Guns and anger flare in the Fryingpan

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

A combative landowner in the Fryingpan Valley apparently has made good on threats to shoot at perceived trespassers during hunting season, according to police reports and court documents.

Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies arrested Glen Russell Bear, 46, on Wednesday and charged him with felony menacing after a group of five men reported that Bear fired a shot at them with a .38 caliber or .357 caliber revolver Monday, according to an arrest warrant filed in District Court.

The shooting is the latest in a string of incidents involving Bear, his father, other Miller Creek area landowners and the U.S. Forest Service since August, according to police reports and officials.

Monday’s incident began with a phone call to dispatchers from Bear at about 4 p.m. reporting that a group of 16 people “were tearing up his water spring on his land” located on Miller Creek Road, according to Bear’s arrest warrant.

A deputy met with the group of people a mile up Miller Creek Road, who said they’d been clearing trees from the road they believed were put there by Bear to prevent people from accessing Miller Creek Forest, the warrant states. All denied disturbing Bear’s spring.

Five men in the group told the deputy they were removing trees from the road near Bear’s cabin when he came out, pulled out a revolver with a 7-inch barrel “and fired one shot in the general direction of the gate that is on Miller Creek Road near his house,” the warrant states.

The five men all said they were in fear for their lives, that none of them had brandished a weapon “and they thought Bear had shot at them and was going to continue shooting,” according to the warrant.

One of the men told the deputy that “with all my experience as a combat veteran for 10 years and eight years as a police officer, this was one of the more threatening encounters I have ever had as a civilian,” the warrant states.

The men left the area after the shooting and reconvened at an upper gate on Miller Creek Road that the rest of the group was working on removing. While at that gate, Bear “drove his truck toward them in a fast and aggressive manner,” causing two of the men to draw hunting rifles to defend the group against Bear, the warrant states.

“Bear yelled obscenities at the group, took pictures, then turned around and drove away,” according to the warrant. “Bear did not brandish his firearm at the time.”

On Aug. 20, Bear’s father, also named Glen Bear, called deputies to report that a gate he installed on Miller Creek Road had been removed, according to a police report. He warned the deputy “over and over” at the time “that if this was not handled very soon, someone was going to get shot,” the report states. A neighbor told the deputy at the time that “the Bears were very dangerous and carry guns and threaten people and hunters all the time,” according to the report.

Then on Sept. 16, the younger Bear told deputies he encountered two people trespassing on his property and wanted the Sheriff’s Office to investigate, according to a police report. The deputy told Bear he would not respond because the Sheriff’s Office could not determine if Miller Creek Road belonged to Bear or the Forest Service, the warrant states.

“Bear became very angry and told me that it is his property and if we don’t deal with the trespassers appropriately, we (the Sheriff’s Office) will pay for it come springtime,” the report states.

Asked to elaborate on the statement, Bear told the deputy he would sue the Sheriff’s Office for damages caused by the trespassers and that “somebody will ‘get shot,’” the report states. The deputy advised him to stop making threats and that he had no legal grounds to threaten to shoot people trespassing on his property.

One of the men confronted by Bear later told deputies that Bear pointed a shotgun at him when he approached a gate on his property, the report states.

“Bear told him that (he) needed to leave Bear’s property immediately or Bear was going to shoot him,” according to the report. “Bear also stated that (he) was not to return or Bear was going to shoot him.”

The man said he was armed with a handgun, but couldn’t draw it because Bear was pointing the shotgun at him and he was in fear for his life, the report states.

Karen Schroyer, district ranger for the Aspen Sopris Ranger District, told Pitkin County commissioners about the dispute and volatility of the situation during a meeting Tuesday. The Forest Service, in conjunction with Pitkin County, is planning to install signs at the start of Miller Creek Road saying that public access is closed 2 miles up the road because a private landowner installed a locked gate, she said.

The signs will direct those wanting to access Miller Creek Trail to go through the Ruedi South Shore subdivision, Schroyer said.

She told commissioners that while the Forest Service is attempting to negotiate with the landowners who installed the gate, she didn’t “have much faith in the process” and expected the dispute to end up in court if negotiations break down.

“I don’t think the signs will last that long,” Schoyer told commissioners.

A court case could last years, she said.

In an interview Thursday, Schroyer said the Forest Service doesn’t have the funds to deal with issues like this in low-use areas such as Miller Creek. She said the issue has “heated up” recently because of hunting season.

“We’re asking both sides to put your guns down and let’s work this out civilly rather than using threats and violence,” Schroyer said.