A standoff in downtown Pagosa Springs between law enforcement officers and an armed motorist ended at 11:10 a.m. Wednesday with a breach of the vehicle after 26 hours of unsuccessful negotiations.
A suspect, Mark Trail, 59, of Pagosa Springs, was taken into custody.
“Mark Trail is in custody on an arrest warrant for first-degree assault on a police officer,” said Det. Scott Maxwell of the Pagosa Springs Police Department. “Those charges stem from pointing a deadly weapon ... at an officer at the onset of the incident.”
At approximately 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Pagosa Springs Police Officer Tony Kop initiated a traffic stop on Hot Springs Boulevard between Apache Street and the post office following the receipt of a tip that the driver was driving with a revoked license, said Maxwell. The tip came from George Daniels, the investigator with the local District Attorney’s office.
Maxwell indicated that Trail’s license had been revoked due to Trail’s status as a habitual traffic offender.
When Kop approached the vehicle, the driver, later identified as Trail, brandished a weapon and began yelling at the officer, who then retreated to his vehicle and called for backup, Maxwell said.
A perimeter was immediately set up, blocking off a portion of Hot Springs Boulevard and other area streets, with the post office and Bank of the San Juans evacuated and closed. No mandatory hotel evacuation was ordered, Maxwell said, though traffic on the road was very limited.
At about 9 a.m., an officer initiated negotiations with Trail, whom Maxwell described as apparently emotionally distraught, suicidal and armed with a handgun.
Negotiation attempts continued throughout the day and night. As the incident progressed, barricades along Hot Springs Boulevard were moved to allow for increased access along the road, with the post office allowed to reopen at about 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Late Wednesday morning, officers, after more than a day of fruitless negotiations and a belief that Trail was intent on harming himself, decided to breach the vehicle and apprehend Trail, Maxwell said.
At approximately 11:10 a.m., beanbag rounds were fired at the vehicle’s windows, a Taser was deployed to subdue the subject, and he was removed from the vehicle.
Trail and two officers received minor injuries from broken glass during the operation.
Officer Floyd Capistrant, the incident commander, posted his praise on Facebook following the operation, stating, “Proud of my team today ... it was the longest standoff we have done in an incident ... we pulled through and nobody got hurt.”
Maxwell confirmed that Trail did not leave his car during the incident and no shots were fired until the use of beanbag rounds to break the van’s windows.
The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, Pagosa Fire Protection District and various other officials aided in the incident.
Trail was charged in May with animal cruelty for the alleged shooting of a neighbor’s horse. Trail was scheduled for a court hearing at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, at the same time he was pulled over on Hot Springs Boulevard — a court date he missed.
As of press time Wednesday, full charges against Trail were still being processed and no bond was set.
Schools, others affected
Due to the potentially dangerous situation downtown, businesses along Hot Springs Boulevard were affected. Schools were on lockout Tuesday and closed Wednesday.
Additionally, Town Hall was open to staff only and the Ross Aragon Community Center was closed during the incident.
The Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall was postponed and rescheduled for tonight, Sept. 6, at 5 p.m.
A spokesperson at the post office stated that first- and second-class mail was expected to be boxed by late Wednesday, and staff would likely still be working on third-class mail and packages Thursday.
With the situation downtown developing, school officials were told to implement a lockdown. That was later changed to a lockout scenario.
Archuleta School District Superintendent Mark DeVoti explained the difference between a lockout and a lockdown. A lockout occurs when there is a confirmed threat outside of the building and entails locking all outside doors, not allowing anyone to enter or exit, with the daily routine continuing inside the building.
A lockdown, on the other hand, involves turning off all of the lights, locking all classroom doors, drawing the window shades, and having all of the students get down away from the windows and staying quiet. It is a step up from a lockout and occurs when there is a confirmed threat either in or very near the building.
DeVoti explained, “We got a call from dispatch saying, ‘Because of a situation downtown, law enforcement recommends you go on lockdown at all schools.’ So the first call that went out to the three principals was, ‘Lockdown immediately.’”
Since DeVoti didn’t have details at first about what was going on, he made the decision to take the more extreme measure and order a lockdown.
“Then, in the next twenty minutes or so,” DeVoti continued, “we were able to ascertain what the situation was and where the threat was, and I talked with our safety coordinator, Dolly Martin, and we said, ‘Okay, this is clearly a lockout situation.’ Then we called the principals back and told them to downgrade to a lockout.”
For the rest of the day the schools continued with normal routines, then, at 11:15, when kindergarten students were ready to leave, the police department sent an officer to oversee the release.
“They pretty much just stand there in the parking lot and keep an eye out,” said DeVoti. “Even though they knew the situation was down on Hot Springs Boulevard, they weren’t going to take any chances.”
Also at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, on the middle school campus, the fifth- and sixth- graders had a police escort over to the seventh- and eighth-grade building for lunch. At the end of the day, students were escorted to the busses by troopers from the Colorado State Patrol. The same procedure was used last year during a bomb scare, according to DeVoti.
“Since yesterday at the high school it was only the ninth-graders, none of them were driving their own cars,” DeVoti said.
As soon as the situation was downgraded from lockdown to lockout, DeVoti and executive secretary Robyn Bennett sent out a mass communication to all parents in the district, which included an e-mail, an automatic telephone voice message and text messages for cell phones. DeVoti wanted to reiterate the importance of parents keeping contact information current at their student’s school, especially for situations like this. If you did not receive a notice of what was going on during this situation, check with the front office at your school.
School schedules and sports practices are slated to return to normal today.