Man gets prison for toy-gun prank
He'll serve five years for pointing object at Grand Junction police officer
Grand Junction police officer Cody Kennedy extended his right arm in court, demonstrating how the black plastic toy handgun was pointed at his head 15 feet away.
Patricio Preciado, 30, had a forward-leaning, aggressive stance and said in a no-nonsense manner, “Give me your money.”
“There was no smile, no joke,” Kennedy told the judge. “And I thought the next thing I was going to see was muzzle flash.”
To the amazement of some observers in the case, nobody died last Halloween night in downtown Grand Junction.
District Judge Brian Flynn on Thursday sentenced Preciado to five years in prison under a plea agreement, which saw him plead guilty in April to a single count of felony menacing. He faced a maximum six years, but probation or a sentence to community corrections were also options for the judge.
With the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to not file habitual criminal charges, potentially multiplying prison time.
Preciado had four prior felony convictions, including two for criminal impersonation in Mesa County, as well as possession of a controlled substance and menacing. Twice, he’d been sentenced to probation before having it revoked, according to court records.
“Probation’s been tried before and it hasn’t worked,” Flynn told Preciado.
Kennedy, in police uniform but wearing a jacket just after midnight Halloween on Main Street, was walking west on the sidewalk when Preciado stepped out from a breezeway in the 500 block and took aim. The officer stepped to his right and drew his own gun.
Preciado smiled, held up his plastic gun and explained, “I’m just kidding,” according to arrest records.
Kennedy was asked by a colleague moments later how he didn’t shoot.
“This is what we train for ... this is that instant,” Kennedy told the judge Thursday. “I’m thankful every day I didn’t (fire).”
In court Thursday, Preciado acknowledged he knew Kennedy was a police officer before deciding to take aim at him.
Police Chief John Camper in January issued a commendation for Kennedy, saying the officer’s restraint “averted a tragedy, the effects of which would have rippled through our department and community for a long time to come.”
Public Defender Steve Colvin said the case was unique for how events were perceived by witnesses, including several who called it an innocent joke. Despite what Colvin said he read about Preciado’s case “on one of those America’s Stupidest Criminals websites,” Colvin said robbery wasn’t on anyone’s agenda that night.
“As inane as it sounds, the was no ill intent toward Kennedy as a law enforcement officer,” Colvin said, while acknowledging a “shocking exercise of poor judgement.”
Intended robber or not, Preciado convinced the judge.
“I would have given you my wallet in a half-second,” Flynn said.