Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor and his command staff recently honored several employees, units and local citizens for their outstanding service at the 11th annual Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Awards Banquet held at the Pueblo Union Depot.
“We have many great employees who work for the Pueblo County Sheriff’s and I am proud to recognize several of them for their tremendous work,” Sheriff Taylor said. “These individuals exemplify our motto “Service over Self.” I am proud to have such outstanding employees working for our organization.”
Among the awards presented by Taylor were two Unit Meritorious citations for the Special Investigations/Narcotics Unit and ACOVA (A Community Organization for Victim Assistance) unit for their outstanding service in 2016.
The Special Investigations/Narcotics Unit was instrumental in investigating several large scale
marijuana grow operations to include outdoor and large, intricate indoor growing/manufacturing operations. The narcotics unit worked the Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office in develop a process to investigate and prosecute the large-scale illegal grow operations. The unit has been successful in getting several high-level felony drug convictions for many of the suspects investigated and arrested in those illegal grow operations. Several of the suspects involved in the illegal grows were operating them under the guise of a medical marijuana operation. When the narcotics unit discovered this, they reached out to state and federal agencies to help negate the defense of such operations falling under the medical marijuana pretense. Through the investigations, narcotics deputies also discovered there were several of the same doctors involved in working with the illegal grows and authorizing the large number of extended plant counts. The investigators worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and DEA to get several of the doctors’ medical licenses suspended or revoked in Colorado. In addition to the marijuana grow investigations, the unit also conducted investigations on other drug traffickers selling controlled substances to include methamphetamine, heroin and LSD. Members of the Special Investigations/Narcotics unit are Captain Don Leach, Sergeant Chris Kilpatrick and Detectives Michael Hecht, Ryan Landreth, Josh Ragan, John Romo and Samuel Wolfe.
ACOVA was recognized for its work advocating and supporting victims of crime in city and county of Pueblo. ACOVA members are highly-trained to work with crime victims and provide crisis intervention referrals on a 24-hour, 365-days a year basis. Members work with other agencies to ensure crime victims do not fall through the cracks. ACOVA also received the 2016 Outstanding Victim Services Program Award at the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance Conference. Members of ACOVA are Jennifer Chavez, Jan Curtis, Meikin Mascarell, Deb Balsick, Chrystal Bond, Sharon Citko, Amanda Conant, Vanessa Emerson, Nona Gladbach, Kris Hurley, Denise Lopez, Candace Rivera, Ashleigh Sanders, Mary Helen Sandoval and James Vigil.
Other awards presented were:
Law Enforcement Officer of the Year: Detective Greg Drake
Detective Drake was honored for his empathy, compassion and justice for the cases he investigates. As an investigator for sexual assault cases, which includes some of the most heinous crimes, Drake continually demonstrates a high-level of competence and diligence to follow every lead as he seeks justice and closure for victims. Drake also is recognized as a mentor and leader among his peers.
Detention Officer of the Year: Dominic Montoya
Montoya, an 18-month veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, was recognized as being a dependable and valued deputy who is always willing to accept extra duties and volunteer for assignments. Montoya was noted for his leadership abilities and willingness to help others. In 2016, he learned and then coached staff on using a new software program and developed a resource guide for that program.
Emergency Services Member of the Year: Arthur Pope
Pope, a planner for the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, was honored for the work he has done to reach out to first responders and service agencies in the community to synchronize training, exercises and improvement planning. He has been instrumental in scheduling and hosting monthly exercises at the Pueblo County Emergency Operations Center and coordinates CSEPP meetings with state and FEMA partners. His efforts were evident when the Pueblo County EOC was activated during the Beulah Hill Fire.
Non-Uniformed Member of the Year: Stefana Adcock
Adcock, the training clerk, was recognized for her work in having assisted every employee of the Sheriff’s Office with scheduling classes, trainings and tracking hours for all employees. She scheduled classes for more than 50 new hires, tracks the certified compliance of all post-certified deputies, schedules all deputies and retired law enforcement personnel for firearms training and schedules trainings and travel for employees.
