If you arrived at your office building one day and saw a man standing outside with an AR-15 and shouting about a tenant in the same building, would you be alarmed? When this happened to me, on a Sunday at 1st and F, I certainly was. Given the nearly daily reports of gun violence, I certainly didn’t want to take the chance of being yet another of these horrific statistics by walking into my building right in front of this gunman.
What I found even more shocking though was the response of Salida Police when I called them for assistance. The officer who called back started the conversation by informing me that unless I had proof that the AR-15-toting individual was a threat, I would be charged myself with the crime of False Reporting. For those not familiar with this statute (CRS 18-8-111) this covers “False reporting to authorities” when a citizen “knowingly provides false identifying information to law enforcement authorities.”
Given that the gunman I was reporting on was clearly armed, shouting loudly about my tenant and standing right across from the entrance to the building, I was frankly furious that I was the one the police were threatening with arrest. In response, I called up on my phone the text of CRS 18-9-106 (1) (f) and read to him the content of this statute which states:
“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.”
Given that the gunman was not a peace officer, was intentionally displaying a deadly weapon, was in a public place and was shouting loudly about my tenant across from the building in a manner to cause me alarm, I don’t think that the relevance of this statute could be clearer. After the officer agreed to stand by the gunman to mitigate my alarm, I went into my building to pick up some paperwork.
I saw the officer approach the gunman, talk to him for a few minutes, then walk away, leaving me still in the building with the gunman still standing opposite the entrance. For the record, based on my army training this situation raised every red flag that extreme caution was required due to the deadly nature of the weapon he was carrying. I took the step of requesting the bodycam footage to see what the conversation was between the officer and the gunman.
Despite the gunman admitting to the officer that he was shouting about my tenant (and you can see the signage for my tenant in the video), the officer – who appeared to be on very cordial terms with the gunman – took no action such as asking him to “move along” as he was causing alarm and instead just strolled off with a parting greeting of “see you my man”.
My takeaway from this is that we have a serious problem within the Salida Police Department. Strike 1: citizens calling with legitimate complaints about armed gunman should not be being threatened themselves with arrest. Strike 2: Salida Police officers should be enforcing the disorderly conduct law when an armed individual is acting in a manner which creates a legitimate cause for concern. Strike 3. As evident by the City Attorney and Chief of Police’s response to this and other reported incidents there is apparently no corrective action planned either through policy or training to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
What is also concerning in the City Attorney’s response is the misinterpretation of the Colorado Supreme Court case they reference (People v Naranjo). In this case, Naranjo was acquitted because “he merely picked up the gun from the passenger seat and placed it into the glove box” and so was determined not to have been displaying a deadly weapon “in a manner calculated to alarm”.
It would have been more appropriate for the City Attorney to have referenced other cases included in People v Naranjo as precedents, such as People vs Torres which ruled that “Proscribing conduct in public places which would alarm the citizenry is, in our view, a difference in fact that is reasonably related to proper criminal legislation”. This case even included the very relevant example below as clarification on what constitutes the crime of disorderly conduct.
“The victim of the crime of disorderly conduct is anyone who is exposed to the conduct of the perpetrator. In short, it is the general public, not a specific individual fearful of imminent serious bodily injury, who is the victim of disorderly conduct. For example, a person may intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly draw a knife in a public square and wave it in the air. This conduct could be objectively alarming to members of the general public who viewed the perpetrator’s actions and still not place any member of the general public in fear of serious imminent bodily injury. The less specific act of waving a knife in a public square in an objectively alarming manner would allow the perpetrator to be exposed to possible criminal liability for his conduct under the disorderly conduct statute, but because he did not commit the more specific act of placing another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, he could not be exposed to potential criminal liability under the felony menacing statute.”
This is a serious matter. When I called the police about the gunman on 1st and F who was acting in “an objectively alarming manner” by carrying an AR-15 and shouting about my tenant, instead of being recognized as a victim of the crime of disorderly conduct (per People vs Torres) I was instead threatened with being charged with the crime of false reporting! I am deeply concerned that law and order is not being adequately maintained in Salida and the right to be protected from conduct in public places that cause alarm to citizenry is being disregarded. [I] hope that other citizens who share these concerns will also speak up. We deserve better in Salida from our government officials and police!
Dr. Alison Brown, Downtown Salida property owner
Editor’s Notes: The “tenant” referenced above that Taylor was videoed shouting at was Ark Valley Voice. The statute that Brown cited — about an armed person representing a threat — was also observed as a threat months ago in May, 2021 behaving and speaking in a manner that most sane people would consider threatening and alarming.
Ark Valley Voice has already published the evidence, which Taylor hasn’t refuted. We recommend that nobody approach this man on your behalf or on our behalf.