Off-duty deputies accused of gunplay in Grand Lake bar
April 9, 2010
GRAND LAKE – A former Grand County sheriff’s deputy and a Grand Lake firefighter are suspects in a case of illegally firing a handgun in a Grand Lake bar after closing time.
The alleged “target practice” took place in early January when Grand Lake firefighter Colin Steward, formerly a detentions deputy with Grand County, and off-duty Grand County Sheriff’s deputy Shawn Murphy shot bullets from a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol into the west wall of Grumpy’s saloon on Grand Avenue, according to the affidavit for a search warrant granted to Joseph DeAngelo, chief investigator of the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
DeAngelo ascertained from his search on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 that Grumpy’s owner Gary Gates brought out the weapon after the bar closed and allowed Steward and Murphy to handle the gun. It is not clear whether Gates himself shot the gun that night, according to the court document.
A total of three messages left for Gates at Grumpy’s on Tuesday and Wednesday were not returned.
The district attorney’s investigation found that a wall in Grumpy’s held evidence of the alleged target practice, including bullets still lodged in the log wall. Further study found that two of the discharged rounds may have hit the Out West Giftfitters building next door.
As many as “50 holes were found in the wall consistent with the 9 mm rounds,” the court document states. Gates allegedly told the investigator that he “has discharged the weapon from inside Grumpy’s into the same wall on past occasions.”
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It is illegal to fire a gun inside Grand Lake town limits, according to town code.
Another individual, Joshua Yusten, a former Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy who previously was a detentions deputy with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, was present that night and was accused of handling the gun but was not accused of actually firing the gun, according to the DA’s office.
Yusten was arrested for violation of a protection order that prohibited him from being around a firearm.
Efforts to acquire contact information for Yusten for comment on this story were unsuccessful.
Murphy and Steward had been drinking that night, according to testimony in DeAngelo’s investigation.
The cases involving Murphy and Steward have been turned over to the Eagle County District Attorney for review and the possible filing of charges, such as prohibited use of a weapon. Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said an employee of hers has close-hand knowledge of the incident, which Oldham determined a conflict of interest for her Grand County office.
When the Grand County Sheriff’s Office caught wind of the incident through an anonymous caller, the office conducted its own internal investigation, according to Undersheriff Walt Eldridge.
The investigation resulted in Murphy losing his job. Murphy had served 10 years as a Grand County deputy.
Reached on Wednesday, Murphy declined to comment. A message was forwarded to Steward on Wednesday, but he did not return the call.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.