Town looking into drug bust conduct

Neighbors feel traumatized by event

[ By Mark Reaman ]

Crested Butte town attorney John Sullivan along with town manager Dara MacDonald are looking into citizen complaints about how local law enforcement authorities conducted a recent drug bust in Crested Butte. An investigation is being conducted to determine if the marshals department followed its policies and if any changes need to be made as a result of the June 9 incident.

The raid took place Wednesday morning about 9 a.m. at a rental property located in the alley off Maroon Avenue between First and Second Streets. Officers from a number of regional agencies took part in the raid as several search and arrest warrants were executed at the same time in the county including the one on Maroon Avenue.

Two sets of neighbors filed official complaints with the town that the heavily armed police presence presented a danger to the neighborhood. Three of them spoke at the June 21 council meeting.

“The marshals need to police our community with the values of the community,” resident David Gray told the council. “Their policing activity has to conform with the community values and that makes this a council matter.”

He described the authorities in that situation as being overly militarized and a danger to the neighborhood. He said that if the situation was dangerous enough to require a SWAT-type presence, the neighbors should have been alerted and cleared of the area. If the situation was not to the point of needing heavily armed officers, then officers needlessly put the community members in danger and it could have been handled much more quietly.

“If you take no action, then you condone the actions the marshals took,” he said. “We are asking you follow up on this issue. It was very traumatizing and while too late for all of us, we want to prevent similar situations in the future.”

Gray’s wife, Carolyn Blanchard showed the council members photos of how close she was to the armed officers while eating breakfast in her yard next to the unit being raided. “It was horrible,” she said. “Someone could have told us to go in the house but nothing was done. This really disturbed me. It was too much and the council needs to figure this out.”

Neighbor Paul Mack agreed. “It was a very disturbing occurrence,” he said. “I remain angry at the town government. We were not safe. The SWAT team did not identify themselves. It was an unpredictable event and we want answers. This show of force could not possibly equal the crime.”

Mayor Jim Schmidt asked what was being done to look into the matter. Sullivan said he was working with MacDonald, the district attorney, chief marshal Mike Reily and the town’s insurance representative to investigate the matter. “We would like to talk to any witnesses that were there,” he said asking anyone who was there to contact town hall.

“There will be an evaluation and possible recommendation out of the investigation,” said MacDonald. “We will see if the department policies were followed and if improvements to those policies are needed.”

No timeline was given for the completion of the investigation.

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