Police: Taunted man chased, assaulted boys
A Grand Junction businessman with no criminal history landed in jail over the weekend after being accused of spraying several teenagers in the face with wasp spray, apparently in retaliation to being heckled, an arrest report said.
Ronnie Lee Gookin, 51, could be charged with a felony count of assault as well as multiple other charges after the altercation, which the teens said started near the corner of North Avenue and North 12th Street late Friday morning.
Five boys — three 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds — told police they were in a car at McDonald’s when they passed a man working outside the old Chomp’s Deli building. The 16-year-old driver said one of his passengers yelled that the man “had been holding a ‘gay’ looking mallet,” a Grand Junction police officer wrote in his report.
As the teens drove away, the driver noticed a gray Nissan Armada that had been parked at the deli building following closely.
About two and a half miles later, when the teen parked on the street where he lived, the Nissan’s driver — believed to be Gookin — parked next to the teen’s car and started yelling, according to the report. The 16-year-old said Gookin held up a can of wasp spray and a stun gun, which he started cycling repeatedly, before approaching the other car.
The teen said the man approached their open windows, “screaming profanities,” before spraying wasp spray into the car, hitting three of them.
One 16-year-old passenger’s eyes were burned; he said he couldn’t see and his tongue was numb from the spray getting into his mouth.
Gookin allegedly got in his own car and sped away, the report said.
When contacted by police, Gookin said he followed the teenagers to talk to them “because he thought they threw something at him,” the report said. He said he sparked the Taser and sprayed one of the teens in self-defense.
An independent witness corroborated the teens’ version of the story, the report said.
Gookin was arrested on suspicion of assault, felony use of a stun gun, and several misdemeanor counts. He appeared Monday afternoon in court before Mesa County Judge Bruce Raaum, where Public Defender Mary Brown asked for a personal-recognizance bond on his behalf, noting potential “provocation” in the case. Brown said Gookin owns two businesses in the area and has no criminal history.
She didn’t say in court what businesses Gookin owns, although a man with the same name is affiliated with Gelu Italian Ice, a shop that plans to open doors at a new location at 1122 N. 12th Street, the same address where Friday’s altercation allegedly started.
Raaum agreed to release him on a personal-recognizance bond.