Rape suspect caught in G’wood
Brent J. Brents is a big-time criminal, a convicted felon accused of committing a string of recent rapes in Denver.About 10:30 p.m. Friday, he was being pursued by members of a small-city police department. The biggest arrest by Glenwood Springs police in recent months may have come Dec. 18, when they caught two men accused of stealing sewing fabric and knickknacks from downtown stores, arresting one suspect as he tried to escape via an alley. When it came to experience with serious crime, Brents had the edge on Glenwood Springs police. But they had one big edge over him: He was on their turf, not his.As Brents fled through the streets of town Friday night in what police say was a stolen Mazda, he chose a route that officers knew offered him no exit. Heading east on Donegan, he turned up Traver Trail, and then onto Transfer Trail.This time of year, motorists can’t get far up that road unless they’re on snowmobiles.Brents “made his real serious mistake in trying to zoom up Transfer Trail,” police chief Terry Wilson said.”It was the wrong place to try to get away in a little car. … It was a bad call on his part, a lack of local knowledge.”It was that, and some other things as well: a good tip from Denver police, and what Wilson and others say was good basic police work by the local police department. In December, such work led to the arrest of small-time burglary suspects. This time, it brought about the arrest of an accused serial rapist who was the subject of a massive manhunt after eluding police in Denver for a week.Brents, 35, is suspected of sexually assaulting at least five women and girls in the past nine days in the same Denver neighborhood. He also is suspected of raping a woman in a Denver alley in October, according to a federal arrest warrant.”I think our police department did an outstanding job. Obviously they knew he was coming but somebody was on the ball,” said City Councilman Joe O’Donnell, a retired Denver police lieutenant who lives in the Traver Trail area, near Transfer Trail.
Wilson credits Sgt. Mike Young with deciding to deploy officers after Denver police said they were tracking a signal from a cell phone that Brents had reportedly taken, and believed he was headed west on Interstate 70.”He acted on it. They did things right. They had people positioned properly. He managed the pursuit safely and properly,” Wilson said.Several young officers played major roles in the arrest, Wilson said. When police deployed in north Glenwood to look for the stolen vehicle, officer Bo Harrison first spotted it. Luke Andre then provided backup to Harrison.Wilson said officer Matt Gronbeck was training a new policeman, Guy Ryan, and they joined in the pursuit – “quite a training exercise for a brand-new guy,” Wilson said.Wilson said Brents drove west on I-70 to West Glenwood, then got off and headed east down Donegan.The chase ended on Transfer Trail when Brents put his car into reverse and bumped a patrol car, Wilson said. He said it was unclear if Brents was trying to ram the car or just elude police.”At that point additional officers had arrived and he gave up quite peacefully,” Wilson said.Brents was unarmed, Wilson said. Neither car suffered much damage. “It was a real low-speed thing,” Wilson said.Wilson declined to release the name of a woman who was in the car with Brents when he was arrested. Denver police characterized her as a victim, though they did not immediately say whether she had been kidnapped.After consulting with the local District Attorney’s office, Glenwood police decided to hold off on filing charges against Brents so he could be returned to Denver to face rape charges there.Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Brents left the county jail to be returned to Denver Saturday morning. He is being held there in lieu of $25 million bail.
A former Glenwood Springs officer, Vallario is pleased with the role local law enforcement played in delivering Brents into the hands of Denver police.”If feels good because obviously we don’t want this guy out victimizing other people,” Vallario said. Brents is a pedophile who had spent 14 years in prison for sexual assault before the current string of alleged attacks.Vallario went to a 4-H conference in Larkspur this weekend and said chaperones locked the doors because Brents was still on the loose.”It’s like one person could terrify a whole community or a whole state. … I’m just glad he’s off the street,” Vallario said.Brents is about as high-profile a criminal as either Vallario and Wilson can recall being involved in arresting during their lengthy careers in local law enforcement.Vallario remembers a case about 14 years ago of a bank robber from Colorado Springs who wound up in the Silver Spruce Motel in Glenwood before being apprehended.”We deal with those and then we just kind of move on to the next thing,” he said.For Vallario and Wilson, Brents’ arrest is a reminder that while Interstate 70 has benefits, a fair number of unsavory characters drive through local communities en route to other places.”A lot of people refer to that as the main sewer line in Garfield County,” Vallario said.He sees it as a pipeline for drug traffickers and other criminals. “We’d probably all be surprised if we were somehow actually able to survey all those people who come through,” he said.
Said Wilson, “It’s pretty spooky at times if you really think about it. It’s kind of like if you ever sit on the railroad track and see all the hazmat stuff on the tankers. You’ve got a lot of hazmat stuff going by in cars too.”We’ve caught some really seriously bad people” who were passing through on I-70, he said.He remembers a case of a man who was stopped by police asking for help with gas money. Wilson ran a criminal check on his name and arrested him after learning he was wanted in Denver for an assault on a woman who had been left for dead.”It feels really good to help out with something like that,” Wilson said. Garfield County’s record is mixed when it comes to handling high-profile criminals. In 1977, serial killer Ted Bundy escaped from the county jail, enabling him to go on and commit more murders.This time, local law enforcement’s actions may have kept a rapist from striking again.Wilson also credits Denver police for their role in putting out the information that led to Brents’ arrest.”This is the way it’s designed to work, with communications and information flow between agencies. That’s what we do for each other,” Wilson said.Councilman O’Donnell said he’s glad no one was hurt in the arrest. “This was a certified bad guy. He is a sicko,” O’Donnell said.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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