“Many of you may be aware that I’ve taken to social media over the past week to express my anger over the death of George Floyd, a man who died at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department officers last week. Not only was Mr. Floyd asphyxiated by an officer, but three other officers stood and did nothing to intervene.
It’s no secret that I’ve taken a very public stand against this, and my feelings haven’t changed. I’m angry at the actions (and inaction) of these suspects (previously employed as police officers), and I’m angry how it paints my profession, one I’ve devoted my life to for nearly 29 years. I’m angry that I know so many great police officers who work hard to do the right thing, and the Grand Junction Police Department, an agency I chose to leave Jefferson City, Missouri for, is a shining example of what a great agency can be.
But let’s face it – we’re not perfect. We have work to do locally. Not only as a police department, but as a city. We have to challenge ourselves to think on a broader scale and take on uncomfortable discussions as to what we’re not perfect at, then take steps to improve. I made the public statement calling out other members of law enforcement for reacting by making statements which I would equate as posturing, which has, admittedly, been met with some mixed emotions by a small number of people who responded. I’ve been criticized by some for how we’ve handled the protests, which have all been peaceful, from both those who are very angry with police in general as well as those who feel inconvenienced by the blockage and temporary closure of some roadways.
I have met with my staff to explain my thoughts, and was, not surprisingly, told that they too were angry over the situation, and that we as a profession need to do better. It speaks volumes as to their character, and I’m proud to serve beside them.
During this same time, I’ve also met with some amazing people in this community. Coach Jackson, our new CMU Football Coach, and I have connected and formed a team, one team, to start these discussions on how we can all be better listeners and better show empathy towards one another, instead of intolerance. Coach has been an outspoken advocate of having conversations that are tough to have, and I cannot explain how much respect I have for him and the members of the CMU Football team, who peacefully protested and came to talk to me and ask me those same tough questions. I listened, and I pledged to go to work, but I cannot do this alone. Our department cannot do this alone. Our community, all of us, must take a moment to pause and consider others’ experiences that we don’t have and have not lived – but we need to listen if we’re going to get through this and get better as a community.
We’ve already taken some first tangible steps – after meeting with protestors on Monday, on Tuesday I met with Coach and other members of the CMU Administrative Team, with strong support from President Foster, to have conversations with student leaders from CMU’s Black Student Alliance and the Cultural Inclusion Council. They asked tough, intelligent questions that deserve our answers, and I cannot say how much I appreciate the opportunity to speak with them and hear their experiences. One of many conversations to come, the next of which will happen this Friday.
Our goal in this is complex. Keeping our community safe – our entire community – is the number one priority. We respect the right to peacefully protest, and on my watch we will honor that without exception. We’ve had conversations to ensure we do whatever we can to protect both those who lawfully protest, as well as reassure our residents we are keeping peace. We want others to see what we end up accomplishing and look to us for guidance within their own communities to be that example on how to truly learn to better respect and understand one another.
Lastly, we’re looking at everything within our own agency, and our staff has welcomed that. We are questioning everything and seeing how we can improve. I’m not naïve – I understand some will criticize us no matter what we do as never good enough, but my pledge to you, as was my pledge to our CMU Football team and other protestors who came to the PD lobby on June 1st, is that I will do my best. This is a marathon, however, not a sprint, so I appreciate the grace in allowing this to build on a solid foundation over time.
We will, as a community, become that much better. We have to.”
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Law enforcement agencies around the world spend this week recognizing the contribution of officers who serve their communities each day, as well as honoring and remembering those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Typically, there are numerous events throughout Mesa County to recognize this week. We host Coffee with a Cop events. Our Honor Guard presents a formal flag ceremony. There is always a ton of food around, and we have several events that are intended to raise money for the Special Olympics of Colorado. This year is obviously much different. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be a very quiet week. And that is okay with us. It will allow us to focus on what the week is truly about; honoring law enforcement around the world who have been killed while serving their communities.
According to the Office Down Memorial Page, there were 146 line of duty deaths in the United States last year. Three of those officers were from Colorado; Sergeant Joshua Eli Voth, of the Colorado Department of Corrections; Corporal Daniel H. Groves, of the Colorado State Patrol; Master Trooper William James Moden, of the Colorado State Patrol.
