Officers Involved in OIS Identified #GVCopBeat

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Two Grand Junction Police Department officers were involved in an officer involved shooting on Sunday, October 11, 2020.  Both officers discharged their weapons.

Corporal Tyler Simonson started with our agency in 2000.  Corporal Simonson serves as a field training officer and is a military veteran.

Officer Vaughn Soderquist joined the Grand Junction Police Department in 2013 and currently serves as a patrol officer.

As is standard protocol with any officer involved shooting, both officers are currently on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation, which takes place separately from the criminal investigation being conducted by the 21st Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team.  This incident remains under investigation by CIRT.  Information previously released regarding this incident can be found here.

Drugs, Guns Seized During WCDTF Operation #GVCopBeat

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Earlier this month, investigators with the Western Colorado Drug Task Force conducted an operation on I-70 in Mesa County, near the Utah border. The purpose of the operation was to interdict bulk currency and large amounts of illegal drugs which are commonly transported along the interstate. In addition to the WCDTF, the operation involved members of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Colorado State Patrol, Grand Junction Police Department, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, and other state and federal partner agencies.  The two-day operation resulted in the following seizures:

  • 600 pounds of marijuana
  • 33 grams Psilocybin Mushrooms
  • 1200 marijuana vape pens
  • 2 AR pistols
  • 2 handguns
  • 2 Bullet Proof Vests
  • approximately $19000 in bulk currency
  • 200 grams marijuana concentrate
  • Cocaine (amount consistent with personal use)
  • Ecstasy (amount consistent with personal use)

Four people were arrested and remanded to the Mesa County Detention Facility as a result of this operation:

Derrick Holmes, 25, of Virginia

  • Unlawful Possession of more than 50 lbs of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute (DF1)
  • Special Offense – Firearms (DF1)
  • Special Offense – Importation (DF1)
  • Possession of more than 12 grams of Schedule I Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute (DF2)

Brian Hartman, 37, of Virginia

  • Unlawful Possession of more than 50 lbs of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute (DF1) 
  • Special Offense – Firearms (DF1)
  • Special Offense – Importation (DF1)
  • Possession of a weapon by previous offender (F5)
  • Possession of more than 12 grams of Schedule I Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute (DF2)  

Erika Valles Garcia, 23, of California

  •   Disregarded Traffic Control Device
  •   Unlawful Possession of more than 50 lbs of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute (DF1)   

Makayla Kristine Lopez, 19, of California

  •   Unlawful Possession of more than 50 lbs of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute (DF1)    
Holmes
Hartman
Garcia
Lopez

Several other subjects were issued felony summons to appear in court.

“The success of this operation, as with most operations, is in large part due to the cooperation and hard work of everyone involved,” says Sergeant Jason Sawyer of the Western Colorado Drug Task Force.  “We are thankful for all of the agencies and law enforcement personnel who provided the hard work to make this operation a success.”

The Western Colorado Drug Task Force was formed in 1998 as an agreement between the Grand Junction Police Department and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office to coordinate resources to investigate the illegal distribution of drugs.  Since that time the cooperation and coordination have spread to many different agencies to include state and federal government partners.

While their main focus may be illegal drug investigations, that is not the only job of this talented group of investigators.  They also assist with locating and arresting dangerous wanted criminals, work with other police officers on more complex criminal investigations, and provide education to children on the dangers of drugs.

GJPD Celebrates Recent Promotions #GVCopBeat

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Recently, Chief Shoemaker promoted several of our officers into leadership positions throughout the sworn ranks of the Grand Junction Police Department.  It’s always gratifying to be able to recognize the exceptional talent within our agency, and to give the opportunity for career growth to those who work so hard for this community.  We’re excited to introduce you to our newly promoted leaders in local law enforcement!

Commander Suzette Freidenberger was promoted to the position of Patrol Commander in August.  Commander Freidenberger has been with the GJPD for 18 years.  Throughout her career, she has worked as a patrol officer, including several years assigned to our substation at Colorado Mesa University, a field training officer, a forensic investigator, a defensive tactics instructor, and a master instructor of Excited Delirium and Agitated Chaotic Events.  Commander Freidenberger’s most recent assignment was serving as the sergeant of our Internal Affairs division.  She also currently serves on a legislative committee for officer involved shootings.

Sergeant Chris Taylor is a veteran of the United States Air Force.  After completing his military service, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration-Finance from Mesa State College. Sergeant Taylor has over 19 years of experience in law enforcement, beginning his career at the Delta County Sheriff’s office as a patrol deputy before joining the GJPD in 2002.  During his tenure with our agency, he has worked as a field training officer, a Colorado Mesa University officer, a detective for the Western Colorado Drug Task Force, and a member of the SWAT team. He is currently a member of the GJPD Bomb Squad, a firearms instructor, and a patrol tactics instructor. He was promoted to the position of patrol sergeant in January.

