Hotchkiss man awaits sentence in theft of cop’s guns

A Hotchkiss man faces a maximum of 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges involving the theft of numerous firearms, including a fully automatic assault rifle, from an Eagle County Sheriff’s Department detective last year.

Keaton Bell, 24, pleaded guilty late last week to separate charges of possession of stolen firearms and possession of a machine gun before Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane in Denver, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Bell is accused of victimizing an Eagle County sheriff’s deputy and SWAT team member who was undergoing cancer treatment in Denver in October 2012, according to federal prosecutors. The detective’s girlfriend had invited her girlfriend to stay at the detective’s home in Gypsum while the couple were in Denver for treatment. That person invited her boyfriend, Keaton Bell, to stay with her in Gypsum.

While Bell and his girlfriend were at the home between Oct. 5 and Oct. 7, they got into a fight and Bell left the home. Bell took with him the detective’s SWAT gear, including a machine gun, a handgun, ammunition and tactical gear, which was being stored in the basement, federal prosecutors said. Some of the equipment was owned by Eagle County.

The theft was reported in early November and a warrant issued for Bell’s arrest.

Bell was reported on Nov. 20, 2012, as a suspicious person at Walmart in Glenwood Springs and was arrested by responding officers on the Eagle County warrant.

A search warrant was obtained for Bell’s pickup truck, which revealed a camouflage-colored rifle case under the driver-side rear wheel well. Inside were a host of items from the detective’s home: A Colt M4 Commando .223 caliber fully automatic rifle, an EOTech Sight System, a Surefire Light System, a GemTech Halo Suppressor, a Glock .9 mm semi-automatic pistol and two .223 caliber magazines. A Bersa .380 with a holster also was found hidden under the hood of the truck.

There was evidence the fully automatic rifle — which was reportedly left clean by the detective — was dirty and had been fired, federal prosecutors said.

Bell faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count to which he pleaded guilty. He’s scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 22.


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