Two men in custody, another airlifted to hospital after ‘serious assault’ in Willits neighborhood
Two men were arrested Thursday for what police described as a “serious assault” against a third man in a townhouse in the Willits neighborhood of Basalt.
Daniel Matthew Wettstein, 35, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault and felony menacing, real/simulated weapon. He surrendered at about 11:15 a.m. after police officers from numerous Roaring Fork Valley jurisdictions established a perimeter around the residence, according to Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott. Wettstein yelled at officers but the arrest was made without incident, Knott said.
A second man, whose name wasn’t immediately available, was arrested nearly four hours after the incident began when a SWAT team formally known as the Eagle County Special Operations Unit surrounded the condo. The unit, comprised of law enforcement officers from the Eagle Valley, maneuvered a large, armored vehicle into place outside the townhouse at 548 Evans Court at about 1:15 p.m.
“They’ve moved in, taken position to try to make contact with who we believe is inside,” Knott said during the operation. “We’re just doing this incrementally in the safest way possible and getting the right resources in place.”
The second man surrendered without incident at about 2:15 p.m. After questioning, he was being taken to Eagle County Jail in a patrol car when he slumped over in the backseat and became unresponsive, Knott said.
The officer pulled over at the El Jebel Shell Station and called an ambulance. The suspect was put into the ambulance and transported to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. An officer rode along to guard him. The suspect was reportedly responsive after receiving medical care.
Knott said there was no action taken during or after the arrest that caused the man to blackout.
“There was no injury. It was a peaceful arrest,” he said.
The incident triggered anxiety in the midvalley when a “shelter in place” notice was sent out for residents in the area of Evans Court in Willits “for a subject in area with weapon.” The alert sent just after 10:30 a.m. advised people to remain in their homes and stay away from the area.
Numerous businesses in the Willits Town Center and West Basalt area, such as City Market, went into lockdown, though it wasn’t specifically advised by law enforcement. The notice was soon clarified that there was no danger to the community-at-large.
The incident was reported at 10:21 a.m. when the 911 center received multiple calls of a man on a townhouse roof screaming, “People are trying to kill me,” said Alex Burchetta, a Pitkin County deputy sheriff who helped as a public information officer for the incident.
When officers arrived, a resident of a different townhouse flagged them over and said the man who had been on the roof was in his garage receiving care. Police found the victim bleeding from his head and he reported he had been assaulted. He told the officers there was a handgun and rifle in unit 548, where he was allegedly beaten.
The victim was taken by ambulance to Valley View Hospital and later air lifted to a hospital in Grand Junction for treatment. He suffered facial fractures and lacerations, Knott said.
The assault was carried out “with hands and possibly other weapons,” he said. The man did not suffer a gunshot wound, according to Knott.
Because of the severity of the assault, the report of weapons in the residence and the unwillingness of the second suspect to exit the townhouse, police took a cautious approach. They surrounded the site, evacuated approximately 50 neighboring condos and called in the special operations unit.
They obtained the cell number of the second suspect and worked with the provider to establish his location via a process referred to as pinging.
“We pinged his phone. It did ping to the area,” Knott said. “We are seeing some movement in the (unit) and the light turned on.”
After the SWAT team moved into place, the suspect exited without incident. The special operations unit searched the home with permission of the owner but didn’t find anyone else inside, Knott said. There were reports from neighbors of a woman who has come and gone to the unit in the past, but there was no sign she was in the townhouse during the incident, according to Knott.
The two men who were arrested are roommates at the townhouse, Knott said, while the victim was a midvalley resident who said he was visiting.
Police said they didn’t have an explanation of what triggered the alleged assault. Knott said it was unknown whether any of the three men were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The police department was attempting Thursday afternoon to obtain a search warrant to enter the unit to investigate the incident.
Numerous displaced residents stood around the complex, discussing the events and anxiously waited to return to their homes. Authorities called in a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus for air-conditioned shelter, but few residents took the offer. There was a lot of speculation of a hostage situation, which proved unfounded. The shelter-in-place order was lifted at 3:15 p.m.
Wettstein was being held Thursday afternoon in Eagle County Jail on $7,500 bond. As of 6:45 p.m., the second suspect had not been booked into jail.
Law enforcement officers from Basalt Police Department, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, members of the Eagle County Special Operations Unit, Aspen Police Department, Snowmass Village Police Department, US Forest Service and the Colorado Department of Wildlife were on scene.
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