Police: Man pointed gun at cops
Fatal encounter began after he fled traffic stop
A man shot and killed by three Fruita police officers over the weekend fled an attempted traffic stop, later emerged from a home and pointed a handgun at the officers, Fruita police said Monday.
The slain man’s daughter, however, insists police gave her a very different version of events about the death of her father, 61-year-old Lewis Pollard of Fruita, early Saturday at 159 Hollyberry Way.
This, as police suggested in a news release Monday that Pollard’s alleged staunch “sovereign citizen” ideology might have been at the root of Saturday’s confrontation.
Police said Monday officers stopped the driver of a Ford Ranger truck for a traffic violation on Colorado Highway 340 at Jurassic Avenue early Saturday morning. The stop, initiated around 12:40 a.m., was made for a suspected signal light violation, Police Chief Mark Angelo said.
The driver, who wasn’t identified at that time, drove away from the stop after a brief verbal encounter with police.
The officers didn’t pursue the driver, per department policy, but did see the truck turn onto Red Cliffs Drive, according to the release.
The officers located the Ford Ranger a short time later parked at 159 Hollyberry Way and heard yelling inside the residence. They knocked on the trailer and asked for the occupant and driver of the vehicle to come outside, according to the release.
A man, later identified as Pollard, exited the trailer and confronted the three officers, Sgt. Kevin Paquette and officers Andrew Courtney and Steve Lentz, who were in front of the trailer. Pollard pulled a gun and pointed it at the officers, who then fired at Pollard.
The Mesa County Coroner’s Office on Monday said he died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Authorities declined to specify how many rounds were fired, or where Pollard was hit. Angelo declined to specify the type of handgun brandished by Pollard or confirm if it was loaded.
“During the initial stop and the contact outside the residence with Pollard, he consistently made statements that were consistent to the ideology of those associated with the Sovereign Citizen movement who do not recognize established government entities,” police said in the release.
Angelo declined to specify what was allegedly said by Pollard early Saturday.
Paquette, Courtney and Lentz have all been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure for an officer-involved shooting with the Fruita Police Department, police said.
The incident is being investigated by the Critical Incident Response Team, which consists of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, the Grand Junction Police Department, the Fruita Police Department and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
The findings will be turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for review.
Law enforcement’s account of the incident has shifted since Saturday. Angelo told The Daily Sentinel on Saturday the suspect was shot while he was running away from his officers.
“That was said by me, and that was inaccurate,” Angelo said Monday afternoon. “We know a lot more now than we did that day.”
Pollard’s daughter, Fruita resident Jolene Gifford, said officers told her that her father had emerged from his home, hiding the gun behind his back. Gifford said she was told her father was shot when he let the gun fall to his side and exposed it, but never pointed it at anyone.
“My dad’s retired Navy ... if he’s pointing he’s pulling the trigger at the same time,” she said.
Gifford, who lives several blocks away from the shooting, said she was told her father, his roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend were all home when shots rang out. Locally, Pollard is also survived by two grandsons, ages 9 and 18, Gifford said. He was living on disability checks, she said.
“Lewis would give you the shirt off his back,” said Elouise Hutton, 66, Pollard’s cousin and a resident of Kalama, Wash.
As of Monday, Pollard still had an active warrant for his arrest, according to records at the Mesa County Justice Center.
Pollard allegedly twice failed to appear in court over 2012 for a minor traffic infraction. He was ticketed Jan. 4, 2012, by a Colorado State Patrol trooper for speeding five to 10 miles over the limit, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving with no insurance and with a restrained license.
Six months earlier, on July 19, 2011, Pollard wrote this on his Facebook page, under the heading “Free Man”:
“I have renounced my citizenship to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA which is a corperation (sic) and clamed (sic) my individual rights as an american who upholds the freedom as an individual who lives under the laws of the constition (sic) for the United States as a free man I revoke all clames (sic) on me and my children grand children and great grand children ...” Pollard wrote.
” ... So say I Lewis Be Pollard American living on the Colorado Republic near (81521-9998).”
The sovereign citizen movement is a loose association of individuals who believe they are answerable to common law and not subject to laws or proceedings of government. The FBI’s website refers to the movement as a growing domestic threat to law enforcement, recounting the story of two Arkansas police officers in 2010 who were gunned down by sovereign-citizen extremists.
Pollard’s Facebook page indicates he was one of 19 members of a group, “Colorado Free State in the Republic for the United States of America,” which describes its purpose as promoting “intelligent and educational discussion regarding the Republic for the United States of America.”