Woman sought in trooper shooting
November 9, 2006
Police are looking for a woman and have arrested a man in connection with a continuing investigation related to the shooting of a Colorado State Patrol officer Oct. 24.Nichole Brownell, 39, was being sought Thursday on a charge of being an accessory to attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer. Wayne Daniel Hangs, 44, was arrested at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday evening on felony charges of being an accessory to a crime and tampering with physical evidence, and a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer.Hangs was taken to Garfield County Jail and later freed on $5,000 bond.Authorities went to Brownell’s residence Thursday after a warrant had been issued for her arrest. However, they learned that she had fled the residence in the company of her boyfriend, according to a news release from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.District Attorney Martin Beeson said Thursday night he could not release the name of Brownell’s boyfriend. Police believe he and Brownell are driving a silver Ford Mustang with unknown Utah plates. They think Brownell may be staying around Glenwood Springs, Rifle or Parachute. Both have strong ties to the Grand Junction area and people involved with methamphetamine, authorities say.The man who shot and seriously injured Trooper Brian Koch near Silt also is believed to have been tied to that meth community. Police say Steven Appl, 33, who lived outside Battlement Mesa, shot and killed himself in a vehicle that was stopped at a police checkpoint south of Silt the day after the officer’s shooting. They say Cori Graham, 27, of DeBeque was driving the vehicle. She was arrested at the scene on suspicion of being an accessory to a crime, tampering with evidence and obstructing a peace officer.Graham allegedly had been driving Appl from where he had been hiding in the bedroom of a home where Hangs and Brownell live up Dry Hollow Road. In a statement to police detailed in an arrest affidavit, Graham said Brownell had her drive Brownell there, and it was only when they arrived that Graham realized Appl was there.She said Brownell and Appl then instructed her to drive Appl down to Silt, where she would leave the car with him and Brownell would pick her up later.Brownell had pleaded guilty to local meth-related charges in Rifle in September, and faced new meth charges in Mesa County in October. She is scheduled to be sentenced on the Garfield County charges this month, although her plea agreement with prosecutors may no longer be in effect because of the new charges against her.Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney said he doesn’t believe Brownell poses nearly the same danger to the public that Appl did while he remained at large after Koch’s shooting. But he added, “I think in light of what Officer Koch experienced, you have to be leery of every person (associated with the case); we’re concerned about every person. … I think a cautious attitude is what I have toward Ms. Brownell, based on affiliation I guess.””I’m confident that she’ll be found,” Cheney said. “We know every place that she probably can be hiding. She’ll be found; she’ll be apprehended.”He said there was some concern that Brownell was a flight risk after she was identified in Graham’s arrest affidavit as having played a possible role in harboring Appl. But he said authorities didn’t immediately have enough information to support her arrest.”I think people expect before a warrant is sought that law enforcement has a good case to make. We don’t do that lightly; we don’t seek a warrant lightly,” Cheney said.He said investigators had to analyze reports from numerous investigative authorities before deciding whether charges against Brownell and Hangs were warranted.”I think that the picture, it appeared that the picture wasn’t crystal-clear initially on who exactly was involved in the harboring aspects, who knew where Appl was, who knew what he was wanted for, what law enforcement was looking for him for,” Cheney said.Authorities also had to consider conflicting statements from targets of the investigation about who may have played what role in helping out Appl.”When you have individuals who are all trying to protect their own interests, you’re going to get some misstatements and inconsistencies. The peril of doing that is eventually the truth will come out,” Cheney said.In a brief telephone interview with the Post Independent after Graham’s arrest, Brownell had disputed Graham’s description of what happened when Appl tried to flee the area, and contended that Graham had acted of her own free will. Brownell added, “I don’t have anything to hide.”According to a search warrant related to the Appl case, another witness told police Brownell had been confronted by Appl in the home when Brownell stopped to use the rest room there, and that he warned Brownell not to call the cops, and that he would kill her and anyone else who came into the house, including police.Cheney said he didn’t know if there might be more arrests in connection with the Appl case.”We’re going to investigate this in every direction it takes us,” he said.