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Colorado State Patrol trooper’s death highlights concern over first responders’ safety

The death of a Colorado State Patrol trooper killed last week while assisting a stranded driver has fueled concern over the safety of first responders who put their lives in danger along Colorado roadways. (File Photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Colorado State Patrol troopers buried one of their own Thursday.

Corporal Dan Groves, an 11-year member of the patrol based out of the agency's Greeley office, was struck and killed by a car while helping a stranded driver during last week’s historic blizzard.

His death has highlighted a statewide concern over the safety of first responders who risk their lives during traffic stops and other roadside duties. This comes as traffic officials have reported a spike in fatal crashes in recent years, underscoring the need for more responsible driving.

Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Scott Elliott works in and around Routt County, but he knew Corporal Groves and mourned his loss.

“He was a great guy and a great trooper,” he said of Groves.

Elliott understands all too well the risks law enforcement officers take when they conduct traffic stops along increasingly busy roadways.

“It can be downright scary sometimes,” he said.

He vividly remembers an incident from more than 10 years ago when his own patrol car was hit while he was responding to a crash in the Denver metro area. Fortunately, he was unharmed.

That day has been stamped in his memory as a reminder of what can go wrong during seemingly routine incidents. He added that many other law enforcement officials have faced similar, life-threatening situations on the roads.

“It happens a lot,” he said.

A law actually exists to protect law enforcement during traffic stops.  It is called the Move Over Law and requires drivers to, as the name suggests, move over when passing first responders. Those who can’t do so must slow down as they pass.

The law has been around since 2005, but lawmakers have buckled down on enforcement in light of subsequent tragedies.

In 2017, the state passed a bill increasing the fines and maximum jail time for offenders after another trooper, Cody Donahue, was killed during a traffic stop. Drivers now face 12 to 18 months in jail and up to a $100,000 fine if they do not move over or slow down for first responders.

Elliott explained troopers also do their best to stay out of harm's way when walking and standing along busy roads. They go through rigorous training on topics like roadside safety and traffic incident management. Troopers know to watch for dangerous drivers and try to find the safest spots to stop along roadways.

Despite their best efforts, reckless drivers are always a risk factor, especially in inclement weather.

“A lot of drivers on our highway just go way, way, way too fast for the road conditions,” Elliott said.

The issue of first responder safety is two-fold, according to Sam Cole, communications manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation's traffic safety unit.

First, most Coloradoans do not know about the Move Over Law. To that end, he and others from the department have taken to social media and digital message boards in the last week to inform the public and promote cooperation.

Second, drivers across the state have become more reckless in recent years as roadways get busier and more congested.

Cole explained fatal car crashes in Colorado have increased by 30 percent since 2014. That far outpaces the state’s population growth, which is up 7 percent from 2014.

“There’s just more people driving unsafely on the roadways,” Cole said.

He added that if people adopted safer driving behavior, especially around first responders, hundreds of lives could be saved.

“The best rule of thumb is if you see flashing lights on the side of the road ahead of you, slow down or move over,” Cole said.

Funeral services for Corporal Groves were held Thursday and included a seven-mile procession that started in Mead and ended at his church in Longmont.

An investigation of the accident that led to his death is ongoing.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

Kelly Hatten gives Craig voters write-in option for mayoral election

Craig residents not happy with the two choices for mayor in the upcoming April 2 municipal election have another option as of Thursday, March 21.

Kelly Hatten, a small business owner in Craig, officially filed his affidavit Thursday to run as a write-in candidate for mayor of Craig. Hatten will face current Councilman Jarrod Ogden and incumbent Mayor John Ponikvar.

In an interview Thursday, Hatten said he doesn't like the two choices for mayor, and though he said he had planned to wait two more years to run with his name on the ballot, he recently decided he didn't want to wait anymore.

"l'm not a politician," Hatten said. "I'm just an average person trying to do the best we can for the community we live in."

Hatten questioned the city's recent decision to switch to a monochloramine disinfectant in the city's water supply.

