Tragedy averted – again
September 14, 2012
For the past 18 months, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office has been on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism about its approach toward enforcing drug laws and its handling of personnel matters.
To us, much of the critique has lacked any real substance – just half-cooked conspiracy theories best served up in beauty salons and barbershops.
But no matter where one stands in their support of the Sheriff’s Office, or their dissatisfaction with it, Monday’s actions showed that preserving public safety in the face of danger is the department’s chief priority. And it does a pretty darn good job at it, too.
A 36-year-old man who lives off Owl Creek Road apparently had gone off the deep end. He reportedly was suicidal and was firing gunshots throughout the night. At one point, Edward Armstrong allegedly left his home in an SUV and is believed to have fired at least one shot from the vehicle.
By Monday morning, the Sheriff’s Office closed the road out of concern for motorists and anyone else. Armstrong allegedly was armed with three guns, and he wasn’t afraid to use them.
Different law enforcement departments have different approaches toward handling a situation like Armstrong’s. Some might confront the troublemaker head on. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo elected to grind it out.
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“We would have stayed there all week if we had to,” he said.
Michael Buglione, DiSalvo’s head of operations, spent much of the night and day – 18 hours for those counting – on the phone in negotiations with Armstrong. Buglione says Armstrong made threats toward him and an Aspen police officer.
Shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, cellphone carrier Verizon made it so all calls Armstrong placed went straight to the Sheriff’s Office. The same went for a friend of Armstrong’s who had joined him midway through the episode.
It was then that Armstrong realized he was a defeated man. Both he and his friend surrendered just before 6 p.m.
A “peaceful resolution” is how DiSalvo described the outcome. The sheriff used that precise phrase in April after his deputies arrested a Woody Creek man who had fired multiple gunshots from outside his home. Again, they could have confronted him head-on. Instead, they waited it out, positioning themselves strategically outside his home so that he could not see them. By dusk, the shooter had been taken into custody without confrontation.
The incident in April and Monday are episodes that made the newspapers. Similar incidents haven’t made the news, but the outcomes were the same, nonviolent ones.
Regardless of one’s feelings about the Sheriff’s Office, it’s indisputable that DiSalvo and his deputies have the skills and maturity it takes to turn a potentially bloody bout into a peaceful outcome. We commend them for their efforts.