Three shot in Molina attack
One critically hurt; 2 suspects arrested
MOLINA — Two suspects accused of shooting three men in this small Grand Mesa community were apprehended early Thursday morning, their potential getaway foiled when one of the shooting victims took their vehicle and fled the scene seeking help.
Law enforcement officers who scrambled up Colorado Highway 65 late Wednesday night spent hours searching for the gunmen before arresting them as they tried to hitchhike along the highway near Interstate 70.
Molina residents Jim Fritz, Steve Hufman and Shawn Moody were shot and wounded at 53146 LE 1/2 Road about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Although law enforcement did not release the victims’ names, The Daily Sentinel was able to identify them through interviews with witnesses.
At this point, there are more questions than answers about what happened, Collbran Marshal Adam Appelhanz said, and it’s not clear why the suspects were at the residence, which is owned by Fritz and Hufman, according to Mesa County Assessor’s Office records. Appelhanz said the suspects are not from the area and it’s not yet known what they were doing in the Plateau Valley area.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office identified one of the suspects as 23-year-old Trevaun Jzhonta Faison, who has ties to Florida and North Carolina. Authorities didn’t release the name or mug shot of the other suspect, saying they were still conducting witness interviews.
Molina resident Lisa Moore said she and her husband were getting ready for bed Wednesday night when her husband heard gunshots.
“My husband thought it was bears, because over the summer we did have bears,” she said.
Minutes later, the Moores heard Fritz and Hufman at the door, wounded and asking for help. Both had been shot, according to various sources.
Moore said her husband let them in and called 911.
Initial dispatch reports indicated there were three victims — Fritz, Hufman, and another person who was presumed dead. In fact, the third victim, Moody, had left the scene, taking the suspects’ SUV after being shot in the chest. Moody drove to the home of Tammy Perrin in Collbran, where he had finished a tree-trimming job for her earlier that day that he was hired to do with Hufman. Perrin had told him of her background in nursing, and she thinks that’s why he came to her house.
“There was a boom, boom, boom, let me in! Let me in!” Perrin said.
She had been watching TV on the couch with her dogs, and didn’t recognize his voice at first. But she recognized Moody when she opened the door and saw that he was wounded.
“He was barely standing, and when I opened the door, he just fell,” she said.
Perrin dragged him into her house, called 911 and reported to dispatch that he had been shot in the chest and was bleeding, which she said was from being hit in the head with a shovel.
All three victims were taken to St. Mary’s Hospital on Wednesday night, according to Mesa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Megan Terlecky. Moody was in critical condition on Thursday, according to the hospital. Fritz was released from the hospital on Thursday. Hufman’s condition could not be verified.
At this point, it’s unclear what the parties were doing at the Molina residence where the shooting happened. Moody moved there recently and was living in a fifth-wheel trailer, Perrin said.
A Molina resident named Kelly, who asked that her last name not be used because of her government job, said Fritz is fairly well-known around the community.
Fritz ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as a write-in candidate, and has several videos posted on his Facebook page touting his $100 campaign. He also promotes cannabis as a way to re-start America.
Kelly said Fritz is also a fairly accomplished gardener who developed his own method that he calls “Cu.banegss” (pronounced cube-onix).
Kelly said Fritz is seen as a bit of a “conspiracy theorist” who was banned from the local post office.
“He’s not the most reputable citizen in the valley,” she said, describing his home as having a somewhat transient population of “riff-raff.”
“Jim (Fritz) can get eccentric, but I don’t think to the point where anybody would try to kill him,” Applehanz said.
Little information was available on the suspects who were arrested Thursday morning, as court documents were sealed.
“I don’t think they wanted gardening tips,” Kelly said. “I don’t think they came up here to learn Cu.banegss.”
Just before 6 a.m., dispatchers began receiving calls from drivers reporting that two men matching the suspects’ descriptions were hitchhiking along the highway, Terlecky said. Members of the SWAT team had already mobilized in anticipation of catching the suspects, and were able to arrest them in the area near the Grand River Diversion Dam in De Beque Canyon, where I-70 intersects with Colorado Highway 65, around 9:35 a.m.
Perrin credited Moody for having the wherewithal to take the suspects’ vehicle from the scene.
“He may be a tumbleweed, but he’s got smarts,” she said.
Moody’s decision to take the suspects’ vehicle helped law enforcement track down the men on foot, Appelhanz said.
“It was fortuitous for us, because it kind of left those guys stranded there,” he said.
Although a handgun was mentioned as the weapon used in initial reports, the suspects were unarmed when they were taken into custody, Terlecky said.
Residents said they were frustrated to have an incident like this happen in their quiet valley. Kelly said she can recall several other incidents where fugitives came through the Collbran area. She said she wants to dispel the notion that Plateau Valley is a good place to evade the law.
“We’re not a cowpoke town,” she said. “We all have gun racks. This is not the place to come hide. ... We’re ready to shoot.”
Appelhanz said some residents stayed up all night after receiving an emergency notification call warning them of the armed suspects on the loose. Others got out of bed and locked their doors, which they don’t usually do in this rural area.
“But people are calmed back down now, they’re getting back into their daily routine,” he said. “They’re disappointed this type of stuff is going on in their little valley.”
“We like it quiet, we want it quiet,” Perrin said.