Police: Armed suspect who held officers at bay in Winter Park upset about family matters
November 30, 2008
Everyone involved is thankful that no one was killed or injured Thanksgiving night when a man police say was suicidal began spraying gunfire at local officers before they subdued him after a three-hour standoff on U.S. Highway 40 near Winter Park, Colorado.
Brian Wilson, 52, of Denver, is currently behind bars at the Grand County Jail in Hot Sulphur Springs where he is facing charges of first-degree assault upon a police officer, felony menacing and prohibited use of a weapon.
The armed standoff and the subsequent capture and arrest of Wilson closed U.S. Highway 40 for about four hours Thursday night.
The chain of events that led to Wilson’s arrest began about 11 a.m. that day when Grand County law enforcement agencies were notified that Wilson was believed to be heading for Grand County. He was reported to be “potentially suicidal and probably armed.”
According to Fraser-Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor, it was later confirmed that Wilson was in Grand County after his brother phoned from Denver to say that he had learned that Wilson had used his debit card at the 7-Eleven store in Granby.
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A countywide search began as local officers attempted to locate Wilson who was driving a Jeep Cherokee.
In the Fraser Valley, Officer Ken Wright spent the entire day searching for Wilson. He passed on the information about Wilson and a description of his Jeep Cherokee and license number to other officers coming on duty at 5 p.m. that day.
That information paid off at 7:15 p.m. when Wilson’s Jeep Cherokee was spotted. Fraser-Winter Park Police Officers Sean Curran and Roy Ybarra were handling a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 40 when they saw Wilson drive past them. They immediately took up the pursuit and pulled over the Jeep Cherokee near Winter Park Mountain Lodge.
Exiting their patrol cars, Curran and Ybarra approached Wilson’s vehicle. They ordered Wilson to get out of the Jeep Cherokee, but he refused. The officers also spotted a 1.75-liter bottle of Tequila that appeared half empty sitting on the passenger seat next to him.
“Both officers sensed that he was very agitated,” Trainor said. “He continued to refuse to cooperate and then threatened the officers, saying he had a gun. They both backed off. That’s when Wilson pulled out and brandished a .45-caliber handgun.”
Curran and Ybarra retreated to their patrol cars, pulled out their firearms and radioed for backup.
Within minutes, several officers from the Fraser-Winter Park Police, Granby Police, Grand County Sheriff and Colorado State Patrol converged on the scene. Also responding were firefighters from the East Grand Fire Protection District and paramedics from Grand County Emergency Medical Services.
Wilson attempted to drive off, but was unable to do so because U.S. Highway 40 was already blocked by patrol cars and fire trucks. He brought his vehicle to a stop in the two eastbound lanes of the highway.
After arriving on scene, Chief Trainor took over command of the situation.
“When I got there, our officers’ cars were within 30 to 40 feet of the Jeep Cherokee,” he said. “Wilson was leaning out the window and talking to the officers. He was holding the .45 inside the vehicle and refused to let go of it.”
Trainor and Ybarra then began a lengthy negotiation with Wilson, trying to persuade him not to harm himself, to drop the weapon and surrender.
“We kept him talking,” Trainor said. “He indicated that he was upset about family problems, but he wouldn’t talk about any of it in depth. He was pretty closed mouth about the actual problem. He kept saying how depressed he was and that he wanted to kill himself. Officer Ybarra and I tried to explain to him that was a mistake and how much it would hurt his family if he killed himself.”
While the negotiations continued, Wilson kept holding the handgun and drinking more of the Tequila, pouring it from the bottle into a paper cup with his other hand, Trainor said. After his arrest, officers found he had consumed all the remaining liquor in the bottle.
“Whenever you’ve got a situation with alcohol involved, it makes it so much harder to reason with a suspect,” Trainor said.
Suspect leaves vehicle
Finally after nearly three hours of talking and consuming all of the Tequila in the bottle, Wilson got out of his Jeep Cherokee to urinate. He initially placed the .45-caliber handgun on the roof of the vehicle, then picked it up again by its barrel and began approaching the police officers.
“He said something about wanting to commit suicide by cop,” Trainor said. “This was a very dangerous situation for my officers.”
Rather than grant the suicidal man his apparent wish to be shot dead, the officers decided on a non-lethal means to subdue him.
As Wilson approached within 20 feet, an officer fired a “bean bag” round from a shotgun that hit him in the lower chest and knocked him to the ground. Wilson fell on his stomach with the .45-caliber handgun underneath him.
The officers rushed from cover to subdue him. However, before they could reach him, Wilson pulled the handgun out from beneath him and fire two shots in the direction of the officers.
The shots missed and the officers pounced on Wilson. They were able to pin the wrist of his gun hand to the ground, but Wilson was still able to get off two more shots before the .45 was pulled from his grip. Fortunately, no one was hit by any of the four shots fired.
After being handcuffed, Wilson was checked out by Grand County EMS paramedics. He had suffered bruising from being hit with the bean bag round in the chest. He was then transported to the Grand County Jail where he was locked up.
Bond set at $200,000
Wilson appeared before Judge Ben McClelland of the Grand County Court on Friday afternoon and was placed on a $200,000 bond. He has also undergone a psychological evaluation by Colorado West Mental Health while in custody.
“We’re very pleased at how this incident turned out,” Trainor said. “Wilson put himself and our officers at extreme risk. All the officers showed incredible restraint, especially when he was brandishing that weapon and threatened them. Their restraint clearly saved a life.”
Trainor also commended the actions of his department’s officers who were on scene Thursday night ” Commander Brett Schroetlin and Officers Dodd Jacobsen, Travis Sneith, and Ken Wright. He especially praised Officers Curran and Ybarra.
“Sean and Roy were absolutely courageous during this incident,” he said. “They did a wonderful job.”