Pitkin County commissioner calls cops on large gathering of celebrants not practicing social distancing

Nobody better mess with Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper.

A group of young people drinking beer “shoulder to shoulder” in Rio Grande Park and not practicing appropriate social distancing learned that lesson Tuesday, when the five-term county board member and former nurse called Aspen police on them.

“If (one sharp-tongued young man) hadn’t have been so nasty to me, I probably would have walked away,” Clapper said Wednesday. “But he told me to call the cops, so I did.”

Clapper said she was walking past the park Tuesday evening when she saw a group of about 20 young people drinking beers together.

“They were standing shoulder to shoulder around a picnic table,” she said.

So Clapper said she went over, reminded those gathered that they were in the middle of a pandemic and suggested they spread out a bit and perhaps better observe Centers for Disease Control recommendations limiting groups to less than 10 people.

Some in the group explained that they’d just finished their last shift together at a local hotel and were celebrating, Clapper said.

“Then one young man got really nasty with me,” she said. “He told me to move along.”

Clapper said she told the young man “we were all in this together” and that she “didn’t want to have to call anyone.”

“He said, ‘Go ahead and call the cops,’” she said. “I said, ‘OK.’”

Aspen police received Clapper’s call about the matter about 6:15 p.m., though by the time an officer responded he found the party was “fizzling out,” according to a police report. The officer took no action.

Clapper said she later regretted her phone call to police, though not because she interrupted the celebration.

“I felt bad,” she said. “The police have better things to do.”


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