"It seems like the option being chosen is the cheapest route possible," Hatten said of the city's recent water decisions. "Well, the cheapest route may not be the best choice."

Hatten also said he wants to help facilitate a recreation center for Craig residents similar to the center in Meeker.

"We need to figure out a way to be able to build a rec center and have a rec center in Craig," Hatten said. "If we don't, we are going to lose our younger generation. They're gonna end up leaving our community."

Hatten also said he wants recreational marijuana in Craig and the tax revenue that will come with it.

"It needs to get back on the ballot," Hatten said.

In an interview Thursday, Sherman Romney, Craig's city attorney, said residents who haven't yet voted can come to the city clerk's office at the county courthouse beginning Monday, March 25, and get a ballot with a write-in area.

The city will also be mailing residents a notice of the write-in option.

"We're going to issue a notice of instruction for people who want to vote for a write-in candidate," Romney said.

Those residents who have already voted can't vote again, Romney said.

"If people have already voted, the law is pretty clear their vote has already happened, and they're not able to change their vote," Romney said.

The reprinting of ballots won't cost much. Romney said mailing out notices to all eligible Craig voters will be the greatest expense, though no cost estimates were available Thursday.

The city should have most of the notices mailed out by Friday, March 22, according to Romney, who added residents wishing to write-in their candidate must write in Kelly Hatten's name, or their vote won't count.

"If they put another name down, it basically nullifies their vote, because that vote cannot be counted," Romney said.

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.

Businessman Kelly Hatten announces late entry into Craig mayoral race

In a surprising twist, Craig residents may have a new choice in the race for mayor. At about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, on Facebook, business owner Kelly Hatten announced his intention to run as a write-in candidate.

“I understand that this write-in option for the Mayoral race is quite last minute. My original intent was to run for Mayor of the City of Craig in two years. What a (sic) realized though, YOU need a choice NOW that you can feel good about making. I feel that sitting back and allowing another two years under one of your other candidate choices would mean that I was not doing all that I can to work for and support my home city,” wrote Hatten on his newly created campaign page.

Word of a mysterious person researching the rules for write-in candidates in the city charter began circulating soon after the Craig Press and Craig Association of Realtors candidate forum, held Monday, March 18, at Moffat County High School in advance of the April 2 municipal election.

“If you haven’t already turned in your city election ballots, Hold on… There might be another choice for Mayor!” Melody Villard wrote on her Facebook page, followed by more than 2,100, on Tuesday. The post was shared on other social media sites. Wednesday night, she posted, “Kelly Hatten’s affidavit to run as a write-in candidate for Mayor of the City of Craig will be in the city clerk’s hands tomorrow morning.”

Hatten stated that, “If you have already voted, Thank you for participating in our local government. If you have not…you can hold your ballot…new ballots will be printed and available at the Moffat County Courthouse on April 2nd that will allow you to write in KELLY HATTEN for Mayor. If you have already marked, but not turned in your ballot…bring it with you to the courthouse and you will be given a new ballot with the write-in choice.”

This is a developing story. In an exchange via Facebook Messanger, Hatten agreed to speak with a reporter on Thursday.

 

 

Steamboat lacrosse player’s father dies during game Tuesday night

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg confirmed that 52-year-old Chris Hahn died Tuesday, March 19. An autopsy has been scheduled for Friday.

Hahn passed away while filming the Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse game against Glenwood Springs. His son, senior Kieran Hahn, was playing for the Sailors. The game was suspended at halftime, and plans to reschedule have not yet been announced.

Seniors from the Sailors team met Wednesday and elected to travel to Glenwood Springs for their game that night.

Grief and trauma counselors will be available to students throughout the week at the high school. Counselors will also be present at the remaining home games for players.

Katy Thiel from Northwest Colorado Health will lead a discussion for parents on how to best support their children who are grieving at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at Steamboat Springs High School.

Hahn is survived by his wife, Mary Grace, and his two sons Liam and Kieran.

