Deputy disciplined for firing weapon
ASPEN The Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy who fired an assault rifle into the tire of a vehicle involved in a police chase last week has been disciplined.Brad Gibson, a six-year veteran of the department who was recently promoted to detective, was suspended for one week without pay, will be on probation for six months and was barred from teaching regional firearms classes for six months. Sheriff Bob Braudis said Gibson acknowledged breaking department policy and agreed the punishment was fair. Gibson could not be reached for comment Monday.”[The suspect] was allegedly guilty of car theft, eluding and reckless driving,” said Braudis. “None of that warrants the use of deadly force.”The incident occurred July 23 as local law enforcement sought the driver of a ’97 Dodge Ram that was reported stolen. According to court documents, the driver of the vehicle had eluded arrest and was at one point speeding down Maroon Creek Road at speeds of up to 70 mph. Gibson parked his vehicle sideways in the road. The Dodge Ram approached and slowed to around 10 mph as Gibson pointed the assault rifle at the truck. When the driver swerved around Gibson’s parked sheriff’s vehicle, Gibson fired one shot into the truck’s front tire, according to court documents.The Dodge Ram later crashed in Aspen’s West End; officials confirmed the wreck was caused by driving on the rim of a tire that had shredded. Phillip Jordon Vigil, 27, of Denver, was arrested four hours later after allegedly stealing three other vehicles and leading police on high-speed chases through Aspen and Snowmass. He was charged with first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, second-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding, driving under revocation, aggravated driving under revocation, possession of a handgun by a previous offender and driving under the influence.”Brad did not know [Vigil] was armed,” Braudis said. “We do not shoot fleeing felons unless it’s the serial-murder kind.”The sheriff’s department used to assign shotguns to deputies, but switched to the AR-15 rifle – the civilian version of the M-16 rifle – because of the increased “effective range,” Braudis said. The gun has a high muzzle-velocity and a relatively small bullet, which Braudis said can easily ricochet and cause injury. “Once you’ve discharged a high-powered rifle, you’ve used deadly force,” Braudis said.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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