Man surrenders after 18-hour impasse outside of Aspen
September 11, 2012
PITKIN COUNTY – An Owl Creek Road resident surrendered to law enforcement officials Monday night following an 18-hour episode that began after he threatened to kill himself and shoot any vehicles that he saw, authorities said.
Because it was a mental-health issue and no charges were immediately filed, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office would not release the identity of the 36-year-old man. But those knowledgeable of the incident confirmed the alleged culprit was Edward Russ Armstrong, who has run afoul of the law before. Deputies took Armstrong into protective custody, and he was to be held overnight, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said.
“Depending on what charges he faces, I don’t know when he will be released,” DiSalvo said.
Armstrong’s alleged threats were not taken lightly by the Sheriff’s Office, which closed Owl Creek Road at 7:23 a.m. It reopened at 6:23 p.m., roughly 35 minutes after Armstrong turned himself in.
“He said that any car that drives by Owl Creek Road he will shoot at, and that’s what I consider a threat to any person who lives in Pitkin County,” the sheriff said.
DiSalvo called the outcome “a peaceful resolution which I’m really proud of, and coming after 18 hours of negotiations on the phone with the guy, I’m really happy we had the patience to negotiate with him.” Another person, whose identity was not released by the Sheriff’s Office, joined Armstrong at his home in the middle of the night. The man played a role in bringing Armstrong to authorities, DiSalvo said. The man does not face any charges but was held for questioning, the sheriff said.
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Both walked out of the cabin at the same time, DiSalvo said. There was no confrontation with law enforcement, he said.
Armstrong had been hunkered down in his cabin at 1370 Owl Creek Road, a property located about a mile and a half from Highway 82 and once owned by the Stapleton family and now in possession of a California limited-liability company. The Sheriff’s Office, in a statement issued Monday night, said it received a report of a suicidal man just after 11 p.m. Sunday.
“Based on conversations with the distraught individual, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputies learned of numerous threats to local law enforcement and citizens,” the statement said.
DiSalvo said the suspect fired some 25 to 30 rounds. The shots were allegedly fired early Monday morning. A neighbor said he heard the noise.
“It was just gunshots, or I guess gunshots,” said Owl Creek Road resident Kenny Broughton, a retired mechanic.
DiSalvo said the alleged gunfire, which did not damage anything, could lead to prohibited-use-of-a-weapon charges. The sheriff said he did not know what type of firearm was used or how many were involved. DiSalvo also said substances likely played a factor.
“I haven’t been in the house, but yes, as far as I know, he was under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol,” he said.
All told, about 30 emergency officials worked the episode, including at least 15 from the Sheriff’s Office and those providing mutual aid from the Aspen and Snowmass Village police departments, Aspen Fire Department and Aspen Ambulance District. A staging area was set up at the Aspen firehouse in the North 40 neighborhood.
Closing Owl Creek Road wasn’t the only precaution authorities took.
A bus from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority was used to block both lanes of Owl Creek Road near the red barn house, located roughly one mile west of Armstrong’s cabin. The bus was placed there to deter the two from trying to escape, DiSalvo said.
DiSalvo also said the Sheriff’s Office had Verizon, the cellphone carrier both Armstrong and the other man used, re-route all phone calls each placed to law enforcement.
“We told (Armstrong and the other man) that your cellphones are going to ring back to us,” the sheriff said.
Phone calls between Armstrong and Michael Buglione, director of operations for the Sheriff’s Office, were constant, DiSalvo said.
“It was him calling us, us calling him – the stereotypical police negotiations, if you
will, just trying to make a deal,” DiSalvo said. “Michael Buglione has been in hostage negotiations before, and he worked the phones from about 2 a.m. until about 5:30 tonight. He did an incredible job. Michael’s perseverance is a very difficult position to be in, but it’s the best approach in these types of negotiations.”
Deputies also told the other man that he faced criminal charges if he helped the suspect in any way, DiSalvo said.
The sheriff said his office had previous encounters with Armstrong but not in the past year or two.
Local law enforcement officials are familiar with Armstrong, who was arrested in December 2008 after he had a confrontation with two off-duty Aspen police officers at Aspen Brewing Co.’s old site on North Mill Street.
Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely gave Armstrong a six-month deferred judgment on charges related to harassment, disorderly conduct and attempted assault stemming from the brewpub transgression.
One year later, in December 2009, Aspen police cited Armstrong for driving while ability impaired, to which he pleaded guilty in January 2010. That April, Aspen police charged Armstrong with driving under restraining and being engaged in a “speed contest.” Prosecutors later dropped the charges.
Court records show that Armstrong was taking medications and undergoing psychotherapy as recently as 2009 for “his depression and other issues.”