Letter: The Thin Blue Lie!

Dear Editor:

On Dec. 10, 2004, I was involved in the pursuit and shooting death of Everett Link. My actions that night was credited with saving the life of Anthony Mazzola and another deputy.  

Dec. 10, 2010, I retired from the Sheriff’s Office and became the Lieutenant of Patrol for the Town of Rangely. 

On Dec. 10, 2018, I was involved in the pursuit and shooting death of Dan Pierce. I was injured, ending my patrol career; however, but for the actions and misleading statements of Sheriff Mazzola, I could well have remained employed in other areas of Law Enforcement.     

Officers make decisions based on laws, policies, procedures, and common sense.  We are bound by law and guided by policy and procedure.

The law and policy both use specific wording. These words and word combinations are called “elements”. If you are accused of violating criminal law the officer must show you violated specific “elements of the offense” in order to arrest you. 

Colorado Law 18-8-306 “Attempt to influence a public servant” 

1.Any person who attempts to influence any public servant by means of deceit or 

2. by threat of violence or 

3. economic reprisal against any person or property, 

4. with the intent thereby to alter or affect the public servant’s decision, vote, opinion, or action concerning any matter which is to be considered or performed by him or the agency or body of which he is a member, commits a class 4 felony. 

Following the Dec. 10, 2018, shooting, the Town of Rangely conducted an “Administrative investigation,” regarding the Rangely Police Officers actions and decisions as they related to this fatal pursuit and shooting.  

A deputy was also involved but he is a witness in our AI as he is not the subject to our policies nor punitive action by the town.  

Investigators were requested and came from Moffat County. Their job was to review the event, review policy and procedure, and provide a fact-based conclusion based upon recordings and testimony.  They were to present their findings and directly address any violations of policy with detailed explanation, yet they failed to do so.  

It was later discovered why; on Dec. 18 Sheriff Mazzola approached Town Manager Lisa Piering and then the AI team captain.  Mazzola told them of an “officer involved shooting” from 2016.  He stated Chief Wilczek, and I refused to have it investigated. A lie of which the Sheriff knows is not true. Sheriff Mazzola didn’t just tell them one story; he filled the pail full.

Mazzola omitted the fact he knew both the District Attorney and CBI were notified of the 2016 incident and Chief Wilczek asked both if they needed to investigate the warning shots incident. Also omitted was his knowledge both agencies stated the incident was not considered an officer involved shooting and both declined to investigate it. 

Dismissed by Piering as unrelated to the current investigation, Mazzola contacted AI Captain, telling him the same story and more, the investigator believed Mazzola and immediately contacted Piering, telling her the Sheriff’s story and demanding personnel files to investigate the 2016 shooting.  Piering shut him down since it was unrelated to their assigned duty to investigate the 2018 shooting. 

Sheriff Mazzola was so excited he had altered the course of the investigation he actually bragged to a Rangely employee, “It’s not the criminal case that will get them, it’s the AI” and sure enough that’s exactly what happened. 

Unknown to any of us until later the AI Captain reduced Sheriff Mazzola’s statements to writing in his “findings of facts.”  The AI team used his statements to support their outrageous findings. 

They presented their findings to the town and its insurance carrier leading to our choice of either being fired or resigning. The Sheriff went so far as to threaten the town officials with “trouble” if they brought us back. 

We challenged the “findings of facts” via an arbitrator, but we were brushed aside, the town attorney who told us to either take a separation package or face his wrath.  

There are nationally taught and accepted standards of practices, customs and procedural guidelines for such investigations which were ignored, all because of an arrogant man’s lies.

I speak the truth and can prove what I say. Sheriff, you are a public servant, you answer to us, the citizens of this county. You are in the swamp playing the Lyin’ King and this is not your kingdom, it is our home. I’ll die a poor man, but a man nonetheless and a man with ethics. 

Roy Kinney

Rangely

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