DA: Bicyclist must apologize in GJHS gun incident
The Mesa County District Attorney’s Office has deferred prosecution in the case of a 65-year-old man who caused a panic at Grand Junction High School while riding his bicycle past the school with a handgun on his hip.
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said the man at the center of the case signed a contract last week with prosecutors, agreeing to complete 48 hours of public service and a firearms safety class, in addition to writing a letter of apology to staff and students at Grand Junction High School in connection with happenings on the morning of Aug. 29 that sent the school into a lockdown, while triggering a swift and large response from the Grand Junction Police Department.
No charges were filed in exchange for the man’s signing the contract, said Hautzinger, who declined to identify the man.
He’ll be charged with unlawfully possessing a weapon on school grounds, a low-rung class 6 felony, if he fails to live up to the terms of the deal in one year, Hautzinger said.
The man was cooperative with officers and apologetic, he said.
“I don’t think he had any criminal intent here, but at the same time there needs to be a message that it’s not OK to do this,” Hautzinger said.
An investigation showed the man holds a valid Colorado concealed-weapons permit, while he told officers he was lawfully concealing his .45 caliber handgun, which was holstered on his hip, Hautzinger said. The man told officers he tucked his T-shirt inside his waistband, exposing the weapon, at some point during his ride on Aug. 29, Hautzinger said.
“He said the (gun’s) hammer was poking him in the side,” he said.
The handgun was exposed as he was riding on the sidewalk parallel to the school along Fifth Street, passing a group of students who appeared to him to be doing gymnastics in the grass. Several were scared and alerted staff, who called 911.
Hautzinger said the man told officers he was “surprised” to see students on the property at that hour. Police were called at 8:39 a.m.
The man was detained by officers at Fifth Street and Orchard Avenue, questioned and released. The school was placed on a lockdown for approximately 45 minutes before resuming normal operations. Hautzinger said the man lives in the area and told officers he was biking home after visiting a rental business at 12th Street and Gunnison Avenue. He has no criminal history, the DA said.
“I’m entirely confident this was the right way to go,” Hautzinger said of the deal.
The contract for deferred prosecution was signed Sept. 26, he said.
District 51 spokeswoman Christy McGee said the high school had not received a written apology as of Wednesday.