Often, during this week, we have local businesses and community members who want to thank their officers by providing food or cards. While we are so grateful for that kindness, this year we would encourage that generosity to be directed toward any of the local agencies who are helping our community in recovery efforts from this crisis.
If you’d like to recognize our officers this week, as well as honor those who have given their lives in service, consider putting a blue light bulb in your porch light. Put a sign in your window, thanking officers for their service. Share a wave or a kind word when you see an officer out on patrol. If you drive by the Police Department, you’ll see our banner hanging outside. It’s lovely at night, when it’s lit up by blue lights.
Next year, we’ll hopefully be able to come together again to honor all who have dedicated their lives to this profession. This year, we hope you’ll join us in a humble remembrance of all those who have gone before us.
At approximately 6:00 p.m. officers with the Grand Junction Police Department responded to a call in the 2900 block of Patterson on reports of a potentially armed suspect. The suspect was reported to be on foot and heading towards the Lucky Me Convenience Store, located at 2902 Patterson Road.
When officers arrived at the convenience store, they made contact with the suspect, who they were able to determine was armed with a handgun. The suspect fled the convenience store on foot and was non-compliant to the verbal commands of the Grand Junction Police Officers who were attempting to take him into custody. After failing to gain compliance of the armed suspect, officers deployed 40mm less lethal impact rounds, striking the subject. The suspect continued to be non-compliant and an officer discharged a taser, striking the subject to gain compliance and take the suspect into custody.
The subject was arrested and transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. During this incident, Patterson Road was shut down in both directions, out of an abundance of caution.
The investigation remains open and officers with the Grand Junction Police Department will continue to conduct interviews of the events that took place.
Grand Junction Police Department’s K9 Merlin has received a bullet and stab protective vest thanks to a charitable donation from non-profit organization Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. The vest was sponsored by Team Wendy and embroidered with the sentiment “This gift of protection provided by Team Wendy”.
Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. is a 501c(3) charity located in East Taunton, MA whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States. The non-profit was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially lifesaving body armor for their four-legged K9 officers. Since its inception, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provided over 3,500 U.S. made, custom fitted, NIJ certified protective vests in 50 states, through private and corporate donations, at a value of $6.9 million dollars.
The program is open to dogs actively employed in the U.S. with law enforcement or related agencies who are certified and at least 20 months of age. New K9 graduates, as well as K9s with expired vests, are eligible to participate.
The donation to provide one protective vest for a law enforcement K9 is $950.00. Each vest has a value between $1,744 – $2,283, and a five-year warranty and an average weight of 4-5 lbs. There is an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States. For more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities, please call 508-824-6978. Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provides information, lists events, and accepts tax-deductible donations of any denomination at http://www.vik9s.org or mailed to P.O. Box 9 East Taunton, MA 02718.
Local law enforcement wants to be very clear; NO documents are needed to go to work or for essential travel under the Stay at Home order in Mesa County.
We have received questions from the community asking if critical employees traveling to and from work need an official document to prove they do in fact work for a critical service.
- No, you do not need a document of any kind. Neither law enforcement nor Mesa County Public Health are issuing such documents.
- If you are a critical employer, thank you for working during this time. You do not need to issue a document to your employees.
- The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Junction Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, Fruita Police Department and Palisade Police Department are NOT stopping people driving out in the community specifically in regards to the Stay at Home order.
- Law enforcement is operating under the presumption people who are out in the community are doing activities that are necessary and permissible under the Governor’s Stay at Home order.
This also applies to people who are traveling for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store, picking up children from childcare, taking care of a loved one, getting medical care, etc.
For the full list of what is considered a critical business and essential travel under the Governor’s Stay at Home order, click here.
Law enforcement personnel around the Grand Valley are seeing daily examples of cooperation, compliance, and compassion in our community. We are grateful to serve such a thoughtful and supportive community.
Two Grand Junction Police Department officers were involved in an officer involved shooting on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Both officers, along with two deputies from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, discharged their weapons.
Officer Thomas Nelson is a patrol officer who started with our agency in 2013. Officer Nelson’s collateral assignments include defensive tactics instructor and field training officer.
