The Flume has finally received an answer from Park County in regards to our July 16, 2016, request for material relating to the eviction of Martin Wirth Feb. 24, 2016, in which deputy Nate Carrigan was shot and killed.
This newspaper had made five previous requests, starting in April 2016, to the 11th Judicial District for documents related to this case. After my third request, the DA’s office just stopped responding to me.
Since I was not getting anywhere with the DA’s office, I sent a request to the county on July 16, 2016, asking for all Colorado Bureau of Investigations interviews and documents, all 11th Judicial District memorandums, audio from Fairplay communications dispatch, emails from all agencies that addressed this incident and the warrant, notices or orders from the Park County Sheriff’s Office that were used to motivate this event.
A three page letter dated July 18, 2016, signed by Sheriff Fred Wegener, stated, “Balancing the competing interests in this matter and considering the authorities cited above as well as the District Attorney’s position, I have reluctantly concluded that disclosure of most of the records you seek at this time would be contrary to the public interest in that such disclosure would potentially hinder or jeopardize the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
Let’s try to place the ongoing investigation into a time line. In the same letter from Wegener, there is a quote by the District Attorney, that states on April 14, 2016, “I consider this to still be [a] pending case because the DA’s office has not received the final case investigation file from the CBI [Colorado Bureau of Investigation] and we have not issued any findings/memorandum on the law enforcement use of force.”
The Flume requested this information from the county on July 16, 2016 and the county responds with an “I still consider this to be [a] pending case” quote made by DA Tom LeDoux on April 14.
The Flume has made numerous requests from the CBI for this information. The CBI finally responded on May 13, 2016.
The response from Susan Medina, public information officer for the CBI, indicated that the DA’s office had the report. She stated in her response, “I wanted to let you know that because the DA has not made an official ruling of the incident, the incident remains under investigation; therefore, reports will not be released at this time. Because the CBI served as an assist role in this case, our reports will be released either through the PCSO or the DA’s Office.”
So which agency is correct? Does the DA’s office have the finished CBI reports or has the DA’s office not received the reports and the investigation is not finished?
In the same July 18, 2016 response from the sheriff to The Flume, the sheriff makes the statement, “In my capacity as official custodian of the records you seek, I have conducted the balancing required by [the case] Harris and the Freedom Colorado Information.”
How could the sheriff “balance” anything if there is still a pending investigation? Wegener specifically states, “as official custodian of the records you seek.” What records? I thought the CBI investigation has not been completed. I thought the DA’s office has not received all the reports and case documents.
Yet Wegener can put his signature to a statement that says he is currently the custodian of the records The Flume seeks?
On top of everything, at the time of this writing, the Carrigan family has not been able to obtain any of these documents.
If Wegener feels it is not in the public interest to release these documents, isn’t it at least in the interest of the family to know what actually happened on that day of the eviction?
Records, records, who’s got the records? This feels like some kind of hide and seek game, played between agencies employed by the public, to obfuscate the progress of the investigation and the whereabouts of the investigative reports.
(Italics and bracketed additions inserted by the editor)