Gunman threatens Rio Blanco deputy

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— Criminal charges are pending against a 21-year-old Meeker man who was arrested Thursday after he allegedly pointed a loaded assault rifle at a deputy's head, the Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office reported.

Charles Allen Seals was arrested on charges of first-degree assault on a police officer, menacing, violation of bail bonds conditions, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and reckless endangerment.

He remains in custody.

The charges stem from a bizarre and potentially dangerous incident that began just after midnight 11 miles east of Meeker, on Rio Blanco Road 57, also known as Miller Creek.

The Rio Blanco County Communications Center received a report at 12:02 a.m. of multiple gunshots being fired from a vehicle heading southbound on RBR 57. The female reporting the gunfire told authorities she believed passengers of a pickup truck were shooting at livestock, the Sheriff's Office reported.

A deputy made contact with a white Dodge truck driven by 22-year-old Meeker man Tyler James Tafoya. Two passengers were in the front seat of the vehicle, Kassandra Rieke, 20, also of Meeker, and a 17-year-old male.

Deputies reported that Seals was lying down in the back seat.

Tafoya told the deputy he knew nothing about the gunshots and that one rifle was in the vehicle. The deputy found a loaded .25-06 rifle. After Tafoya and the two front seat passengers got out of the truck, the deputy saw Seals sit up and start to exit, as well.

He was allegedly holding an AR-15 assault rifle - a weapon that can be legally purchased - and then pointed the gun at the deputy.

"Seals pointed the weapon at the deputy's forehead and told him to turn around because he was going to shoot him," the Sheriff's Office reported.

"The driver and other passengers who were standing next to Seals were yelling for Seals to put the gun down while Seals continued to recite his demands that the deputy turn around because he was going to shoot him. Seals took a 'shooters stance' and repeated the demand."

Rieke grabbed Seals' rifle and pushed the magazine release, which caused the ammunition to fall from the weapon, the Sheriff's Office reported. The deputy then moved forward, and Seals again pointed the weapon back at him.

"That's OK, there is still one in the chamber," the Sheriff's Office reported Seals as saying.

One of the truck passengers then grabbed the rifle trying to wrestle it away from Seals, but he maintained control, and for a third time, aimed the weapon at the deputy.

He then made reference to the gun being a toy - the gun was real - and threw it onto the truck seat and began running eastbound.

The Sheriff's Office reported that he found a live round in the chamber of the gun, just as Seals indicated. Deputies cleared the other passengers from the area and began a manhunt for Seals.

Hours later, information was obtained that Seals had been brought to Meeker and was hiding at his girlfriend's home.

Deputies and officers from the Meeker Police Department and a Bureau of Land Management Range surrounded the residence, and found Seals hiding in the basement.

He was arrested without incident.

Michael Joos, Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office undersheriff, said it is unknown whether the assault rifle belonged to Seals. The weapon's serial number has been forwarded to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for more information.

The three other truck passengers - Tafoya, Rieke and the 17-year-old male - have not been charged and were released after interviews Thursday, pending further investigation.

Joos said the Sheriff's Office appreciated the efforts the passengers made in attempting to disarm Seals.

"Basically, we credit their actions with saving our deputy's life," the undersheriff said.

Authorities believe alcohol was involved in the incident, Joos said.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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