Cop who killed self was subject of sexual assault investigation

Nino Santiago Sr.



A Carbondale police officer was under investigation in a sexual assault in Arapahoe County, possibly involving a minor, when he committed suicide last month.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said he was told of the Arapahoe County allegations when his office was investigating Officer Nino Santiago Sr.‘s death. However, his office’s investigation into the death ended when it was ruled a suicide, and he isn’t involved in the Arapahoe County investigation, he said.

Arapahoe County Sheriff J. Grayson Robinson could not be reached for comment after office hours Tuesday. However, he told KDNK public radio in Carbondale his office began looking earlier this year into alleged incidents between 2004–08 that potentially involved a juvenile.

Robinson emphasized investigators hadn’t been able to determine the allegations’ validity, and the investigation ended when Santiago died.

He told KDNK that Arapahoe authorities didn’t notify local law enforcement authorities about the investigation because it was still in its early stages.

Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling declined to comment.

“I have no information that I can release,” he said.

Santiago shot himself while on duty. His body was found the morning of March 22 in his police vehicle in a parking lot shared by Crystal River Elementary School and a nearby church. Carbondale police asked the Sheriff’s Department to investigate the death to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Santiago left a suicide note and prayer. Vallario said he believes it contained a vague reference to an investigation.

“It certainly wasn’t a confession or anything,” he said.

He said he thought most of the note consisted of a personal message to family and the kind of information contained in a will.

Santiago had been honorably discharged from the Marines after serving in the Persian Gulf War. He had been in the Air Force National Guard since 2001 and had been to Iraq and Afghanistan twice.

He joined the Carbondale police force in 2008 after previously serving as a correctional officer, prison boot camp drill sergeant and a detention officer. He also worked as a private investigator and in 2004 was hired as an investigator for Pinnacol Insurance.


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