Squatter arrested by Craig police: On the Record — March 18, 19

Craig Police Department

Monday, March 18

12:12 a.m. On the 500 block of West Victory Way, officers of the Craig Police Department responded to a woman calling to report a burglary in progress. Upon investigation, it was discovered that her husband was the person banging on her door. When officers arrived, everything was OK.

11:07 a.m. On the 700 block of Stout Street, a dog reportedly jumped the fence and challenged a person, promoting the concern that the dog is vicious and a report was taken.

4:01 p.m. In Craig, officers investigated a report of possible child abuse or neglect.

4:30 p.m. On the 600 block of Colorado Street, officers responded to a call about a trespasser. A person was living in a woman's empty house. When officers arrived they arrested a 49-year-old transient man was arrested for first-degree criminal trespass.

7:21 p.m. On the 400 block of Yampa Avenue, a 27-year-old Craig woman was arrested for violation of a protection order.

9:52 p.m. On the 2000 block of West Victory Way, a man reportedly shoplifted alcohol. The incident is under investigation.  

Tuesday, March 19

9:59 a.m. On the 900 block of Yampa Ave, a cell phone was located and turned over to Craig police.

10:03 a.m. Near the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and First Street, officers responded when the driver of a Ford F-150 crashed into a deer. The deer was not killed. There were no injuries to the driver, who was able to drive the vehicle after the crash.

11:21 a.m. On the 800 block of Ranney Street, officers responded to an animal complaint. It was the first of nine such complaints made on Tuesday including one report of an injured deer.

4:49 p.m. On the 400 block of Washington Street, officers responded to a possible restraining order violation. The person under restraint was reportedly calling and texting the protected person. A report was taken.

11:52 p.m. On the 2000 block of West Victory Way, officers responded to a possible shoplifting incident.

According to the Craig Police Department incident log, police responded to at least 27 calls for service on Monday, March 18 and 33 calls for service on Tuesday, March 19.

Teen stabber sentenced to 20 years

EAGLE — A local woman is not dead because she acted quickly.

According to police, Andrew Young tried desperately to kill her on the morning of May 31, 2018, on a recreation path in Avon. He hit her on top of her head with a Pinnacle Cutlery kitchen knife, then stabbed her five times so hard the blade broke. When she ran for her life, sprinting while gushing blood and praying to see her children one more time, he chased her.

Police know the facts of what happened, but why has been much harder to pin down. Avon police determined it was a random attack.

Young will spend the next 20 years in prison, sentenced Tuesday afternoon by District Court Judge Russell Granger. Young was 18 when he carried out the attack in May. He turned 19 in the Eagle County jail.

THE VICTIM BRAVELY SPEAKS
The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke bravely through tears in the courtroom on Tuesday, recounting in more than 20 minutes of testimony what Young’s attack put her and her children through — so far. She says she doubts she’ll ever fully recover.

She was on her early-morning jog along a recreation path in Avon when she sensed that things weren’t right.

She continued running. Maybe everything would be OK.

“It was very, very far from OK,” Deputy District Attorney Stephen Potts said.

She jogged past Young, skulking beside the path. She could hear above her earphones his heavy running behind her.

He passed her and she stopped for a moment, but soon she started her run again.

As she began to move, he plunged the knife all the way through her shoulder and out the back. Then he kept stabbing her.

“He had a dark and frightful determination, on his face,” the victim said through her tears. “The only reason he stopped is that he broke the knife while he was penetrating my chest.

“Each stab was as powerful as the first,” she said.

When he stabbed her in the arm, Young broke off a chunk of her humerus bone. The surgical repair was one of five surgeries in six months, two within hours of the attack to stop internal bleeding caused by bone fragments the man had chopped loose.

Even stabbed, shocked, gushing blood, she managed to break free and run.

“I ran for my life and he chased me down. He was showing no mercy,” she said.

While she was being stabbed, the woman said she thought of her children, hoping that she would like to see them one more time, she said.

She sprinted for 75 to 100 yards. Young ran after her, she said.

“I ran with all of my might. He was right behind me. He was not lethargic and the only reason he stopped was because we reached the Westin hotel,” she said.

