of his truck,’” according to the affidavit. “(The man) exited his vehicle and ‘confronted the guy.’”

The man said Sandridge and Putnam were surprised at his presence and jumped into a white Jeep Patriot, the affidavit states. The man then opened the Jeep’s driver’s door “to address the men,” according to the document.

“(The man) said that (Sandridge) then ‘reached over and grabbed a gun and pointed it at me,’” the affidavit states. “(The man) said (Sandridge) said, ‘I’ll shoot ya’ two times.

“(The man) felt fear for his life.”

The man retreated after he was threatened with the gun, and the two men drove away in the Jeep toward Twin Lakes and Leadville, according to the affidavit. The man took note of the vehicle’s license number and reported it.

“(The man) was contacted by phone later and was still quite upset, stating he drove straight to his girlfriend’s house in Denver so he could hug her for a long time,” the affidavit states.

When caught at a motel in Lakewood, Sandridge “spontaneously” told a police officer he knew why he was being contacted and that “some guy thought I was breaking into his car,” the affidavit states. He said he had grabbed the gun to move it when he got into the Jeep after the man surprised him, but didn’t point it at the man, “so I really am the victim,” according to the document. Sandridge later said he never entered the man’s vehicle.

Putnam told law enforcement that he was acting as a lookout “per Duane’s instructions” and confirmed that Sandridge entered the man’s truck, the affidavit states.

“He saw Duane point the gun at the victim and say something about shooting the victim,” according to the affidavit.

Both men admitted to using methamphetamines at the time, and Lake County law enforcement found numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia in the Jeep and the Lakewood hotel room, the affidavit states.

“Billy stated they ‘hit’ 5 to 6 cars on their trip from Utah until (the La Plata Peak parking area incident),” according to the affidavit.

Also found in the men’s Jeep were multiple receipts indicating stops in Glenwood Springs and Aspen and numerous post office receipts for money orders, the affidavit states. The men allegedly rented the Jeep in Sandy, Utah, last week, according to a law enforcement bulletin sent out last weekend by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The men’s criminal histories include multiple vehicle burglaries, other thefts, assaults, fraud charges, narcotics charges, lying to police, weapons offenses and possession of stolen property, according to the affidavit.

Sandridge is being held in lieu of a $75,000 cash-only bond, while Putnam is being held in lieu of a $50,000 cash-only bond, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office statement.

They were each charged with aggravated robbery, menacing, criminal trespassing, aggravated motor vehicle theft, conspiracy, possession of burglary tools, prohibited use of weapons, reckless endangerment and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the Lake County statement.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a vehicle burglary at the Thomas Lakes Trailhead on the backside of Mount Sopris that occurred between Wednesday night and Friday morning, Sgt. Michael Buglione said. Women’s clothing, gift cards and a backpack were stolen in the burglary, he said.

While the incident at the La Plata Peak trailhead occurred Friday afternoon, information about it was not available until Wednesday.

That’s because Lake County Sheriff Rodney Fenske refused to release any information about the arrest until then — which appears to violate the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act — while a spokeswoman for the Lakewood Police Department said Tuesday she had no information about the incident besides the fact that her officers “detained” the two men Saturday.

Fenske’s statement Wednesday also neglected to provide the names of the two men arrested for the alleged crimes. That was left to Brown, the district attorney, who also released the arrest warrant affidavit Wednesday.


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