Suspect arrested in Old Snowmass for alleged threats against Summit County school officials
Charles Draughn, 26, was taken into custody at an Old Snowmass residence Wednesday morning after allegedly making threats online to Summit County school district officials. Schools throughout the Roaring Fork Valley went on “secure” status earlier in the morning until the arrest.
He was arrested at 10 a.m. on suspicion of felony menacing, misdemeanor menacing, and interference with staff/faculty, students of educational students, according to a press release from the 5th Judicial District, where Summit County is located.
On Tuesday, he posted comments on Summit Daily News’ Instagram account that threatened teachers and school district staff, including Summit County Schools Superintendent Tony Byrd, the press release states.
All schools in Pitkin County went on “secure” status at 8:50 a.m., according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
“Secure” status means no one may enter or exit a building, but students and staff go about business as usual within the building, Aspen High School Principal Sarah Strassburger said.
Schools in the Roaring Fork School District and Garfield School District serving Glenwood Springs went into “secure” status “out of an abundance for caution and safety of students and community,” according to the Carbondale Police Department.
Draughn’s phone GPS location was at a local business in Carbondale, according the police.
“The man’s car was found in the parking lot,” the Carbondale Police Department said in a statement. “The man had started his shift and was tracked to Old Snowmass. The man was located and safely taken into custody by Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies, officials said.
Watson Divide Road and Snowmass Creek Road were closed earlier in the morning “to restrict the public’s access to the Old Snowmass area of Pitkin County to ensure the public’s safety and to allow law enforcement to operate safely,” according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
The road closures were lifted at 10:15 a.m., and all the school districts were released from secure status shortly after the arrest.
“Our students and staff followed our directions perfectly, and we continued instruction. Everyone is safe,” Strassburger wrote.
Draughn was booked into custody of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, will be transported to Summit County, and is held on a $100,000 cash or surety bond, authorities said.
“The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office wants to thank the Carbondale Police Department, Snowmass Police Department, Aspen Police Department, Basalt Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Dillon Police Department, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Garfield Sheriff’s Office, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for their participation in the safe apprehension of this wanted individual,” the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said in their statement.
“We know that situations like this are frightening for staff, students, and parents alike,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez said. “The safety of students and staff is our first priority, which is why we implement our protocols whenever there is any possible threat to safety.”
Originated with Instagram threats
Early Wednesday morning, the Summit County School District sent an email to families alerting them to an increased police presence at all schools “as multiple law-enforcement agencies investigate a threat outside of Summit County.”
The email, which was shared with the Summit Daily, stated that students and staff at school Wednesday were safe and that the threats were made against administration, not students. The school district restricted visitation and planned to hold recess indoors, but schedules operated as normal, according to the email.
Just before noon, the school district sent another email to families stating that law enforcement had resolved the situation, and all school operations would return to normal.
The incident stems from threatening Instagram comments allegedly made by Draughn on Tuesday, according to the Summit County District Attorney’s Office.
An Instagram profile posted several statements to the Summit Daily’s Instagram page on a post about Summit School District leaders defending an LGBTQ+ resolution.
That post linked to and contained information from Summit Daily reporting on a Jan. 12 meeting of the Summit School District Board of Education. About 100 people turned out to that meeting, many demanding board members rescind the resolution and refrain from teaching anything related to gay, queer, and transgender identities to kindergarten through third-grade students.
School officials at the time defended the resolution and said sexual content is not taught to the district’s youngest students.
After the meeting, district Superintendent Byrd told the Summit Daily that the public comments “absolutely got more aggressive than I’ve ever seen in this district and, frankly, more aggressive than I’ve seen in my career” and described a concern for school officials’ safety.
The Instagram user took aim at Byrd and Summit County teachers in the comment section on Tuesday, making comments like “people WILL start d Y i NG in summit county,” “the teachers in summit they will know my name and my ar really nicely,” and “Tony Byrd will stop breathing soon.”
Byrd said Tuesday that there is no evidence that the commenter making threats was responding to the resolution in support of LGBTQ+ students. He continued to defend the resolution, which he said came in response to a Colorado Board of Education mandate requiring school districts to include BIPOC and LGBTQ+ representation in their standards by academic year 2024. (BIPOC is an acronym for black, indigenous and people of color.)
“We are not teaching sexual education in kindergarten through third grade,” he reiterated. “And we are not demanding the use of pronouns in our schools, certainly not in kindergarten through third grade.”
Community members will have the opportunity in the coming weeks and months to review the materials related to the new state mandate, he said.
“A simple way to try to put this is that you will see representation from LGBTQ+ communities and representation of black, indigenous, and people of color,” he said.
That could, for example, include textbooks or materials with images and narratives of people of color and those from traditionally underrepresented groups, Byrd said. He said he understands that may be difficult or uncomfortable for some people, but that is why it is important that the community works together on these materials.
“We have a theme that every student should feel like they belong in our system,” he said. “And we have plenty of reports from LGBTQ+ students that they feel they don’t belong.”
While Byrd noted LGBTQ+ students are not alone in this feeling, he said it is important for schools to be supportive and inclusive — and for the community to model that behavior, as well.
“We stand by that value, and that has not changed,” he said.
“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our students every single time, and our staff,” he said. “We consulted with law enforcement, deemed it was safe to come to school, and we are thankful that this gentleman is in custody.”
The Summit Daily news contributed to this report.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at email@example.com.