Citizen of the Year: Mary Helen Sandoval
Sandoval, an ACOVA member, was recognized for her willingness to help those in need, particularly senior citizens. Sandoval has been instrumental in supporting victims of elderly abuse by bringing them to the ACOVA office for help and support. Specifically, it was noted Sandoval helped an elderly abuse victim find a safe place to stay while authorities investigated the case. In addition to her work with ACOVA, Sandoval is a volunteer for YWCA and the El Pueblo Museum.
Volunteer of the Year: Candace Rivera
Rivera, an ACOVA victim advocate, routinely responds to crime scenes to provide personal advocacy, crisis intervention and information on community resources for crime victims. She actively seeks and pays for training conducted on her own time. Rivera was able to pass along information she obtained from one of the trainings to help in the FBI’s Operation Cross Country sting. The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, Pueblo Police Department’s Narcotics Unit and ACOVA joined forces to seek out underage sex-trafficking victims. Rivera’s knowledge of resources was helpful in getting a victim relocated to an out-of-state safe house.
Taylor also presented Sheriff Commendation Awards to Captain Dawn Ballas, Galen Beaver, John Parmenter, Gayle Perez and the employees of the Emergency Services Bureau.
Ballas was recognized for her tireless work with organizing and supporting events to benefit Special Olympics Colorado, including organizing the inaugural Polar Plunge, while Beaver was noted for his work with the inmate re-entry program. Parmenter was recognized for enhancements made in the courier program and Perez was recognized for her professional and dependable work as the public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office and CSEPP.
Emergency Services Bureau employees were recognized for putting their planning, training and exercising efforts to work during the Beulah Hill and Junkins fires. The employees were lauded for their dedicated and tireless work in assisting more than 100 agencies and thousands of citizens affected by the fires. Members of the bureau are: Chief Mark Mears, Captain Tracy Swearingen, Karen Ashcraft, Kristin Blair, Bonner Brice, Theresa Brooks, Sabrina Budzon, Shawnna Clementi, Stephanie Garcia, Mark Gonzales, Anna Gonzalez, Elizabeth Gunn, Karen Harrington, Stephen Haunert, Sherri Herrera, Dylan Jacketta, Rachel Lenn, Michelle Martinez, Jennifer Myers, Erin Orcutt, Larissa Oringdulph, Danielle Perea, Gayle Perez, Danette Pike, Art Pope, Jamie Reigenborn, Robert Reynolds, John Riley, Roberta Romero, Lisa Shorter, Victoria Sequenza, John Sigler, Benjamin Smith, Alyssa Uhernik and Nathan Whittington.
Photos: Enrique Cancio (left), Enrique Saavedra (right), Nicole Saavedra
Pueblo County Sheriff’s Detectives arrested three individuals Monday in connection with an illegal marijuana grow operation discovered at home in Eastern Pueblo County.
Sheriff’s detectives received a tip of a possible illegal marijuana grow operation at a home in the 32000 block of Daniel Road. Detectives obtained and executed a search warrant at the home and two outbuildings on the property and found 230 marijuana plants in various stages of growth.
Detectives spoke with Enrique Saavedra, 36, who was living at the home with his wife. Saavedra said he recently moved to Colorado from Utah to take care of the marijuana grow for a man he met through a mutual friend. His wife, Nicole Saavedra, 33, told detectives she moved to the home only two weeks ago to help her husband.
Detectives then spoke with Enrique Cancio, 47, who admitted the marijuana plants belonged to him but that he was growing them for medicinal purposes. Cancio was unable to provide any documentation to support a medical grow operation.
Enrique Saavedra and Nicole Saavedra were each arrested for cultivation of marijuana and conspiracy. Cancio was arrested for cultivation of marijuana, marijuana possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy. All three have been booked into the Pueblo County Detention Center.
January 4, 2017
Pueblo County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a 28-year-old Texas man Tuesday night, suspected of stabbing a security officer who was trying to detain him after it was reported he threw rocks at several vehicles traveling on the Frontage Road of Interstate 25, north of Pueblo.
