Hostages in 2016 standoff on Independence Pass sue gunman
Three men held hostage at gunpoint by a Colorado Springs man on Independence Pass last summer sued the gunman in Aspen District Court on Thursday.
Brian Buchanan, Mark Meredith and Blake Ramelb claim Brolin McConnell, 31, assaulted, battered and falsely imprisoned them during the ordeal July 28 on Lincoln Creek Road, according to the lawsuit. In addition, McConnell engaged in “extreme and outrageous conduct” and negligently inflicted emotional distress on the three men, the lawsuit states.
“All three plaintiffs have suffered serious mental and physical injuries because of being held hostage at gunpoint by (McConnell) on Independence Pass,” according to the lawsuit filed by Aspen lawyer Ryan Kalamaya. “Plaintiffs have missed work and continue to undergo treatment to cope with the extreme emotional stress of the incident.”
Buchanan and Meredith had planned to rock climb and camp along Lincoln Creek Road that day, but soon found out that soft-sided tent camping wasn’t allowed at the time because of bear activity, the lawsuit states. When they turned around to find another area, they passed McConnell, who walked up to them.
Buchanan asked if he needed help and McConnell said, “Hey guys, I’m a little lost,” according to the lawsuit. McConnell then pointed two handguns at the men and ordered them out of the car and repeatedly told the men he was going to kill them.
“(McConnell) shot multiple bullets at birds flying overhead with one of the handguns he was pointing at Buchanan and Meredith,” the lawsuit states. “Meredith thought he was going to die after seeing (McConnell) shoot at the birds.”
Ramelb pulled up 20 minutes later and McConnell ordered him out of his car at gunpoint. At one point, McConnell made the three men line up and told them “he was going to try and kill them with one bullet by shooting them through their heads,” according to the lawsuit.
Not long after, Buchanan and Meredith were able to run away when McConnell was distracted. Ramelb, however, recently had surgery on his foot and was wearing a walking cast that made it difficult for him to flee.
With Ramelb begging for his life, McConnell fired one shot toward his leg and another “that whizzed by his left ear,” the lawsuit states.
“(McConnell) started laughing,” according to the lawsuit. “Ramelb resigned himself to death.”
Ramelb was eventually able to limp away from McConnell, who was then arrested by police.
It is not clear why McConnell, a real estate agent, was in the Aspen area that day or what prompted him to take the men hostage. Tests later discovered only a small amount of marijuana in his system.
McConnell has been charged with numerous felonies and remains incarcerated at the Pitkin County Jail. His case is in limbo at the moment, however, because prosecutors have appealed a decision by District Judge Chris Seldin dismissing or reducing some of the charges.
The case will not move forward until the Colorado Court of Appeals issues a ruling.
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.