Two “nice men” at the Westin helped her. Avon Police Chief Greg Daly says their quick actions helped save her life.

“I called 911 to make sure someone knew what had happened to me,” she said.

'I lost all quiet moments'
Young claims he has faced some adversity in his 19-year life, but nothing that would lead to this kind of violence, Potts said.

“This is not a case where he was abused and locked in a cage by his parents,” Potts said.

HER FAMILY’S LIFE IS FOREVER ALTERED

Before the brutal murder attempt, the victim said she was living like everyone else: juggling school, her children and a career. Her physical and emotional damage is with her constantly, she said.

“The joy was crushed in my grieving tears. I lost all quiet moments, the quiet and peace. I’ve lost my life,” she said.

Her children are profoundly impacted

“My heart breaks at the sadness in their eyes,” she said.

When she looks in the mirror, the “red, ugly scars” look back at her.

“Every day when I see and feel the lumpiness across my chest, it’s like the scars are taunting me; physical signs that I will never be the same again,” she said.

Her nights are haunted.

“It’s an exhausting existence,” she said.

The blood so visible during the attack returns to her mind when she sees the scars, she said.

“I resent that I will never be able to enjoy the outdoor activities that we once had, and that I will never be able to enjoy basic experiences with my kids,” she said.

Her morning workouts have been replaced with trying to generate the courage to walk to her front door, she said.

“Every sound, every sudden movement, even a stranger’s casual glance are terrifying triggers,” she said.

She left a career she enjoys because walking through the parking structure to the hospital is too terrifying. She constantly scans everyone to validate her safety, she said. Even seeing a hooded sweatshirt — like the one the man was wearing — can be a trigger.

‘I would have supported him’
Young was someone his neighbors and friends would have helped through whatever he was facing, she said.

“I would have supported him. Instead, he hunted me down and attempted to kill me,” she said.

He left his hometown of Red Bank, New Jersey, and moved to his mother’s Avon condo, just a quarter mile from the victim’s home and immediately began planning a murder, the victim said.

“His mother knew something horrific had happened but attempted to conceal it,” she said, referring to Young’s mother washing her son’s bloodstained clothes.

‘That’s what he is’
The victim was a world-class gymnast and coach. Now there is rarely a day she doesn’t cry, a friend said during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.

“This sweet woman is experiencing a nightmare that may never end,” he said.

The attack wasn’t robbery or rape, it was a premeditated murder attempt, he said.

“This coward … that’s what he is … viciously stabbed her several times, then ran away leaving her for dead,” he said.

“That morning he was a predator on the hunt for a kill,” he said.

The man turned and spoke to Young directly at the defendant’s table, where Young sat quietly with his head down, his long dark hair shorn and short.

“Andrew Young, you’re a failure. You’re a coward. There is a lot I would like to do to you, but don’t need to. I’m going to let the prison population take care of that. You’re a coward and you deserve everything you’re gonna get.”

Three members of Young’s family were in the courtroom. His father, Andrew Young Sr., spoke to Judge Granger and the victim during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.

“On behalf of my entire family how sorry we are and that we pray every day for your recovery. I hope, I pray that we can begin to heal as a community and a family. God help us,” he said.

Young’s 20-year sentence is longer than he has been alive, public defender Thea Reiff said.

Young’s sentence will end. His victim’s may not, her friends said.

Moffat County’s Kinlie Brennise has final hoops outing in All-State game

Moffat County High School’s Kinlie Brennise, back row second from left, was among 16 3A athletes to compete in the All-State basketball games hosted by Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports.

With one last chance to wear the Bulldog blue, Moffat County High School senior basketball player Kinlie Brennise made the most of every moment in the past weekend.

Kinlie was named to the All-State game hosted in Denver by Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports.

Kinlie played for the blue team in the event, hosted Sunday by Arvada West High School, part of a 75-71 win in the exhibition match honoring upperclassmen in the 3A division.

