Weapons demonstration spooks horses
The cause of a horseback-riding incident last week that sent five people to the hospital will apparently not be investigated by the Snowmass Village Police Department.
Five customers of Capitol Peak Outfitters were thrown from their horses while riding down Fanny Hill on Snowmass Mountain at about 3 p.m. Thursday. Three ambulances were dispatched to the scene, and an adult woman reportedly needed more than 30 stitches on her head.
Witnesses said the party was passing the retail mall area of Snowmass Village when the horses bolted after what sounded like a gunshot came from the Silvertree Inn.
A spokeswoman at Aspen Valley Hospital said four of the five riders, including at least two children, were treated at the hospital and released last Thursday. The victim who suffered a head injury was kept for observation, but has since been discharged. Most of the injuries were bruises and scrapes, according to emergency room records.
Snowmass Village Police Chief Art Smythe said the source of the noise was a “non-lethal” weapons demonstration outside the Silvertree. The hotel, according to a front desk employee, was hosting a convention run by the Rocky Mountain Tactical Team Association, a law enforcement group.
Smythe said the horses spooked after a “gun-like instrument” used to debilitate people without killing or severely injuring them was fired during the demonstration. One witness at the scene said the weapon looked like a shotgun.
But Smythe said the gun did not require any ear protection, the way rifles and pistols do, and stressed the man-ufacturer of the weapon and the individuals running the convention felt the demonstration was safe. At least two Snowmass Village police officers attended the demonstration, Smythe said.
“It’s not uncommon for people associated with conferences to do product demonstrations out on the slopes,” he said. He also conceded that this is the first time he’s heard of a demonstration involving weapons – lethal or otherwise.
The chief decided against a criminal investigation after determining the incident was an accident. “It’s a long way from an accident to criminal intent, or even criminal negligence,” Smythe said.
He added that the Aspen Skiing Co. took down names of people involved in the mishap and recorded other information about the incident. The Skico, however, has no connections to the outfitter, the hotel, or the law enforcement association.
The laws that may have applied to Thursday’s incident include a town of Snowmass Village ordinance that makes it a crime to intentionally spook a horse and a state law on prohibited use of weapons that makes it a misdemeanor when someone “recklessly or with criminal negligence discharges a firearm or shoots a bow and arrow.”
Smythe said the matter may still end up in court through a civil lawsuit.
When asked if an investigation would have occurred if a private citizen had fired the non-lethal weapon and caused the horses to spook, Smythe said yes. “I think anytime something like that happens, you want to make sure you understand what happened,” he said.
Capitol Peak Outfitters did not return calls yesterday seeking comment and the victims’ names.
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