Homeless man, Aspen policeman scuffle en route to jail
The Aspen Times
A homeless man with a lengthy local criminal past was arrested Tuesday after allegedly striking an Aspen policeman while attempting to escape from a patrol vehicle as they were headed to the Pitkin County Jail.
Landin G. Smith, 50, was contacted by police late Tuesday afternoon in the East Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall following a report to emergency dispatchers of a man who was intoxicated and stumbling. When speaking with officers as he was sitting in an alcove, Smith was alternately rude and cooperative, arguing with officer Dan Davis and then hugging Detective Ian MacAyeal, according to a police affidavit.
Smith insisted to police that he was not intoxicated, the report said. Davis, who was familiar with Smith based on previous encounters, placed him in a patrol vehicle, but did not handcuff him because he had calmed down. Smith sat in the front passenger seat, strapped in by a safety belt, after the officers told him they would take him to detox but not jail, the affidavit said.
As Davis and Smith were en route to the detoxification unit at the Pitkin County Health and Human Services Building, Smith became verbally abusive and uncooperative, the report said.
“Smith began swearing at me when we reached Main Street,” Davis wrote. “Calling me a ‘mother f—-r’ multiple times and challenging me to fight. I tried to calm him down by asking him how his son was. This didn’t work and he continued his verbal assault. Smith threatened to ‘kick my ass.’ … He referred to me as a ‘p—y’ when I refused to answer him or pull over.”
As Davis attempted to make a U-turn on Main Street to take Smith to jail, Smith attempted to jump out of the car, forcing Davis to grab Smith with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. Traffic was bearing down on the vehicle, so Davis steered toward the south side of Main Street to avoid a collision, he wrote. He braked the car against a curb and a snowbank.
“Smith began kicking the windshield and window of the passenger door,” the report said. “He was yelling, ‘This is what you need…’ I still had him by the back of his shirt and he swung his left fist backward and as I saw the punch coming, I turned my face to the left and he struck me on the lower right part of my face and jaw.”
As they struggled, Davis was able to get his right arm around Smith’s neck and pulled him back in an attempt to control his movement, the report said.
“I kept telling Smith, ‘Stop!’ and ‘Landin, stop!’” Davis wrote.
Smith continued to swing backward toward the officer, according to the affidavit. He used his feet to push against the car, forcing Davis against the driver’s door. Davis said he was “trapped by my seatbelt and was unable to unfasten it because (Smith) was on top of it.”
Davis tried to radio for assistance, but Smith knocked the microphone out of his hand and continued to try to assault him, the officer wrote.
“We continued to struggle and I realized my right leg was feeling fatigued because I was still standing on the brake,” the report said. “I looked down and saw that the car was still in drive. I reached down and put the car in park and at this point, Smith’s flailing left arm grazed my face several times before I was able to get my left arm up to block his.”
As Davis renewed his efforts to keep Smith in a hold, the officer was able to request help on the police radio. Soon, two Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies arrived and rushed toward the Aspen police vehicle.
“As this was happening, Smith suddenly said, ‘I’m done’ and he relaxed,” Davis wrote.
Smith was taken to the Pitkin County Jail and booked on suspicion of second-degree assault of a peace officer, a felony, and resisting arrest, a misdemeanor.
During an advisement hearing Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court, Smith told Judge Gail Nichols he hadn’t assaulted anyone.
Nichols told Smith that if convicted of the felony, he faces a mandatory minimum of four years in prison. Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan said she understood the law to read a minimum of five years.
“I just completed four years in prison,” Smith said, referring to his Department of Corrections sentence after a 2009 conviction in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on a police officer.
That case stemmed from an incident at Koch Lumber Park. Smith scuffled with three Aspen police officers who contacted him to ask if he had been drinking, a violation of a bail-bond condition stemming from another arrest involving unlawful sexual contact with a minor.
Smith appeared in Aspen Municipal Court on Monday because of a misdemeanor trespassing charge. The court agreed to a disposition that included a 30-day suspended jail sentence and six months of unsupervised probation.
City Attorney Jim True said Wednesday he would wait to see how the case in District Court evolves before determining how to handle Smith’s apparent probation violation.
Nichols set Smith’s bond at $20,000. Bryan had asked for $50,000. Smith asked for a $1,000 bond.
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