Red-flag action in Basalt goes unchallenged, will stay in effect for one year
A judge this week approved Basalt Police Department’s legal request to hold a resident’s firearm for the next 364 days under the state’s red-flag law after finding the man poses a danger to himself and others.
District Judge Anne Norrdin’s written order came down Monday and on the eve of a hearing scheduled to determine if the man’s pistol should remain in the department’s custody until the first week of December 2023. The order was issued in light of “a recent act of violence by the (man with the firearm) against himself; the reckless use of a firearm in the presence of others; and the (man’s) ownership, access to, or intent to possess a firearm.”
Norrdin’s ruling was not challenged by court-appointed defense attorney Lucy Laffoon of Glenwood Springs, who said Tuesday that the man’s mental health was the biggest concern and he was agreeable to relinquishing his firearm. Laffoon also noted in a follow-up email Wednesday that the case in Basalt was different that the one in Colorado Springs, where a gunman last month killed five people at a gay nightclub. The previous year he had violent encounters but there were no attempts to seize his weapons under the red-flag law.
“My client reached a stipulated agreement in these proceedings recognizing the need for heightened safety measures for his wellbeing, the wellbeing of his family and his community and is currently getting the help he needs,” Laffoon said in an email Wednesday. “This case was not similar to what happened in Colorado Springs, although the red flag law is implicated when law enforcement and members of our community recognize that there is a mental health crisis that needs a heightened response.”
Norrdin met virtually and briefly Tuesday with Laffoon and lawyers for the Basalt Police Department, which has had possession of the resident’s pistol ever since officers were called to his home Nov. 9 for a report that the resident made threats of violence toward his relatives and pointed a pistol at his head, according to filings in Pitkin County District Court. Responding officer Sgt. Nino Santiago seized the firearm on that date.
Santiago returned to the residence Nov. 16 in response to a call that a woman locked herself in her room, “as she was scared” because the same man was showing same behavior as in the Nov. 9 incident. He also demanded that his guns be returned immediately, according to court filings.
Under Colorado state law, only law enforcement, a relative, or a household member can petition a judge to take guns away from a person showing troubling or dangerous behavior toward themselves or others.
Santiago took that step Nov. 17 when he filed for a temporary extreme-risk protection order (ERPO), which allows a judge to order weapons taken away for up to 14 days if the judge finds evidence of a threat. The pistol was already the police department’s custody from the Nov. 9 incident, but the man had not been charged with a crime and would soon be eligible to retain the firearm.
Norrdin approved the temporary ERPO, which expired Tuesday, when a hearing was scheduled to determine if the order should remain in effect, which can be up to 364 days, under state law. The individual also cannot purchase or use a firearm while the order is in effect.
Basalt Town Attorney Jeffery Conklin said the man “stipulated to the 364-day order” signed by Judge Norrdin, rendering no need for the hearing set Tuesday.
Laffoon noted the holiday season is difficult on people with mental health challenges.
A study released in 2014 by the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported 64% of people with mental illness said the holidays worsen their condition. More recently, in 2021, a report commissioned by telehealth company Sesame Care concluded that three in five Americans feel the holidays negatively impact their mental health.
“During the winter months and during the holiday season we need to be aware that there are neighbors and sections of our community that struggle with their mental health,” Laffoon’s email said. “The red flag laws are meant to protect our community and individuals from themselves that may or may not recognize the potential of harm they are capable of. In this particular case, my client made an outcry but did not threaten anyone else from his perspective. It is Important to note that families of people as well as a community involved in these red flag law proceedings are also experiencing the effects of a loved one suffering from severe depression whether there is a diagnosis or not. The red flag law is not in place to villainize an individual and weaponize a community against an individual’s suffering from mental health issues
Suicides, however, don’t occur most often during the holiday months, according to a September report from the National Vital Statistics System in conjunction with other agencies, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. December 2020 and 2021, in fact, had the second lowest number of recorded suicides for the entire year; April had the lowest number both years, according to the report.
Yet Aspen Hope Center “has seen a steady rise in crisis calls since the beginning of the pandemic, and the agency typically sees an increase in calls for support during the holiday season. This time of year can be especially difficult for many in the Roaring Fork Valley; and we expect to receive calls from loved ones concerned about a friend or family member, as well as from individuals calling for themselves,” said a statement from the nonprofit mental health service, in response to questions for this story.
The Hope Center noted that holiday time spent with loved ones and relatives, though “meant to be moments for celebration and joy, even with the best-laid plans in place, these times can be very stressful. Holidays can amplify stress for those who are pressured by the expectations or feelings of guilt, especially if they are unable to maintain the image of a perfect holiday. The pressure to be ‘in the holiday spirit’ can be burdensome, particularly for anyone who already struggles with a mental health issue.
“For those who have social support, the expectation of interacting with family members or reconnecting with friends can feel overwhelming, and even more so if relationships are strained. For those who do not have any social support, the holidays can exacerbate feelings of being alone. If someone is lacking a connection — either through isolation or geography — the loneliness can be debilitating. The holidays can also be an especially difficult time for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one. Traditionally marketed as opportunities for family gatherings, these ‘special’ days can instead serve as a painful reminder of what used to be.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis or considering suicide, there are 24/7 hotlines locally and nationally.
- — Aspen Hope Center: Call 970-925-5858.
- — Colorado Crisis Services: Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.
- — Mind Springs Health: Call 970-201-4299 to reach the assessment for admissions team.
- — National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255.
“People often underestimate the power of reaching out and asking, ‘How are you?'” the Hope Center’s statement said. “If you are concerned about a loved one struggling during the holidays, consider connecting via a text or a phone call. You may also invite them to get a cup of coffee, have lunch or even take a walk. Inquire about what would be most helpful for them, and listen and honor their response when you show up and support them. Simply put, stay connected, provide a listening ear, and let your presence be the present.”
For more information, read our previous coverage:
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