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Arboles standoff results in surrender of suspect

An Archuleta County Sheriff’s Department tactical team assembled in Arboles last Wednesday after a domestic violence call led to concerns over one man’s safety and the possibility of a standoff with law enforcement officers.

Archuleta County Undersheriff John Weiss said the incident began about 9:30 p.m Aug. 11, when a sheriff’s department deputy responded to a call of domestic violence in progress on Barton Circle.

According to Weiss, by the time the deputy arrived, friends and witnesses had taken the victims out of the house, leaving Carl Witcher, the alleged assailant, alone in the residence and unresponsive to the deputy’s requests for him to come out.

Weiss said one witness reported hearing two muffled gunshots from within the house after the victims were extricated, while another reported that Witcher said he would “not be taken down by the sheriff’s department.” The testimony led to law enforcement concerns that Witcher was armed, possibly bracing for a standoff with deputies, or had committed suicide.

Based on those concerns, Archuleta County Sheriff Pete Gonzalez assembled the tactical team about 10:30 p.m., including a number of deputies, five sheriff’s units, two officers with the Southern Ute Tribe department, and a negotiator.

Weiss said the negotiator attempted to contact Witcher numerous times via Witcher’s cell phone, however Witcher remained unresponsive.

After assessing the situation — including the fact there were no hostages and the charges Witcher faced were all misdemeanors — Weiss said the tactical team was asked to stand down.

“Negotiation was the appropriate tactic given the circumstances and witness testimony,” Weiss said.

Thursday morning, Weiss said law enforcement personnel returned to the scene and detectives continued to attempt to contact Witcher. In the meantime, Weiss said Witcher contacted the sheriff’s department through a relative and ultimately turned himself in later in the day.

Archuleta County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Witcher on suspicion of child abuse, third-degree assault, harassment, domestic violence and cruelty to animals.

Witcher is being held in the Archuleta County Jail. He is currently serving a 10-day sentence imposed July 15 for a prior offense of cruelty to animals.

james@pagosasun.com