Corporal Pat Bridge was promoted this summer and is currently assigned to patrol.  Corporal Bridge served in the United States military for six years prior to joining the GJPD in 2014.  He is currently a patrol tactics instructor, a SWAT operator, and a peer support team member.  He previously served as a field training officer for our agency and spent several years on the Western Colorado Drug Task Force.

Corporal Michelle Czajkowski was promoted to the position of patrol corporal this spring.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Forensic Science.  Corporal Czjakowski has been employed with the GJPD since 2008, beginning her career as a Police Service Technician.  In 2010, she attended the Western Colorado Peace Officers Academy and transferred to our patrol division.  Since that time, she has served as a defensive tactics Instructor, a taser instructor, a crisis intervention training coach, and a field training officer.  “I love working for this department for so many reasons, but the main reasons are that we work and live in such an amazing community that supports us and we have a spectacular “blue family” dynamic where the camaraderie is second to none,” says Corporal Czajkowski. “I never knew I wanted to work in law enforcement until I did, and now I can’t even imagine doing or being part of anything else.” 

Corporal Taylor Schreiner was promoted to the rank of patrol corporal this summer.  He has served with the GJPD since 2014, and worked for the Department of Corrections in Sterling for two years prior to coming here.  He is a field training officer and a driving instructor.  Corporal Schreiner was raised in Grand Junction, graduating from Grand Junction High School and earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Northern Colorado.

Corporal Jake Steele was promoted to his supervisory role in our patrol division this summer.  Corporal Steele started his career with the Grand Junction Police Department in 2008, spending two years as a Police Service Technician before earning a sponsored position in the Western Colorado Peace Officers Academy and being hired as a patrol officer.  He has served as a detective in our investigations division for the last 2 ½ years.  Corporal Steele is an instructor of defensive tactics, de-escalation techniques, and patrol tactics.  In regards to his work at the GJPD, Corporal Steele says, I enjoy my work as a police officer because of the professionalism of my coworkers and I truly believe in helping people, but I mostly enjoy working here because of the quality of the community that I work to serve.”

We are incredibly proud of these officers for their commitment to this agency and the community of Grand Junction, and we’re pleased to share their accomplishments!  Please join us in congratulating them for this well-deserved recognition.

GJPD Seeking Information on Late-Night Shooting

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Investigators with the Grand Junction Police Department are looking for assistance from the public in helping identify a suspect related to the ongoing late-night shooting investigation, that resulted in a homicide.

GJPD is looking for anyone who may have witnessed the events that unfolded in the 900 block of White Avenue, on September 17th at approximately 10:30 p.m. If you have information or evidence that may have been captured from video doorbells or home security cameras, and you live between the 800 and 1000 block on White Avenue, we urge you to call our Investigations Department at 970-549-5200 or non-emergency dispatch at 970-242-6707.

Again, we believe this to be an isolated incident and do not believe there is any ongoing danger to our community. However, continue to remain vigilant about your surroundings and if you see suspicious activity, please call 911 immediately.

The Mesa County Coroner’s Officer will be responsible for releasing the name of the deceased. Updates to this investigation will be provided as they are available.

For more information about this incident, read here: https://grandjunctionpolicedepartment.com/2020/09/18/gjpd-investigating-late-night-shooting-gvcopbeat/

GJPD Recognizes Forensic Science Professionals #GVCopBeat

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Some of our Forensic Investigators respond to a homicide in 2019.

This week in September is recognized nationally as Forensic Science Week.  What better opportunity to take a moment to recognize the critical work done by the staff in our very own Grand Junction Police Department property and evidence division, who are part of this national group of professionals!  

Forensic Science Week acknowledges the important role forensic science plays in the investigation of crimes, from exonerating the innocent to identifying the guilty.  This week recognizes the scientific and technical professionals that serve in that vital role.  The Grand Junction Police Department is privileged to have several members of our organization who are a part of the forensic community.  Within our agency, we have experts who respond to crime scenes to process and collect evidence, maintain the integrity of evidence submitted, and perform analysis on controlled substances, digital evidence, serology, and latent prints.  Several in our lab staff of nine employees have earned a certification in their respective disciplines, while others are working towards a certification. This year, we have added several sworn officers to our Forensic Investigation Unit, who assist in the processing of crime scenes. Their expertise helps our group provide expert work product to assist in the investigation and prosecution of crime. Most of the time, these individuals work behind the scenes, maintaining evidence and processing items long after the initial crime was committed.  They each deal with heavy caseloads and responsibilities, yet strive to answer critical questions to assist in criminal investigations while maintaining the highest integrity and quality of work.  Here are just a few statistics that highlight the volume of work handled by these highly skilled employees:

