Police replace tent homes

Grand Junction police have given 11 new tents to a group of transients in connection with an investigation of allegations that three officers damaged their property in early May.

Jacob Richards, who filed a formal complaint earlier this month that led to both a criminal and internal investigation of the officers, said Monday he received a call from police on Friday asking for his help in handing out the tents to the people whose property was vandalized. Two patrol officers dropped the tents off at Richards’ home on Saturday.

Richards, the co-founder of the homeless advocacy group Housing First! No More Deaths!, handed out two tents on Saturday and three more on Monday. He’s in the process of tracking down the other six people.

The three officers were placed on paid administrative leave on May 7 after Richards alleged they slashed tents, punctured bicycle tires and wrecked other property along the banks of the Colorado River on May 3.

Richards said several transients told him they were denied access by a group of police officers when they tried to return to their homes. When the transients were allowed in, they found at least eight tents were slashed open, tires on four bicycles were punctured and rope lines that held clothes and various shelters were cut down, according to Richards.

The officers, who remain on leave, were suspended two days after Richards filed his complaint.

Richards said Monday he believes the donation of the tents by the Police Department indicates that authorities are taking the vandalism seriously and signifies an admission of guilt.

“I don’t think anybody accused of breaking a window they didn’t break would go out and buy new windows,” he said.

Richards also thanked police for taking what he considers a first step toward resolving the vandalism.

“Our organization would really like to work with police to improve the situation that’s in this town,” he said.

Sgt. Pete Chapola confirmed Monday that police gave the tents to the group but said he didn’t have any more information. He said police spokeswoman Kate Porras would provide more information later this week.


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