Pitkin County elected officials moved to undisclosed location after receiving threatening emails
Arrest affidavit shows the content of emails sent to county officials
Two Pitkin County Commissioners were moved to an undisclosed location for two days this week after their lives were threatened via email.
The man accused of sending the threatening emails, Andrew Thomas Johnston, 26, was taken into custody on Wednesday in Colorado Springs.
Commissioner Patti Clapper received an email this past Sunday morning that had a subject line that read, “That ‘Off Time’ We All Judge You For,” according to an affidavit for Johnston’s arrest.
The content of the email read, “Peppermint Patti, My sweet. Darling angel. I have come into contact with spirits. These … spirits in particular creat (sic) a global distress. Contact supervision and Tell Them I’m going to kill that bitch,” according to the affidavit.
Clapper alerted sheriff’s deputy Grant Jahnke on Monday about the email, and she expressed her concern for people’s safety.
Another email with the same address came to Charles Matthews, the records custodian for the sheriff’s office, on Sunday morning.
The subject line read, “Threat. Extreme Threat.”
The content of the email read, “Hey man, Call the chairman or someone because I’m going to come shoot that place up.”
On Tuesday, County Manager Jon Peacock and Sheriff Joe DiSalvo decided to lock down the administration building, where commissioners meet and the sheriff’s office is located.
They also decided it would be safer to move Clapper and chairperson of the county commissioners, Kelly McNicholas Kury, away from their residences.
They stayed in a local hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday. The other three commissioners were told to remain in place.
“They did not think it was safe for me to be in the building or at home so we decided that it was probably in my best interest to go somewhere else because for a while we didn’t know where he was or what he was going to do,” Clapper said Thursday of the suspect.
She said it’s been an unsettling experience.
“As a person, that is a scary feeling and I still don’t have a level of comfort and I think it will be awhile before I do,” she said.
McNicholas Kury said the threats have made her question her effectiveness as an elected official.
“It troubles me when anyone in the public sector is subject to these threats and it’s scary to have our building locked down and employees evacuated under police escort because we are just trying to do our jobs and get some good things done,” she wrote via text message. “I agreed for me and my family to follow the sheriff’s recommendations out of an abundance of caution but I know for me, the fear and disruption of these situations makes me question if I’m accomplishing enough to make it worth it.”
Clapper said she was unaware at the time that Johnston had a violent criminal history in Aspen.
“I don’t know how I became his sweet darling angel,” she said. “I haven’t seen a picture of him so I don’t know who he is.”
Johnston is currently being held in the El Paso County Jail. Local law enforcement officials are working on extradition plans to bring him to Garfield County Jail, where Pitkin County inmates are being held while safety measures are improved here.
Johnston is charged with two counts of misdemeanor harassment.
Jahnke was able to determine the email address was Johnston’s based on an arrest report filed by the Aspen Police Department from a previous arrest.
Clapper said the reaction to the imminent danger by the sheriff’s office and county administrators was appropriate.
“It was not a knee-jerk reaction by any means,” she said. “We had to protect the building, the staff, the public and elected officials.
“In light of what’s going on in the country, some of these types of threats come to fruition so you have to take them seriously.”
With Johnston in custody, officials reopened the administration building on Thursday.
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Judge Mark Thompson, who presided over courts in Eagle, Summit, Clear Creek and Lake counties, will not resume his duties as a judge upon his eventual return from planned time off. He has been charged with a single count of felony menacing.