  • Thus far in 2020, officers have submitted over 13,000 pieces of evidence. That averages to be approximately 1,625 items a month, or 54 items a day.
  • We currently have 56,606 cases in our custody, with some of our oldest dating back to the 1960s.
  • The Digital Lab has processed over 9 TB of information in 2020. 
  • We have completed over 2,100 lab requests in 2020. That averages to be approximately 265 requests a month.
  • Our two employees at CBI assist in processing Chemistry and Serology cases for numerous law enforcement agencies across the entire Western Slope.
Our “mad scientists” having a little fun last Halloween.

Grand Junction Police Department Crime Laboratory Supervisor Trent Rundquist states, “I’m so pleased to bring awareness and acknowledgement to the crucial work these individuals do on a daily basis.  I am amazed to see the professionalism performed in the field and in the office, and feel honored to work among them.”

Additionally, we’d like to share that Trent Rundquist was recently selected to serve on the Latent Print Certification Board of the International Association for Identification.  This appointment validates Trent’s expertise in the science of fingerprints through a rigorous testing process.  Certification is based upon the candidate’s personal and professional record of education and training, experience and achievement, as well as on the results of a formal examination.  The board tests the proficiency of applicants and tests all IAI Certified Latent Print Examiners as part of their re-certification requirement.  Trent’s appointment to this prestigious board speaks to the level of talent and expertise we have at the GJPD. 

Congratulations to Trent, and to the incredible team we have at the Grand Junction Police Department!  We are so fortunate to benefit from your training, expertise, and service.

GJPD Investigating Late Night Shooting #GVCopBeat

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The Grand Junction Police Department is investigating a shooting that occurred in the 900 block of White Avenue in the late hours of September 17th.

At approximately 10:35 p.m. a call came into the Grand Junction Regional Communication Center from a reporting party that stated there had been shots fired at the address. The reporting party said they heard multiple gunshots from within the apartment complex and witnessed two subjects leave the address in an unknown vehicle.

Within minutes, officers with the Grand Junction Police Department and deputies with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office responded and quickly established a perimeter around the building. Law enforcement personnel began clearing the residence and located three people inside. They were unable to locate a suspect or any gunshot victims on scene, or in the surrounding area.

At approximately 10:46 p.m. a call came into the Grand Junction Regional Communication Center from a reporting party at St. Mary’s Hospital who stated that a male, with a gunshot wound, had been dropped off outside the hospital entrance. A few minutes later, a second victim with a gunshot wound arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital, which prompted the hospital to be put on lockdown.

One of the victims was later pronounced deceased. The Mesa County Coroner’s Office will be responsible for releasing the identity of the deceased once proper notifications have been made.

This is an ongoing investigation and the scene is still being processed. Officers and deputies are actively interviewing witnesses and pursuing any leads. If anyone has information about the events that unfolded, please contact non-emergency dispatch at 970-242-6707.

We understand that incidents like this are concerning to our community. At this time, we believe this to be an isolated incident, but we ask you continue to remain diligent about your surroundings and if you see any suspicious activity, call 911 immediately.

GJPD, Assisting Agencies Complete Sex Offender Compliance Checks #GVCopBeat

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In late August, the Grand Junction Police Department successfully completed a multi-day sex offender compliance and verification check.

During the three-day period, the Grand Junction Police Department, the Colorado Department of Corrections Parole Division, and the U.S. Marshals Service conducted unannounced visits to the homes of known sex offenders within the City limits of Grand Junction. Law enforcement personnel conduct these checks to ensure those who have been convicted of sex offenses are in compliance with state laws. The objective of this operation was to identify the offender, verify their registration, and confirm their address and place of employment.

The operation’s effort resulted in 231 compliance checks. Out of all the compliance checks completed within the City limits of Grand Junction, 11 offenders were found to be in violation. Offenders found to be in violation will be further investigated by officers with the Grand Junction Police Department and may incur possible warrants for Failing to Register.

The Grand Junction Police Department along with contributing agencies, conduct sex offender compliance checks every year and depending on the offender, multiple checks are made throughout the year to ensure continued compliance is met.

