Patience was key to injury-free arrest

The damage that occurred during the standoff and subsequent arrest of a gun-firing assailant near 32 Road Sunday amounted to some tear gas residue in a duplex apartment, a smashed mirror in one of the units and other, relatively minor property damage.

But no one was killed and no one was injured in the four-hour standoff between George Roloff and local law enforcement authorities.

The primary reason for that was the patience and caution exercised by the police involved, led by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

Although a SWAT team was present, armed with assault weapons and equipped with an armored vehicle, team members did not return fire when Roloff apparently shot at them, nor did they barge into the duplex unit where he had taken refuge.

Instead, they meticulously and carefully made sure neighbors were moved safely away from the home where Roloff was ensconced, and they established communication with Roloff. The negotiators even sent cigarettes in to him as they sought to persuade him to surrender.

Contrast that with what occurred a year ago this month on the Redlands, when — based on witness accounts and a grand jury indictment — two Colorado State Patrol officers acted hastily and aggressively to arrest a suspect in a non-injury, drunken-driving incident. They reportedly pounded and kicked on the doors of the suspect’s home, tried to force their way into the home of the suspect and a gun was discharged.

The unfortunate result of that event was that Jason Kemp was shot and killed, allegedly by CSP Trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer. Late last year, Lawyer was indicted by a grand jury on criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, first-degree criminal trespass, illegal discharge of a firearm, prohibited use of a weapon and criminal mischief. His colleague, Cpl. Kirk Firko, was indicted on two counts of first-degree criminal trespass, attempted first-degree criminal trespass and criminal mischief.

Additionally, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit alleging that “serious institutional failures of training and supervision” within the Colorado State Patrol allowed Kemp’s death to occur.

We don’t know whether there is an institutional problem with training procedures at the State Patrol, but it is clear that something went badly amiss when an unarmed man was killed over what was basically a traffic infraction.

Meanwhile, authorities on Sunday apprehended a man — without injury to the suspect, the officers or anyone else — who had threatened at least four people with a weapon and fired a weapon in the direction of police officers.

All of the agencies involved Sunday, especially the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, deserve our thanks and recognition for handling a dangerous situation so patiently and, ultimately, safely.


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