Denver man found guilty in Winter Park standoff
Grand County CO Colorado
A jury of Grand County citizens found Brian Wilson, 53, of Denver, guilty Tuesday on all 24 charges against him in the 2008 Thanksgiving Day armed standoff with police in Winter Park.
Following a six-day trial, a panel of 12 jurors in the District Court in Hot Sulphur Springs found Wilson guilty of five counts of criminal attempted first degree murder with deliberate indifference, six counts of felony menacing, two counts of obstructing police, three counts of prohibited use of a weapon, obstructing a highway, driving under the influence, DUI per se and five counts of committing a crime of violence, which is a sentence enhancer for the attempted murder charges.
All five of the officers who were on the scene in 2008 testified last week, including Fraser-Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor, officers Sean Curran, Roy Yberra, Brett Schroetlin and Colorado State Patrol Trooper James Proctor.
“It was an incredibly emotional trial,” Trainor said Wednesday. “The officers got up and bared their souls about how frightening it was to everybody.”
“You could see their vulnerability,” said District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham. “Obviously they are trained for these situations, but it was such an emotional time to relive it. All of them were in fear for their life.”
During the standoff, Wilson held off law enforcement officers with a loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun for three hours while drinking heavily and threatening the officers with the gun, according to the affidavit for Wilson’s arrest.
The standoff ended when police shot Wilson with a non-lethal “beanbag” round from a shotgun, which knocked him to the ground, according to the affidavit. During the ensuing struggle to apprehend the suspect, the affidavit says Wilson “indiscriminately” discharged four rounds from the pistol.
Trainor believes it was this “overwhelming testimony by officers about the total disregard by Wilson of officers’ safety at the scene,” that brought the jury to its decision.
While she never had the chance to interview the jurors following the trial, Oldham agreed.
“What stood out to me was that the police really wanted to help him,” she said. “Their whole focus was on trying to save his life. It is something that impressed me from reading the case.”
Wilson, for his part, testified that while he wanted to commit suicide he was not trying to commit suicide by cop.
“He wanted it done by his own hand on his own terms, which is why he would not surrender the gun,” Oldham said.
In his testimony, Wilson never took responsibility for firing the weapon, Oldham added. He claimed that the weapon was fired accidentally by officers trying to pry it away from him, she said.
Prosecutors presented strong evidence to the contrary, Trainor said, including testimony that Wilson moved the gun from holding it by the barrel in his left hand to firing position his right hand after officers shot him with the beanbag round.
His finger was on the trigger when the gun went off, Trainor added.
“The verdict showed what we’d been alleging all along, which was that Mr. Wilson put a lot of lives in danger, including his own,” Trainor said.
The jury deliberated for about 4.5 hours, starting on Monday afternoon and concluding at about 11 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“We are just grateful that none of us was injured or killed,” Trainor said. “We are grateful to live in a community that is as supportive of the police as this one seems to be.”
Sentencing has been set for 8:45 a.m. July 1.
Each attempted murder count alone, without the sentence enhancers, carries a standard minimum sentence of 8 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine and a maximum of 24 years in prison with a $1 million fine. The enhancers require a sentence at least midway between the recommended minimum and maximum sentences, which would be 16 years in this case, for each of the five attempted murder counts.
Judge Mary Hoak rejected a plea agreement in June 2009 that entailed one count of felony menacing with a knife, with a recommendation by the DA’s office that Wilson be sentenced to no more than three years in the Department of Corrections.
The defense is also said to have turned down a deal as recently as a week before the trail that would have capped the jail sentence at 20 years.
Wilson’s attorney did not respond to a message with a request for comment left with his office Wednesday.
Judge Hoak will have discretion in making the sentence and deciding whether Wilson will serve the sentences concurrently or consecutively.
Oldham said she was pleased with the jury’s decision.
“I believe in a case when I bring it, but I never know what the jury is going to decide. It is a relief that it is done and that they found him guilty on all accounts. In our little town these aren’t the kind of cases we see a lot. It has a huge impact on everyone involved.”
Oldham added that she appreciates the “sacrifice” the 12 jury members and two alternates made.
“To give up seven days, that’s a lot in this economy,” she said. “Everyone involved appreciated it.”
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