CIRT Activated to Investigate Officer Involved Shooting #GVCopBeat

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CIRTShortly after 10:00am on Saturday morning, the Grand Junction Regional Communication Center received a call about a trespass in progress taking place in the 1200 Block of M ¾ Road in Loma.  The reporting party stated that her neighbor was on her property and was carrying a gun.

Deputies with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area, as well as officers with the Fruita Police Department who responded to assist, and located the male suspect. The suspect was armed with a firearm and was not compliant with directions from law enforcement.  Ultimately, the suspect was shot by law enforcement.  Emergency personnel on scene performed lifesaving efforts until the suspect was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.  No law enforcement officers were injured in this incident.

The Mesa County Coroner’s Office will be responsible for releasing the identity of the deceased, as well as the cause and manner of death, after appropriate notifications have been made.

All officer involved shootings in Mesa County are investigated by the 21st Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team, which is comprised of representatives of the Grand Junction Police Department, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Fruita Police Department, Palisade Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, and Colorado Bureau of Investigation.  Because their personnel were involved in this incident, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Fruita Police Department will not participate in this investigation.

It’s important to note that this investigation is in the very early stages, and this preliminary information is subject to change.  Members of the Critical Incident Response Team will conduct interviews of witnesses and involved persons in this case over the coming days. Additional details will be released as appropriate, with sensitivity to the ongoing investigation. The involved officers and deputies will be placed on administrative leave, as is standard protocol.

We are grateful for the trust and patience of our community to allow us to ensure a thorough and complete investigation into this incident.

DA Review of CIRT Investigation Complete #GVCopBeat

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On Friday, July 17th, 2020, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Fruita Police Department responded to a report of a felony menacing in the 1100 block of E. Carolina Avenue. The reporting party stated that an adult male, who she identified as her boyfriend, had threatened her with a handgun. When deputies with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and officers with the Fruita Police Department arrived on scene, they attempted verbal contact with the subject, who failed to comply with orders and was ultimately shot by law enforcement.  

The 21st Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team, comprised of representatives of the Grand Junction Police Department, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Fruita Police Department, Palisade Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, and Colorado Bureau of Investigation, is responsible for the investigation of any officer involved shooting in Mesa County.  Because their personnel were involved in this incident, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Fruita Police Department did not participate in this investigation. 

The CIRT investigation was completed and turned over to the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Dan Rubinstein has completed his review of the investigation, and his findings can be reviewed here. All four law enforcement officers have returned to work.

We appreciate the trust and patience of the public, while we ensure a thorough investigation into incidents like this one is completed. 

Registration for National Night Out 2020 is Open! #GVCopBeat

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IMG_3256Registration for this event is now closed. Thank you!

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.  Since the first event in 1984, millions of neighbors have taken part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all fifty states.

While National Night Out typically takes place the first Tuesday in August each year, 2020 had other plans.  This year’s events are planned for Tuesday, October 6th,  and registration is currently underway!  All Grand Junction neighborhoods who register their National Night Out events with the Grand Junction Police Department will have an officer stop by and visit them during the event to provide safety information and answer questions.

What does a National Night Out event look like?

IMG_3303That’s completely up to you and your neighbors!  In years’ past, we’ve seen neighborhoods organize ice cream socials, host pizza parties, have all of the residents bring their BBQs into their driveways for a cookout, or just meet in someone’s yard for cookies and lemonade.  You can find a whole list of possibilities here.  The idea is to customize your neighborhood event so it encourages and invites participation from those who live around you.

What impact will COVID-19 have on my neighborhood event this year?

We are encouraging neighborhoods to follow all best public health practices when planning their NNO event.  Small gatherings are best, with events held outdoors.  If you plan to have food at your event, provide prepackaged items to grab and go, rather than dishes that require shared utensils.  Consider wearing a masks and adhering to social distancing guidance.  Most importantly, be sure to stay home if you’re sick.  Officers will be wearing masks during their visits to neighborhood events.

How do I register my neighborhood?

Simply visit our National Night Out website.  Please keep in mind that only neighborhoods within the city limits of Grand Junction can register their National Night Out events through our website.  Check with your local law enforcement jurisdiction to see if they are participating in NNO events in your area.  Not sure if you live in the city limits of Grand Junction?  You can check here.  Registration closes on October 2nd.

How do I know if someone else in my neighborhood has already registered an event for us?

IMG_3145As people register their neighborhoods, the information will show up on our National Night Out website.  There’s a link to see which neighborhoods have registered and who is hosting the event.  You can also call our Community Resource Unit at (970)549-5331 for more information.

What kinds of things do neighborhoods do during National Night Out?

Are you thinking of hosting an event for your neighborhood?  Get some event ideas here.

Check out some photos from previous year’s events on our Facebook page.