Pitkin County Democratic Party chair says he was assaulted while canvassing
The 72-year-old chairman of the Pitkin County Democratic Party said Thursday he was punched, kicked and thrown down a flight of stairs by a local resident while out canvassing earlier this week.
“He said, ‘If I see you again, I’m going to kill you,’” Howie Wallach said of his alleged assailant. “I’ve knocked on 10,000 doors. You do get grumpy people. I’ve never had this happen before.”
The incident occurred Monday at the Centennial affordable-housing complex at the base of Smuggler Mountain. Wallach said the 68-year-old man who allegedly assaulted him did not seem politically motivated and did not bad mouth the Democratic Party, but rather appeared to be incensed that he was trespassing.
Wallach, who was not injured, called Aspen police afterward but said at the time he didn’t want to press charges, Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said Thursday.
Wallach called back later Monday and said he wanted to press charges, though the delay meant officers had to investigate and will present what they find to prosecutors at the District Attorney’s Office, who will decide whether to charge the man, he said. The 68-year-old man Wallach accused of the assault had not been arrested or charged with anything as of Thursday afternoon.
The phone number belonging to the man Wallach accused of assaulting him was disconnected and attempts Thursday to reach him were not successful. Linn said the man denied physically touching Wallach, though Linn declined to release any other information because of the ongoing investigation.
Wallach said that as soon as the man opened his door Monday, he began screaming at Wallach that he was trespassing. Wallach told him he was not trespassing, and that it was legal for him to be canvassing for the municipal election next month.
That argument did not go over well, he said.
“He flew out the door at me and pushed me back,” Wallach said. “I fell against a pillar next to the stairs and went down (to the ground). Then he started punching and kicking me. Then he kicked me down the stairs head first.”
He said he came to rest midway down the flight of metal stairs, then picked himself up, retrieved his hat and glasses from the ground and told the man he was going to call police.
“He said, ‘Go ahead,’” Wallach said.
Despite the intensity of the alleged attack, Wallach said he was not injured, mainly because it was a cold day and he was heavily bundled up. He said he refused police officers’ offer of an ambulance and felt they were skeptical of his assault claims because he was not injured.
“The cops really doubted I went down the stairs,” he said.
A local man canvassing with Wallach witnessed the alleged attack and mostly corroborated Wallach’s version of events, Linn said.
Not only was Wallach not injured, he and the other man continued canvassing at Centennial after the incident, Wallach said.
“That was a good thing,” Wallach said. “(Canvassing) went back to normal.”
However, when he arrived home, his wife was concerned about what happened to him and took him to the emergency room, he said. And while an ER doctor didn’t think he’d sustained any injuries, he decided he did want to press charges against the man.
“I’m sore,” he said. “My back was twisted. But there’s no real injuries.”
Linn said officers continue to investigate the case and will provide the information to the DA’s Office in the near future.
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