Chase Prochaska, whose last known address was in Lake Jackson, Texas, was arrested for second-degree assault, menacing with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief. He was booked into the Pueblo County Detention Center late Tuesday night.
Pueblo Police initially responded to the area at about 8 p.m. on a report of an assault with injury and found the suspect being detained by an armed security officer at Strawberry Fields Marijuana Dispensary, 2285 N. I-25. Deputies arrived a short time later to learn the suspect had stabbed a security officer in the leg as the officer was trying to apprehend him.
The victim told deputies and police, several people came into the dispensary and told him there was a man throwing rocks at vehicles traveling on the Frontage Road in front of the business and now was in the parking lot yelling at customers. The victim said he went outside and tried to confront the suspect but he walked away. The victim said he followed the suspect, when the suspect turned toward him and began waving a knife. The victim said he pulled his service gun and yelled at the suspect to drop the knife. He said the suspect put the knife down to his side but refused to drop it. The victim said he put his gun back in the holster and attempted to grab the suspect but an altercation ensued. During the altercation the victim said the suspect stabbed him in the upper leg. The suspect sustained minor injuries. The victim and a witness were able to detain the suspect until Pueblo Police arrived. The victim and suspect were treated at local hospitals for minor injuries.
During the investigation, deputies learned that three vehicles were damaged by rocks that were thrown by the suspect. All three drivers said they saw the suspect standing in the road waving his arms and then heard a loud noise and noticed their vehicles had been hit by rocks. The damage to the vehicles was estimated at $3,700. None of the motorists were injured.
November 14, 2016
A permanent display recognizing Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies who have earned law enforcement’s highest award – The Medal of Valor – was dedicated today (Monday, November 14, 2016) along with rooms named in memory of two deputies who died in the line of duty.
The Hall of Valor, Captain Leide DeFusco Training Room and Sergeant/Inspector Warren Watts Emergency Operations Center were dedicated at the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Emergency Services Center.
The Hall of Valor, located in the First Floor Hall of the Emergency Services Center, is dedicated to those deputies who have been awarded the Medal of Valor for displaying exceptional courage, bravery and service by putting their lives on the line for the protection of others.
Plaques with photos and narratives of the 14 deputies, who have been awarded the Medal of Valor since 1977, were unveiled in the Hall of Valor. The deputies are:
Detective Rick Oreskey
Corporal Rick Comstock
Deputy Anthony DeHerrera
Deputy Don Leach
Deputy Fred Cortese
Detective Warren Watts
Deputy Allan Brooks
Deputy Ben Parsons
Captain Leide DeFusco
Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor
Lieutenant John Pannunzio
Detective Talby Velasco
Detective Greg Purkett
Detective Michael Hecht
Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor also unveiled the newly named Captain Leide DeFusco Training Room and the Sergeant/Inspector Warren Watts Emergency Operations Center. Captain DeFusco and Sergeant/Inspector Watts, both who died in the line of duty in 2012.
As part of the unveiling, large photo displays of DeFusco and Watts were dedicated in the respective rooms.
Captain DeFusco died in a plane crash, along with retired Pueblo Police Captain John Barger, in the San Isabel National Forest on August 31, 2012. Captain DeFusco and Barger were searching for an illegal marijuana grow in the area when their plane went down.
Sergeant/Inspector Watts died June 16, 2012, following a routine daily run. It was determined after his death, Sergeant/Inspector Watts suffered three separate cardiac arrests, two of which occurred while he was on duty.
“Captain DeFusco and Sergeant/Inspector Watts both made the ultimate sacrifice. Naming these rooms in memory of these fine deputies is a lasting reminder they will be kept forever in our minds and hearts,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. “There is not a day that goes by that we don’t recall the sacrifice these men made in protecting the citizens of Pueblo County.”
November 7, 2016
John Paul Wagner Mason Aragon
Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested three men Saturday morning (November 5, 2016) after they were caught in the process of burglarizing a Pueblo West home.
