Hot Sulphur Springs " Miscommunication results in officers responding in full gear
September 17, 2008
Hot Sulphur Springs residents were startled Saturday night when they saw law enforcement officers in full SWAT gear and with drawn weapons in a residential area of town.
As it turned out, the incident proved to be an over-reaction based on misinformation among law enforcement officers handling a “domestic” situation.
According to Sheriff Rod Johnson, the incident began about 6:15 p.m. Saturday when a 9-1-1 hangup call was made. Using Caller ID to trace the number, the Grand County Communications Center dispatcher phoned the Hot Sulphur Springs residence. An adult male answered the phone and told the dispatcher that there was no trouble at the house.
However, two more 9-1-1 hangup calls were made from the same residence shortly afterward. Based on that, the dispatcher asked a Sheriff’s deputy to go to the residence to investigate.
As the deputy pulled in front the residence, a woman ran out of the house to the patrol car and told the deputy that she had been in a fight with her husband. She explained that she had made the 9-1-1 hangup calls from another room in the house to make sure her husband did not know she was calling.
After putting the woman in the patrol car, the deputy approached the house. The husband closed the door and apparently refused to talk to him despite his repeated knocking on the door.
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The deputy then got on the radio and mistakenly used the wrong terminology, saying the “subject had barricaded” himself in the house.
Other law enforcement officers heard the report of a “barricaded suspect.” Believing this situation called for a “SWAT-like” response, five officers including those from Fraser-Winter Park and Granby Police departments sped to the scene.
The officers assembled about a block from the Hot Sulphur Springs residence where they donned bullet-proof vests and helmets and armed themselves with shotguns and rifles.
It was then the situation clarified itself as the deputy who called in the initial report explained what had actually happened.
Realizing then that their response was probably excessive, the officers decided to send a couple of officers to ask the man to come out of the house and explain what had happened. When they did so, he then came out without resistance and was taken into custody. He was later charged with third degree assault.
Sheriff Johnson admitted the response by the officers probably “looked very strange” to residents who saw them in SWAT gear and with weapons at the ready.
“We probably could have done a better discretionary job,” he said.