Hotchkiss man pleads guilty in theft of cop’s assault rifle, SWAT gear

A Hotchkiss man faces a maximum possible 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 scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 22.

Bell is accused of victimizing an Eagle County Sheriff’s Department deputy, also a member of the agency’s SWAT unit, 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 — taking with him the detective’s SWAT gear including a machine gun, a handgun, ammunition and tactical gear, which was being stored in the home’s basement, according to federal prosecutors. 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 suspicion person at the Walmart in Glenwood Springs and he 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 was also 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, according to federal prosecutors.




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