Glenwood cop shooting still unresolved
November 21, 2007
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Nearly four months after a police officer was shot in the line of duty, almost no further details about the unresolved investigation have been made public.
Nor has any specific information been revealed about why two 20-year-olds – Sergio Esteban Ramirez and Mauricio Villa Garcia Pena – were arrested in connection with the shooting then released after more than two weeks in jail. Ramirez said after being released that the two were put in the same cell, which he suspected was bugged.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson said he would not unseal any affidavits or warrants containing information about what led to the arrests without a court order.
“There are certain things that only the perpetrator knows and that we know as investigative agencies and law enforcement agencies, and in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation it would be unwise for me to ask the court to unseal that investigative file at this point,” he said.
Beeson said he couldn’t enter into a discussion about what led to the arrests – even if limited to details that wouldn’t compromise the investigation – because it would risk inadvertently disclosing something that could compromise it.
“The more we get involved in a conversation, the better the chances to inadvertently disclose something that should not be disclosed,” he said.
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Beeson only said probable cause led to the arrests. They were conducted with warrants signed by a judge. Formal charges were not filed, and the men were released because there was not enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.
The officer was shot July 29 while investigating suspicious activity near the Glenwood Springs Airport. He survived, thanks to a bulletproof vest, and now works for the Rifle Police Department.
Family members of Esteban Ramirez and Garcia Pena and defense attorney Ted Hess said law enforcement arrested the wrong men. They figured the arrests were made after accusations by Anthony Villegas and possibly others whom Ramirez was reportedly at odds with. Villegas was arrested on unrelated charges, but authorities said he knew something about the shooting. He was 19 at the time.
Authorities said the arrests were not mistakes and described the releases as a strategic decision to buy more time outside the time constraints of the courts.
“It was a mistake to make the arrests?” Beeson said. “No. The constitutional standard was met, and that standard is probable cause.”
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, whose office is heading the investigation, couldn’t be immediately reached Tuesday.
Beeson didn’t rule out the possibility the two men could be arrested again. Garcia Pena’s mother, Guilla Villa, said she hasn’t been contacted by police since the incident.
Beeson said it wouldn’t be a good law enforcement strategy to disclose more about the investigation, even if people are guessing about it for lack of information.
A fourth person was arrested in connection with the officer shooting, Beeson said, but the person passed a polygraph test. After determining that the person was not guilty, his office called a judge in the early hours of the morning and asked if that person could be released, according to Beeson.
Beeson said, “The judge said, ‘Yes, and by the way, the credibility of your office has just gone way up in my mind. To call me at this hour in the morning because you don’t want to keep somebody incarcerated that you don’t believe is guilty – that’s the kind of prosecutor I want to work with.'”
Beeson wouldn’t share further information about the fourth arrest. He said he remains confident about the investigation.
“I’m still confident, and I’m hopeful that we will get that break – whether it’s a lucky break or not,” he said. “I will never lose confidence in our investigative agencies or our law enforcement agencies here.”