A second swatting incident in Estes Park occurred Monday night at The Taffy Shop on Elkhorn Avenue less than three weeks after the false report of an active shooter at Estes Park High School and just days after the Estes Park Police responded to a murder-suicide in Pinewood Springs.
According to Kate Miller, public information officer for the Town of Estes Park, a call from an unidentified source was received at the town’s Communications Center at 6:58 p.m. The caller was a male and stated that he was inside The Taffy Shop, that all of his coworkers were dead, and that the shooter was a Black male. Gunshots were heard in the background of the phone call. Officers responded to the scene and arrived in the area within approximately one minute.
Mark Igel, owner of The Taffy Shop and also an Estes Park firefighter with the Estes Valley Fire District, had just returned to his store a few minutes after 7 p.m. when he got a call that there was a shooting at his place of business. Within moments there were two Estes Park Police officers with rifles at the front door.
When he opened the door he was told that the police had received an active shooter report and that “everyone in the store was down,” said Igel whose voice shook with emotion as he described what it was like to be on the other side of a traumatic event.
“It’s a small town and fortunately I knew both officers that were there, and another officer going by and the sheriff, they were very fast,” said Igel who admitted that things could have gone down differently if the officers had not recognized him and knew him as both the shop owner and as a fellow first responder.
Igel closed The Taffy Shop at 5 p.m. He went to have dinner and then returned to do some cleaning and prepare for the next business day. “I’m glad I was there and they didn’t have to make a forceable entry,” Igel said describing the officers “like police machines at the door, they looked so big and so strong and so good, so like ‘safety is here.’”
Within a few minutes of getting the call notifying him as a first responder of the incident, Igel received a phone call from his son, Trevor, who joined the fire department about six months ago and had also received the same call about the active shooter at the store. “What really got to me was Trevor called and said ‘dad are you okay, were you shot,’” said Igel who described how difficult it was to process the fear he heard in his son’s voice.
Not only was there an immediate response of law enforcement from the Estes Park Police Department, the Larimer County Sheriff, Colorado Parks Wildlife, and Law Enforcement Rangers from Rocky Mountain National Park, but emergency medical personnel from the fire district also responded to what had been reported as a mass casualty incident.
Estes Park Police Chief David Hayes was on the scene and spoke briefly to the Trail-Gazette. He said the situation appeared to be a swatting incident and that it was unlikely that the town would have any more to say about the matter.
Igel said he met with the police following the situation for a debriefing, and then with colleagues at the fire station to process both professionally and personally what had happened. One of the things Igel said he was trying to wrap his head around was whether the incident was random and it just happened to be his business, or if his store had been specifically targeted.
As a professional first responder, Igel knows how to calmly deal with a crisis but admitted it is very different to be on the other side of the helping system when you find yourself at the center of a crisis and your adrenaline is coursing through your body making it shake and tears flow.
“I have not had this much emotion show itself, I can’t remember ever,” said Igel who said it was important for him to go to the fire station and be with the other firefighters and show that emotion with them. “I felt like I needed to do that. I hugged every person who showed up. People do that for firefighters all the time, ‘Thank you for coming. Thank you for helping.’ Oh my gosh, when you see that personal commitment of people showing up whether it was the police or the other firefighters, it’s overwhelming that people do that. I never think about it that way when I provide the service. I’m glad to be there. I’m glad to be a part of the solution. But you don’t realize how personal it is and how life-changing it is,” said Igel.
Igel saw his fellow first responders doing exactly what they have all trained for and he said he was proud of their response. He expects the situation will be used by the department for further training.
Igel said the three incidents of the school swatting, the murder-suicide, and the situation at his store all in less than three weeks have been stressful for the area’s law enforcement and first responders.
The Larimer County Sheriff issued a statement Monday evening about a murder-suicide that took place Friday around 8:45 p.m. A 911 call from a woman was received by the Estes Park Police Department who provided an address on Button Rock Road in Pinewood Springs located off Highway 36. Gunshots were heard in the background. Law enforcement from Estes Park Police, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, and Larimer County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene. The incident is being investigated as a domestic violence shooting and the identities of the individuals have not yet been released.
After first responders entered the home they located a deceased man and a woman with life-threatening injuries. A handgun was also recovered from the scene. The woman was transported by helicopter to an area hospital where she died from her injuries.
“The sudden loss of two lives has a lasting impact on families, friends, and first responders,” said Captain Bobby Moll, who leads the LCSO Investigation Division, in the release. “Calls like this are traumatic for all involved, and I want to commend the dispatchers, deputies, and medical crews who did everything they could in a very difficult situation. We will continue to support the affected families in the challenging days and weeks ahead.”
The Pinewood Springs investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Investigator Jesse Ihnen at 970-498-5165. People who wish to remain anonymous can also contact Crime Stoppers of Larimer County at 970-221-6868 or www.stopcriminals.org
On February 22, Estes Park Police along with other area law enforcement agencies responded to a false report of an active shooter at Estes Park High School. The high school was one of at least a dozen Colorado districts that received a false report of an active shooter that day. The term “swatting” refers to a call placed to 911 that falsely reports an emergency intended to draw an armed police response which may include a special weapons and tactics – or SWAT – team.
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