Deputies responded to a home in the 300 block of W. Mangrum Street at about 7:35 a.m. on a report of a burglary in progress. As deputies approached the home, they found two men walking around the side of the home carrying a large mirror. The two suspects, identified as Mason Aragon, 23, and John Paul Wagner, 32, were apprehended and placed in handcuffs.
Deputies learned there were possibly other suspects inside the home. Deputies entered the home and found one male hiding in the basement of the residence. The suspect, identified as Ashton James, 20, also was apprehended. A fourth suspect is still being sought in connection with the incident.
Deputies found a truck parked in the driveway of the home and belonging to one of the suspects. The bed of the truck had various power tools and sports equipment which appeared to have been taken from the home. Deputies learned that none of the men had ties to the home, which had recently been the site of an illegal marijuana grow.
All three suspects were arrested and booked into the Pueblo County jail for first-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools and theft.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
October 28, 2016
October 28, 2016: On Thursday, October 27th, the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations and Narcotics Unit, the Pueblo Police Department, and the Pueblo County Marijuana Compliance Inspector held several undercover operations at Pueblo County Marijuana Retail shops. The operations were conducted after receiving multiple complaints that underage individuals were being sold the restricted-sale products.
The sting operation revealed one store sold products to an underage individual. This violation took place at Strawberry Fields on north I-25. After the purchase, three store employees were issued a court summons. A notice of the violation will be forwarded to the State Licensing Board. The majority of the store employees at the other locations asked for ID from the operative upon entry, just as state licensing requires.
Both Pueblo County and the State of Colorado do periodic compliance checks at both liquor and marijuana stores to identify those who fail to comply with the law. PCSO Law Enforcement Bureau Chief David J. Lucero knows this effort is worthwhile, “These business owners don’t want to jeopardize their license,” says Lucero “so while it might be tempting to sell to underage persons, knowing we have these operations in place from time to time, is a great deterrent and that makes our under-age population safer.”
August 11, 2016
Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested two people and seized more than 160 marijuana plants and thousands of dollars in grow equipment after separate search warrants were executed at two Avondale homes on Wednesday (August 10, 2016).
Deputies went to a home at 315 Jane Street, Wednesday morning after a citizen called to report a possible illegal marijuana grow operation at the residence due to recent construction on the home and a privacy fence that was added to the property.
Deputies contacted the home’s renters, Michel Mustelier-Montoya, 33, and Yinet Rodriguez-Hernandez, 32, and asked if they were growing marijuana on the property. Mustelier-Montoya admitted he was growing marijuana but said he had paperwork for a medical marijuana license. When the deputies reviewed the paperwork, it was determined the application had been denied on July 20, 2016.
Mustelier-Montoya allowed deputies into a detached garage on the property, where they discovered approximately 80 marijuana plants in various stages of growth located in three separate rooms of the structure. Deputies obtained a search warrant for the property and located another 24 marijuana plants growing in the living room area of the home, which had been converted into a grow room.
Mustelier-Montoya told deputies he had a second marijuana grow operation at a home at 202 Jane Street. Both homes are owned by the same individual. A separate search warrant was issued at 202 Jane Street, where deputies discovered another 41 marijuana plants growing in the double-car garage area of the home.
Mustelier-Montoya and Rodriguez-Hernandez were both arrested for possession of marijuana and cultivation of marijuana.
The two homes where the marijuana grows were discovered had extensive electrical and water irrigation systems added to accommodate the operations. A Pueblo Regional Building inspector deemed both homes unsafe due to the electrical modification. Electrical power was shut off to both homes.
Michel Mustelier-Montoya Yinet Rodriguez-Hernandez
August 2, 2016
Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies have arrested 36-year-old Franco Munch after a concerned citizen called the 911 center to report a strong odor of skunk. The caller said the basement windows of a home on the 1600 block of 28th Ln near the odor, had been boarded up and he had concerns that a large ventilation unit was being used to help cultivate marijuana plants inside. When deputies arrived they spoke to Mr. Munch who said he had a medical marijuana grow in the house. Deputies asked if they could check the plant count for compliance. Munch agreed and deputies discovered over 140 plants, in various stages of growth.
