Liquor-store crook gets 6 years
EAGLE — Rodrigo Ivan Aguilar was 17 years old when he stormed into El Jebel Liquors and robbed it, threatening the panic-stricken clerk with a gun and a butcher knife.
Aguilar is now 18 and will be at least 24 when he’s released from custody after admitting he committed the crime.
On Wednesday, District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman sentenced Aguilar to six years in the youth offender division of the state prison system.
During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Assistant District Attorney Joe Kirwan played a video of the robbery.
The video showed Aguilar robbing El Jebel Liquors on March 10. He was dressed in a white sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head. He had a mask over his nose and mouth and sunglasses hid his eyes.
As he demanded money, in his right hand he waved a knife with an 8-inch blade near the cashier’s face.
In his left hand, he brandished what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun held sideways. It turned out to be a BB gun. The cashier was visibly panicked when Aguilar thrust the gun to within a foot of her face and pulled the trigger. The gun clicked, but did not fire.
He fled the store with $400 in cash and checks stuffed into a grocery bag he had brought with him.
Eagle County sheriff’s deputies quickly caught Aguilar in a trailer near the store after they received a report about one of the checks he had stolen. He used some of the cash to buy a prepaid phone card, prosecutors said.
Dunkelman called the video “shocking.”
“It emphasizes how serious this crime was,” Dunkelman said.
Dunkelman could have sent Aguilar straight to state prison for 10 years but chose to put him in the youth offender system, where he can get counseling and job-skill training.
“When you’re 18, six years sounds like forever. It’s not. You can come out of this program with skills to be a productive member of society. If you go to the Department of Corrections, you will not,” Dunkelman said.
To sentence him to regular prison is to ignore the fact that Aguilar was 17 when he committed the crime, Dunkelman said.
“The youth offender system was designed for someone like you,” Dunkelman told Aguilar.
However, the judge made it clear that 10 years in state prison is hanging over Aguilar’s head. If he fails in the youth offender system, he goes straight to prison.
“I will not see you again,” Dunkelman said.
Victims have their say
Aguilar, who is in the country illegally, shot off bear-repellant spray in Basalt High School just days before his probation was up for a previous infraction. A few days later, he robbed El Jebel Liquors.
Gloria Deschamp, owner of El Jebel Liquors, said the robbery traumatized the cashier and local business owners.
“He called her a f—ing bitch and said that he’d blow her head off,” Deschamp said. “He held the gun a foot from her face, pulled the trigger and laughed at her. It has pulverized her life, and there is no going back.”
She now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as intense flashbacks and “deathly fear,” Deschamp said.
Deschamp said every business owner is now on heightened alert and is wary about who enters the store.
“Mr. Agullar has shaken the foundation of trust in our community. I’m angered that he has been able to destroy in five short minutes what we have taken so long to build,” Deschamp said.
While Aguilar was robbing the store, several Eagle County sheriff’s deputies were already in the vicinity on another call and were at the liquor store about two minutes after the 911 call came in.
Deschamp pointed out the escalating nature of Aguilar’s crimes.
“He took the elevator from the parking garage to the criminal penthouse,” Deschamp said.
Aguilar’s father, also named Rodrigo, told the judge his son fell in with a bad crowd.
“That’s what led him to do this,” he said.
Wednesday’s sentencing hearing was the first time his father had seen the video.
“What he did was bad, and I don’t know why he did it. I was surprised. I didn’t think he was capable of doing that,” he said.
As for Aguilar himself, he apologized to the victim, the liquor-store owner and the community for the trouble he caused. He said Wednesday’s sentencing hearing was the first time he’d seen the video.
“I didn’t know I was able to do something like that. I am very regretful,” he said though an interpreter.
Aguilar has been in jail for the better part of a year.
“All this time spent in jail has helped me reflect on my mistakes and the damage it caused. I know I made mistakes, but I learned from my mistakes. I caused a lot of harm, and I am very regretful,” he said.
He asked for another opportunity to “move forward and behave well,” saying he is “not a bad person.”
District Attorney Bruce Brown disagreed.
“Mr. Aguilar may have been a juvenile when this crime was committed, but his actions were those of a fully competent, dangerous adult,” Brown said. The victim in this case, who has suffered severe mental trauma from facing down a gun and having the trigger pulled while aimed at her head, deserves to see justice done. The maximum sentence was, in my mind, the only possible option.”
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With a response rate to the 2020 Census survey below 40%, Pitkin County’s population appears to have been undercounted by at least 850 people.