Man accused of pellet gun threat

Nathan Verzani

A truck driver was heading eastbound on Riverside Parkway Tuesday afternoon when he saw a man on the pedestrian bridge, aiming a black handgun directly at him.

The 51-year-old driver told police later that he was sure the gunman — now believed to be 21-year-old Nathan Verzani — was about to shoot him in the chest.

The driver thought briefly about driving his 45,000-pound tractor-trailer off the road to protect other motorists if he was shot while behind the wheel.

Then he saw his windshield crack and realized the shooter was actually wielding a pellet gun.

When police located Verzani a short time later across the street from the Mesa County Justice Center, they found him sitting in a shopping cart with a pellet gun that looked like a handgun, according to arrest reports.

Verzani, a 21-year-old felon, could be charged with felony menacing, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and restraining order violation.

The truck driver on Tuesday told Mesa County Judge Michael Grattan that the situation could have easily turned deadly.

“We’re trained to drive a truck. We’re not trained for … things such as weapons,” the 51-year-old said, adding that had he driven the semi off the road, “it would have been a pretty big disaster.”

Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle asked Grattan to hold Verzani on a $10,000 cash-only bond, reiterating that, while the weapon itself was a pellet gun, the scenario was frightening and consequences could have been dire.

“This is just within two days of the shooting in Las Vegas,” Tuttle said in court. “Now we’re not comparing it to Las Vegas, but that’s going through (the truck driver’s) mind. … ‘A sniper is after me.’”

Public Defender Jessica Alexander asked for a personal-recognizance or a surety bond, noting that despite failing to appear for court at times in the past, the 21-year-old Verzani has been doing better lately thanks in part to mental health treatment.

“He has been on probation,” Alexander said. “He has been doing well on probation.”

Verzani’s fiancée told Grattan through tears Wednesday she hasn’t been around lately to help keep him on track.

“What he did was reckless, it was careless, it was straight-up stupid,” she said, before turning to the truck driver sitting nearby. “I am so sorry that he put you in that situation.”

Grattan ordered Verzani a $5,000 cash-only bond and set his next hearing for Oct. 11.


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