Officer Tom Wihera joined the Grand Junction Police Department in 2016. Officer Wihera currently serves as a patrol officer, with collateral assignments of field training officer and SWAT operator. Officer Wihera is also a veteran of the United States Navy.
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.
Shortly after 7:00pm on Tuesday evening, March 17, 2020, officers with the Grand Junction Police Department were dispatched to a report of a felony menacing that occurred on Orchard Mesa. The reporting party stated that an adult male subject had brandished a knife and a gun at a group of juveniles who were playing basketball at Orchard Mesa Middle School. The male was then reported to have gone inside a nearby residence in the 300 Block of 27 3/8 Road.
Multiple officers responded to the area, including several Mesa County Sheriff’s Office deputies who arrived to assist. Officers were able to identify a possible suspect based on the information they obtained on scene. Attempts to reach the suspect by phone were unsuccessful. Law enforcement also attempted loud hails, ordering the suspect out of the house. A shelter in place notification was sent out to 126 contacts for registered addresses in the area. At one point, the suspect exited the residence with what appeared to be a firearm. The suspect failed to comply with orders from officers and, ultimately, was shot by law enforcement on scene. No officers were injured. Officers rendered aid until medical personnel arrived on scene. The suspect was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased.
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.
As with all officer involved shootings in Mesa County, 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, Colorado State Parole and Colorado Bureau of Investigation, is responsible for the investigation of this incident.
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 Grand Junction Police Department and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office will be responsible for releasing the names of their involved personnel. The officers will be placed on administrative leave, as is standard protocol.
Anyone who witnessed this incident, as well as anyone who has security cameras that may have captured all or part of these events, is encouraged to contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigation at (970)248-7499.
No further updates are expected to be released before Friday, March 20th.
At approximately 4:40pm on Friday, February 21, 2020, officers with the Grand Junction Police Department were dispatched to a report of a two vehicle traffic crash at the intersection of N. 7th Street and Ute Avenue, involving a GJPD patrol car.
Although it’s very early in the investigation and all facts are not yet know, the preliminary information indicates that the GJPD patrol SUV was traveling northbound on N. 7th Street when it was broadsided by a passenger vehicle traveling westbound on Ute Avenue. The collision caused the patrol vehicle to roll onto it’s top.
The sole occupant of the passenger car was a male driver who reported no injuries. The patrol car was occupied by two GJPD officers. The female officer who was driving was able to exit the car on her own. The male officer who was traveling in the passenger seat had to be extricated by emergency personnel with the Grand Junction Fire Department. Both officers were transported to the hospital to be evaluated; however, no serious injuries have been reported at this time.
Traffic is blocked in all direction at the intersection of N. 7th Street and Ute Avenue, and will remain closed until further notice. The cause and contributing factors of the crash are still under investigation. We will share more details as they become available.
The suspect who was detained this afternoon in relation to the death investigation has been arrested for Murder in the First Degree.
Brachon Hyer, 21, of Grand Junction, has been remanded to the custody of the Mesa County Detention Facility for multiple offenses, including Murder in the First Degree, Aggravated Robbery, and Theft. Hyer is believed to be the subject who was captured by security footage in the area where the crime occurred. Hyer was contacted and detained in the the 2700 Block of G Road earlier this afternoon after a reporting party called law enforcement and stated that Hyer had confessed to killing the victim. No booking photo of Hyer is available at this time. We are not seeking any additional suspects related to this investigation.
Again, we appreciate the efforts of everyone who called and provided tips and information regarding this investigation. We are fortunate to serve this compassionate community.
At approximately 3:00pm this afternoon, officers and detectives with the Grand Junction Police Department contacted an adult male in the 2700 Block of G Road after receiving information from a reporting party that the male may be involved in the death investigation from yesterday, February 6th, 2020. More information about that incident can be found here. The male has been detained and transported to the Grand Junction Police Department, where the investigation will continue.
At this time, this male has been detained and not formally arrested or charged, therefore we will not be releasing his name or identifying information. No further information is available at this time. We will provide updates as they become available.
We’ve received a flood of tips and information from the community in an effort to assist with this investigation. We are so gratified by the response of our community, who have clearly demonstrated that they are invested in the safety of our City and have shown strong support for the efforts of law enforcement. We are thankful for the cooperation of everyone who has called in, and we are humbled by your support.