Embroiled in investigation, Kremmling police chief takes polygraph to prove truthfulness; DA brushes off results
The attorney for Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas is alleging a conflict of interest regarding the investigation into the chief and requesting the case be referred to a special prosecutor, but the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office says the attorney’s statements are misleading.
In an email to the DA’s office, Lucas’ attorney Jeffery Eidsness says his client filed an ethics complaint against the DA’s office shortly before the investigation into the chief began in November, as Eidsness argues a special prosecutor would be “the best outcome for both sides.”
The investigation stems from allegations Lucas mishandled an animal abuse case, in which three juveniles are alleged to have tortured, shot and killed a cat on a property outside Kremmling town limits in October.
The alleged abuse was reportedly caught on a video that made rounds at West Grand High School before a tipster alerted authorities on Nov. 4. It is unclear what happened to the video.
Lucas previously confirmed he charged the juveniles with disturbing the peace and fined them $500 through Kremmling’s municipal court system.
Out of concern the juveniles were being cited for inappropriate charges in a court that didn’t have jurisdiction over the case, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office requested the DA’s office look into Lucas’ actions.
District Attorney Matt Karzen then referred the investigation to the Fraser Winter Park Police Department, which completed its investigation in December. Details have not yet been revealed.
“I believe this investigation should have been delegated outside the 14th Judicial District,” Eidsness, Lucas’ attorney, said on Thursday.
A public response from the DA’s office rebutted many of the attorney’s claims, including the potential conflict of interest Eidsness cited in his email.
According to the DA’s office, Eidsness is referring to an incident that happened last fall when a former Kremmling police officer accused Lucas of wrongdoing.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation looked into the accusations. The DA’s office reviewed the CBI investigation and determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the claims against Lucas, but the DA’s office was still critical of Lucas’ conduct.
Obtained by the Sky-Hi News, a copy of the DA’s decision to decline to prosecute Lucas after the CBI investigation details three situations of alleged misconduct on the chief’s part, including one in which Lucas allegedly used excessive force on a suspect and another in which he allegedly suggested officers falsify evidence.
“The statements (Lucas made) are at best unprofessional and at worst they demonstrate a character unsuitable for a position of such trust as the chief of a law enforcement agency,” Assistant District Attorney Matt Tjosvold wrote in the declination of the case.
According to the response from the DA’s office, Lucas then “accused members of the DA’s office of ethical violations.” It’s unclear what ethical violations Lucas levied at the DA’s office, but the statement says no attorneys in the DA’s office have been notified of a formal complaint and the office maintains the accusations were false.
Other than the CBI investigation, the DA’s response describes another incident in which Lucas’ behavior was called “extremely concerning.” In July, Kremmling police responded to a stabbing in town, but the preservation and processing of the crime scene, as well as attempts to gather evidence, raised questions.
When the CBI was needed to assist on the case, which the DA’s office asserts is standard for serious violent crimes, Lucas reportedly took issue with the CBI being referred to as the “lead agency.”
“Chief Lucas appeared more interested in being perceived as in charge than in the integrity and quality of the investigation,” Karzen wrote in the response.
Aside from requesting a special prosecutor, Eidsness’ email also addresses the DA’s decision to Brady list Lucas — or the DA’s decision to no longer prosecute cases that he investigates — with the results of a polygraph test Lucas recently took to prove his truthfulness.
Now, Eidsness is saying Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin should take a polygraph test as well. Lucas and Eidsness have both contended Lucas was targeted by the sheriff’s and DA’s offices. They say Schroetlin authorized the chief to investigate the animal abuse case, and Lucas was never informed he had limited authority to prosecute the case.
“My client has maintained that the charging decision that was made was with the conferral of the sheriff and … I believe the sheriff has walked back from that position and now it’s essentially become a he said, he said,” Eidsness said. “We suggested he take a polygraph because these are issues of accusing law enforcement officers of dishonesty.”
In response to Lucas’ polygraph results, the DA noted the questions Lucas answered during the test were irrelevant to the investigation. The DA also asserted the facts of the investigation do not support Lucas’ claims he is being targeted.
Lucas is currently on paid administrative leave. The DA has not yet made any determination as to the outcome of the investigation into Lucas.
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Firefighters plan to begin burning slash piles at several locations on Bureau of Land Management-managed lands within the Kremmling Field Office’s jurisdiction when conditions allow.