The home had two basement rooms and a garage all outfitted for marijuana cultivation, complete with lighting fixtures, gas canisters, and ventilation. Munch said all the plants were his and admitted they exceeded his plant count permissions. Deputies seized over $500,000 in marijuana and several thousand dollars more in equipment.
Franco Munch, a Florida man who had only recently moved into the Pueblo County home, has been charged with:
• Possession with Intent to Manufacture Marijuana (Drug Felony 1)
• Cultivation of Marijuana more than 30 plants (Drug Felony 3)
Colorado State Patrol Hazmat Team along with Pueblo Rural Fire Department responded to the scene to ensure the elevated CO2 levels inside the home didn’t create a health risk for first responders. Pueblo Regional Building also responded to the scene to check structural integrity and safety.
Narcotics Detectives have assumed the case. If anyone has additional information regarding this or any other suspected marijuana grow incident you are encouraged to call the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office @ 719 583 6250 or Pueblo Crime Stoppers at 542 STOP (7867).
July 21, 2016
Pueblo County Sheriff’s Detectives arrested three men and seized 19 firearms, along with 56 marijuana plants after executing a search warrant at a Pueblo West home Thursday (July 21, 2016).
Detectives obtained information that residents of a home at 117 N. Candlewood Drive in Pueblo West were possibly growing and selling marijuana illegally from the home. During an earlier undercover operation, detectives made a purchase of more than one pound of marijuana at the home.
On Thursday, detectives returned to the home with a search warrant and discovered a marijuana grow operation consisting of 56 plants along with an active butane hash oil operation. The search also uncovered 19 firearms, including an assault rifle which was illegally modified to fire automatically.
The homeowner, Gary Clasby, 49, was arrested on charges of possession of a dangerous weapon, hazardous extraction of marijuana and cultivation of more than 30 marijuana plants.
Two other men, who were living in a camper on the property, were also arrested. Matthew Prigge, 31, was arrested for hazardous extraction of marijuana concentrate and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Brandon Cederholm, 24, was arrested for hazardous extraction of marijuana concentrate and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
All three men have been booked into the Pueblo County Detention Center.
(Top Left to Right: Gary Clasby, Matthew Prigge, Brandon Cederholm)
July 7, 2016
More than 1,000 marijuana plants worth a street value of $4.2 million were confiscated Thursday (July 7, 2016) from an illegal grow discovered on private property near the Table Top Mountain area in Rye.
Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor spearheaded the multi-agency operation called, “Operation Flypaper III”, to take down the fourth illegal marijuana grow site discovered in the area in less than four years. Two marijuana grows were discovered and dismantled in August 2012, and a third grow site was found and taken down in October 2015. All four grows are believed to be connected to a Mexican cartel.
“I do try to make it as difficult as possible for cartels or anyone else to illegally grow marijuana in the county of Pueblo. In this case, we had help from our federal stakeholders and we brought resources together to make the point clear,” Taylor said.
Assisting the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Narcotics and Special Weapons and Tactics teams with Thursday’s operation were the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Colorado National Guard.
The illegal grow was discovered several months ago in proximity to where the three other sophisticated, major illegal marijuana grow operations were found on San Isabel National Forest land as part of “Operation Flypaper” and “Operation Flypaper II”. More than 9,400 marijuana plants were confiscated in those two operations.
The latest operation was spearheaded by Taylor following months of investigation by Sheriff’s Detectives after being alerted by hikers who reported seeing men hauling irrigation tubing into the area. A fly over of the area was conducted by DEA and confirmed the illegal marijuana grow on private property, near Gleason Canyon.
Sheriff’s Detectives notified the property owner, who was unaware marijuana was being grown on his land. The property owner gave permission for authorities to search the land and confiscate all marijuana plants found.
Early Thursday, law enforcement officers hiked through steep mountain terrain and found 1,067 marijuana plants, along with thousands of dollars of extensive irrigating and growing equipment. Authorities also discovered make-shift shelters, where it is believed the caretakers of the plants had been living. Authorities believe the caretakers harvested some of the plants before abruptly abandoning the grow site about a month ago. No suspects have been located.