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Charges against standoff suspect bound over to District Court

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

Eight charges filed against Mark Trail, the suspect in the September standoff with law enforcement that lasted 26 hours, were bound over to District Court Tuesday afternoon, meaning there is sufficient evidence for the case to be heard at trial.

At the same hearing, Trail admitted to driving with a revoked license and had his bond reduced to $50,000 cash surety.

The charges were bound over by District Court Judge Gregory Lyman following a preliminary hearing in which several law enforcement officers were called to testify about the standoff.

Law enforcement personnel called to testify at the hearing included Pagosa Springs Police Department Officer Tony Kop, Chief of Police William Rockensock, Officer T.J. Fitzwater, and Archuleta County’s Sheriff Deputy John Martin.

A video of the tactical maneuver that ended the standoff was also shown during Fitzwater’s testimony.

Much of the testimony questioned the evidence and intent behind the charges that allege Trail pointed a handgun at law enforcement officers during negotiations with intent to harm the officers, and whether or not the gun was ever loaded during the incident or the trigger was ever pulled (as well as Trail’s proficiency with firearms).

During the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Alex Lowe and Danielle Touart, the public defender representing Trail, contested whether or not charges alleging bond violation should be included and if the court could legally take notice that Trail was free on felony bond at the time of the incident. In the end, it was determined that the court could take judicial notice of the fact, making way for the charges involving bond violation to be bound over.

In the end, all eight counts presented were bound over.

Touart then asked that Trail’s bond be reduced from $100,000 (which Touart indicated was four times the amount listed on the bond schedule for a class-three felony), stating that Trail had lived in the Aspen Springs subdivision since 1992 and had no prior felony convictions.

“I can’t go anywhere,” Trail said on his own behalf, adding, “I look forward to my day in court, as a matter of fact.”

Trail said that, were he free on bond, he would work to repair his cabin and sell jam and jelly, as he had before he was arrested.

Lowe argued against any bond reduction, explaining that Trail had a prior felony arrest that did not result in charges due to a lack of follow-up, and was suspected in shootings involving horses.

Lowe also brought up the fact that Trail was driving with a revoked license when the standoff began with a traffic stop, and that the suspect was on his way to a court hearing at the time, suggesting that Trail had no respect for the legal system.

Lowe also cited other instances in which he believed Trail drove without a license — to which Trail later offered explanation, against the recommendation of Touart.

Lyman called the allegations disturbing and Trail’s conduct worrisome before reducing Trail’s bond to $50,000, cash surety. With the bond reduction, Lyman instituted conditions that mean Trail could not possess firearms, drive, or consume or possess alcohol or controlled substances.

Charges previously filed in front of Archuleta County Court Judge Jim Denvir included two counts of first-degree assault on a peace officer, two counts of felony menacing, four counts of violation of bond conditions (one count for each above charge), and driving with a revoked license.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4, Officer 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 Det. Scott Maxwell with the Pagosa Springs Police Department. The tip came from Investigator George Daniels with the local District Attorney’s office.

Maxwell indicated that Trail’s license had been revoked with 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 Kop, 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.

At about 9 a.m., Officer T.J. Fitzwater initiated negotiations with the man, who 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 business 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 unfruitful 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., bean bag rounds were fired at the vehicle’s windows, a Taser was deployed to subdue the suspect, and he was removed from the vehicle.

The suspect and two officers received minor injuries from broken glass during the operation.

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.

At the time of the traffic stop Trail was on his way to court for a hearing stemming from a May charge of animal cruelty for the alleged shooting of a neighbor’s horse.

Trail is currently scheduled for arraignment in both cases at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 18.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on November 19, 2012.