No charges in New Year’s killing
DA cites ‘foolish drunken’ behavior, says case falls under ‘Make My Day’ law
No charges will be filed in the New Year’s Day slaying of Grand Junction resident Randy Cook, while authorities Wednesday said a prosecution appeared barred under Colorado’s Make My Day law.
“It’s a tragedy and clearly he (Randy Cook) stuck himself in the middle of a fight he didn’t have a role in,” District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said. “But the legal analysis really isn’t a close call.”
Cook, 47, was fatally wounded at close range by 36-year-old Joe Hoskins, who shot Cook in his side with a shotgun in the predawn hours of Jan. 1, 2014, at 2846 Unaweep Ave. Hoskins owns the property but left Mesa County in the wake of the incident, which generated intense interest, rumors and speculation on social media over the six months that followed.
“A lot of what the Cooks were being led to believe was stuff that wasn’t accurate,” Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said. “I’ve encountered several people over the last several months who have completely formed opinions based on things that aren’t facts.”
Hautzinger and Hilkey laid out the findings of what they described as an exhaustive Mesa County sheriff’s investigation. One, they say, that was delayed significantly by Hoskins’ refusal for months to speak with investigators.
To date, they’ve received from Hoskins a multi-page statement, which was provided through Hoskins’ Fort Collins lawyer.
“I’ve never seen more crooked small town bull**** in my life!!! Painting an aggressive burglar as the good guy and the victim as the culprit,” Hoskins tweeted Wednesday.
Hautzinger observed in a letter to Hilkey: “Three individuals, men ranging in age from 36 to 47, conducted themselves like foolish, drunken children and the death of a good man was the result. I am additionally saddened and surprised by the fact that none of the individuals involved are the type of career criminals we usually deal with.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
Events at the Orchard Mesa home on New Year’s Day were described by authorities as fallout from a pre-existing dispute between Hoskins and Kevin Eardley, the owner of Fantasy Gentlemen’s Club, 2258 Colex Drive. Hoskins, a former employee of Eardley’s, made profane Facebook postings critical of Eardley’s business practices weeks earlier.
Both men were invited to the same private party on New Year’s Eve. Eardley, accompanied by his girlfriend and Cook, went looking for Hoskins toward “settling things,” authorities said.
Eardley and Hoskins exchanged profane text messages, which ended when Hoskins acknowledged he was at his home, and included his address, 2846 Unaweep Ave., in the text.
Hautzinger on Wednesday said simply texting an address to somebody doesn’t equate to an invitation to come inside a home, as contemplated by Colorado’s Make My Day law.
Adopted by Colorado lawmakers in 1985, the Make My Day law allows “any occupant of a dwelling” to use any level of physical force when someone has made uninvited entry and there’s a belief that crimes have or will be committed by the intruder.
Eardley and company arrived at Hoskins’ house and the men started fighting in the front yard.
“It is clear Mr. Eardley was winning the fight,” Hautzinger’s letter said.
Eardley was accompanied by Cook and Vic Brizzolara and Brizzolara’s girlfriend. Hoskins fell down and grabbed Cook’s leg. Cook engaged in the fight, which spilled inside Hoskins’ home.
Things started breaking up after Hoskins’ girlfriend brandished a handgun.
Initially unknown to law enforcement, and unknown to the Cook family until Wednesday, Hoskins recorded a video of part of the incident on his smartphone. Cook is seen on the video walking away and from the house, while Hoskins follows them out the door.
“Don’t close my door, (gay slur),” Hoskins is heard on the video. “Randy, where are you going? You grab my gun in my house…”
Cook again engages physically with Hoskins, and a single shot is heard roughly a minute later. Evidence from the scene shows Cook was standing inside the master bedroom when he was shot.
“All of a sudden the door bursts behind me,” Hoskins said in his prepared statement provided by his lawyer. “My back is turned to the door so I spin around. As I am turning around Randy Cook blocks the barrel of the shotgun with his left and drills me in the face with a stiff right punch knocking me back on to my bed. Randy then starts pulling on the gun and that’s when things really slow down. That is when REAL panic set in! I remember instantly feeling my heart drop like I’ve never felt before and thinking ‘if he gets this gun, it’s Game Over! I’m dead! I then pulled my legs to my chest and used both legs to kick Randy in his chest to knock him backward and off balance. At that moment is when I was able to regain control of the weapon and wield the shotgun and squeeze off the shot.”
Sheriff Hilkey said the outcome leaves a bad taste, but said he agrees with Hautzinger’s legal conclusions.
The sheriff said he has “low regard” for Hoskins and Eardley, whose feud cost Cook his life.
“I find it incredibly ironic that it’s only after he has to shoot and kill someone in self-defense is when (Hoskins) wants the cops around,” Hilkey said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to call 911 after the first entry?”
Hautzinger said Wednesday he won’t file burglary or related charges against Eardley, Brizzolara, or anybody else. To do that, Hoskins would be the named victim in a Mesa County criminal action, while Hilkey and Hautzinger were highly critical of Hoskins’ actions and refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
“He (Hoskins) did as much to incite this as Eardley did,” Hautzinger said. “I believe there’s more justice in laying everything out there rather than pursuing a misdemeanor conviction.”
Cook’s brother, Stacey, searched for words while soaking in Wednesday’s events. The family was advised of the no-charge decision hours before a press conference.
“It’s devastating ... it’s heartbreaking,” Stacey Cook said. “You can’t use that law (Make My Day) under those circumstances and get away with it ... if you can, then the law needs to be re-written.”
Randy Cook was walking away and was “baited” by Hoskins’ taunts to re-engage the physical fight after the first melee had broken off, he argues.
“To me, that’s an invitation (to come back inside the house),” Stacey Cook said of Hoskins’ taunts.
“We’re still trying to process and understand how this guy cannot be charged.”