Man gets 13 years for shooting at deputy

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for shooting at a Garfield County sheriff’s deputy, who described Wednesday his relief at having survived the incident.

Craig Dance, 62, was sentenced Wednesday by 9th Judicial District Court Judge James Boyd after pleading guilty to attempted first-degree assault with extreme indifference to the value of human life.

Dance’s attorney had sought the minimum sentence of five years, while prosecutors had asked for the maximum of 16. He will be credited for the 542 days he’s been incarcerated since the Dec. 12, 2011, incident.

Dance fired at Deputy Gregory Choinkowski four times as Choinkowski took shelter behind his patrol vehicle after having responded to Dance’s home south of Glenwood Springs. Two bullets struck the vehicle.

Dance surrendered hours later after holing up in his home. He originally faced charges including first-degree attempted murder involving a police officer, but some charges were dropped after a court-appointed psychiatrist found an impediment prevented Dance from forming the intent required for those charges.

At the sentencing, Choinkowski described taking a walk in fresh snow at dawn the next morning and noticing the crunch of the snow beneath his feet and the sun rising over the mountain to warm his face.

“I was just happy to be here, to be alive, as simple as that,” he said.

Choinkowski said he worries that there’s a growing gap between not just officers and people, but between people in general who just perceive each other as objects rather than human beings.

“We start to forget about that our actions might hurt someone else. This bothers me. This bothers me a lot,” he said.

Choinkowski said such shootings also make him and other officers less willing to trust the public and apt to pull a gun more quickly to protect themselves, which could have tragic results.

Dance apologized to Choinkowski, saying depression and illnesses that made him reliant on medications contributed to his actions.

“It wasn’t me that was there that day. I can’t say who it was. I was in great despair,” he said.

Neighbors and others who spoke in support of Dance Wednesday said he also had been dealing with alcoholism and the loss of his father and a beloved cat.

“Craig’s a wonderful person when he’s not under the influence of alcohol,” neighbor Cheri Cappo said.


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