On Sunday, August 27, Danny Taylor, the armed man who has taken to standing on the north side of the intersection of First and F Streets in downtown Salida, donned, in addition to an AR15 pattern assault rifle, a megaphone instead of the upside-down American flag he usually carries. He began broadcasting speech directed at Ark Valley Voice.
Law enforcement officials contacted in regard to this incident have dismissed it, claiming Taylor is just exercising his First and Second Amendment Rights.
But what ensued that afternoon calls into question whether a single individual’s right to possess an acknowledged dangerous firearm supersedes the rights of dozens of others who feel threatened by it, to both feel safe in their own businesses or travel peacefully through our city free from fear or intimidation.
Interviews with local business owners, employees, and visitors suggest they overwhelmingly favor feeling safe and secure and their primary emotion was fear.
In an incident that afternoon, Alison Brown, the owner of the Twitchell building located on the northeast corner, was attending a Rotary event near the Arkansas River. As she walked back to go to her office, she saw the man standing with his rifle broadcasting a message directed at Ark Valley Voice. which rents office space in the Twitchell building.
Taylor, who is also usually wearing body armor, was the subject of an Ark Valley Voice investigative article the previous week. According to a police body-worn camera (BWC) video, Taylor said he was simply reading the AVV article about him and he didn’t know the location of Ark Valley Voice offices. However, in the video, AVV sign is clearly visible in the background.
Knowing AVV had published a story concerning the armed man and hearing his broadcast made Brown, a former officer in the British Army, pause. “I’ve shot machine guns and military rifles before,” said Brown. “I know their capabilities and I did not feel comfortable entering my building with him standing right across the street.”
Brown and the friend with whom she was walking, stopped at another business on F Street about a block away from the armed man. Brown called the Salida Police non-emergency number. The initial dispatcher she contacted informed her that they had received many calls about Taylor. But the dispatcher told Brown there was little the police could do because he was “harmless” and “he was exercising his First and Second Amendment Rights.”
Brown said she respected his right to freedom of speech but felt threatened because of the circumstances and the rifle slung on his chest. She asked if an officer could at least come to stand on the corner until she went into her office, grabbed some items, and then left.
A Salida Police Officer contacted her via phone a short time later.
Brown says she was shocked when the officer informed her it “is a crime to falsely report an incident” to police. “I just wanted them to stand there while I went into my office and left. I wasn’t planning on being very long,” Brown told AVV.
When the officer immediately advised Brown of her own potential criminal liability, Brown suggested to the officer that he (the man with the gun) was, in fact, in violation, of another Colorado Statute; Disorderly Conduct.
The officer told Brown that they had spoken to the man before and he was only exercising his rights. Brown repeated to the officer that she respected the man’s right to free speech and did not want the officer to arrest him but felt threatened by the gun.
The specific Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) regarding “false reporting” and “disorderly conduct” provide an outline:
Their respective subparagraphs in question read as follows.
C.R.S. 18-8-111 False Reporting to Authorities:
(a) A person commits false reporting to authorities if:
(I) He or she knowingly:
(A) Causes by any means, including but not limited to activation, a false alarm of fire or other emergency or a false emergency exit alarm to sound or to be transmitted to or within an official or volunteer fire department, ambulance service, law enforcement agency, or any other government agency which deals with emergencies involving danger to life or property; or
(B) Prevents by any means, including but not limited to deactivation, a legitimate fire alarm, emergency exit alarm, or other emergency alarm from sounding or from being transmitted to or within an official or volunteer fire department, ambulance service, law enforcement agency, or any other government agency that deals with emergencies involving danger to life or property; or
(II) He or she makes a report or knowingly causes the transmission of a report to law enforcement authorities of a crime or other incident within their official concern when he or she knows that it did not occur; or
(III) He or she makes a report or knowingly causes the transmission of a report to law enforcement authorities pretending to furnish information relating to an offense or other incident within their official concern when he or she knows that he or she has no such information or knows that the information is false; or
C.R.S. 18-9-106 Disorderly Conduct:
(1) A person commits disorderly conduct if he or she intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
(f) Not being a peace officer, displays a real or simulated firearm, displays any article used or fashioned in a manner to cause a person to reasonably believe that the article is a firearm, or represents verbally or otherwise that he or she is armed with a firearm in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm and does alarm another person.
It is unclear why the officer chose to emphasize the False Reporting statute that, based on the available facts, does not apply.
AVV also spoke to several witnesses to the incident who either own a business on the corner, or were current or former employees of a business in and around the First and F Street intersection.
All, said the man’s presence made them, their employees, and their customers feel alarmed and/or threatened. None wanted the AR15 toting man to return.
Two business owners said they had each contacted the police at least two times each and received the same response about him exercising his rights. One reported an email group and at least one meeting was organized by downtown businesses in an attempt to figure out what to do with the armed man.
One woman, Jen, has been an employee of a downtown boutique* for eight years. She said she has been frightened ever since the man and his friends started showing up on F Street.
“That gun scares the shit out of me,” she told AVV. However, Jen said she lost it one weekend when she saw the men standing next to young children setting up a lemonade stand. She said she approached the same armed man (Taylor) and loudly told him to leave because of how close he was standing to the children.
She said the armed man told her “‘You should be f’***ng scared to walk up to a man with a gun like that.” She also said she and the owner had contacted Salida Police at least twice and gotten the same First and Second Amendment response.
A visitor from Australia standing on F Street during the incident took a picture commenting, “My friends won’t believe this. If this happened in Australia — any public display with a gun — you’d be locked up for ten years.”
Brown said the incident bothered her so much she filed a records request on Monday with the Salida Police Department. She requested the officer’s body-worn camera (BWC) video of the incident and received a redacted version of the video on Tuesday. Brown was told that the redaction was due to several children being visible in the video engaging and shaking hands with Taylor. A link to the BWC video is located above.
It is hard to discern what Taylor is saying into the megaphone in the BWC video. No business owner interviewed by AVV recalled exactly what Taylor was saying either.
As mentioned earlier in the BWC video, Taylor tells the officer he was simply reading the article AVV had written about him and had no idea where Ark Valley Voice office was located, even though the sign can be seen directly behind him.
It should be noted that Ark Valley Voice is appreciative of Taylor broadcasting one of our articles which is intended to spread public awareness of a potentially volatile situation. We also respect his right to freedom of speech, however, we too feel uneasy when an armed, agitated person is using a megaphone directed at us.
This is a developing story and if you have any additional information concerning this incident or the armed individuals please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Notes: Alison Brown’s only association with Ark Valley Voice is that AVV is a tenant of her building. Last year AVV became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit news media and a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News. There are conflicting reports of whether or not that powerful AR15 assault rifle is loaded — or is not loaded.
Regardless if that gun is loaded — or not — on any given day, those with military and law enforcement backgrounds will repeat this mantra: — the four gun safety rules:
- Treat every weapon as if it is loaded.
- Never point a firearm at something you’re not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Always be sure of your target and what is in front of and beyond it.
*Ark Valley Voice had initially included the name of the boutique and we have removed it at the request of the business owner. The business owner wants it known that he supports the Second Amendment.