“It was definitely a great experience. I had so much fun,” she said. “It’s something I’ve been working for my whole high school career, and it finally paid off. I was super blessed to be a part of it.”

The blue team was headed by Manitou Springs coaches Jessie Black and Justin Armour, the latter of whom has a professional football past, including being part of the Denver Broncos roster for Super Bowl XXXIII.

With eight players on each squad, Kinlie — nicknamed “8 seconds” by Armour for her rodeo proficiency — played alongside Courtney Freeman, of fellow Western Slope League team Cedaredge, while on the other end was WSL Player of the Year Shaya Chenoweth, of Grand Valley.

The weekend also included a Saturday banquet, with MCHS coach Jim Loughran in attendance to support his athlete.

Moffat County High School’s Kinlie Brennise and coach Jim Loughran gather during the banquet for Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports’ All-State basketball games.

Though he has only worked with Kinlie for one season, L0ughran said multiple coaches in the conference have noted her strengths on the court.

“She definitely brought a lot of senior leadership this season,” he said.

MCHS girls finished the winter 17-6, runner-up in the WSL during the regular season and third in the district tournament before moving into the opening round of the state tourney, where Lady Bulldogs fell 50-41 to University.

During a recent awards ceremony for the program, Kinlie and teammate Halle Hamilton each took All-Conference First Team honors, with Madie Weber, Tiffany Hildebrandt and Quinn Pinnt earning All-Conference Honorable Mention.

Kinlie, Hildebrandt, Weber, Jaidyn Steele and Brittnee Meats each had Academic All-State distinctions.

Loughran also continued former coach Kenley Nebeker’s tradition of HARASS, which emphasizes players’ formidable traits.

Moffat County High School’s Halle Hamilton received honors in the Steals, Sixth Man and Assists categories of Lady Bulldog basketball’s HARASS awards.

Stephenie Swindler took the Hustle award and Hildebrandt Armor and Rebounds. Hamilton, also the team’s top scorer as a freshman and leader in multiple stat categories, was the recipient of Steals, Assists, and Sixth Man titles.

Weber gained HARASS Player of the Year for her all-around style throughout the year.

Moffat County High School’s Madie Weber was named HARASS Player of the Year for the Lady Bulldogs.

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Election Forum Part 1: Mayoral candidates address economy, recreation, leadership

In a modified debate format, Mayor John Ponikvar and Craig City Councilman Jarrod Ogden voiced their views about the city’s future during the Craig Press and Craig Association of Realtors candidate forum, held Monday, March 18, at Moffat County High School in advance of the April 2 municipal election.

The forum was organized into two parts — a modified debate between mayoral candidates and a question-and-answer style forum for council candidates. Steamboat Pilot & Today Editor Lisa Schlichtman moderated the forum in place of Craig Press Editor Jim Patterson, who was unable to attend. Each candidate was given two minutes to open with a statement about his vision for the city.

“We will not live in the past …” Ponikvar said, as he outlined his vision to “engage our youth, value our seniors, support and promote our lifestyle to the world.” He said he believes this is “the most exciting time I’ve ever seen …” in the history of Craig.

Craig has “a window of opportunity for the next two years” to attract and retain new businesses, Ponikvar said, pointing to his education, experience, time, and energy as strengths he would bring to a second term as Craig’s mayor.

Ogden said his vision is to “invest back into our community …” He emphasized the importance of small businesses, partnerships, and fostering great relationships, adding that he wants to initiate a review of the city charter to change “things that don’t make sense, things that might be hindering things in the community..”

The Craig Press solicited questions from readers and selected three issue areas around which to quiz mayoral candidates.

Leadership

Ogden who currently works as both transportation and facilities and maintenance director for the Moffat County School District said, “I’m a spaz; I like to be busy. The challenge is the thing I accept the most …” He added that serving as mayor “is not a lot different from what I’m currently doing at city council and at work.”

In contrast, Ponikvar said, “It takes time to do this job. I have the time …”

He described the “great” staff at his business — NAPA T & H Auto Parts — which affords him the opportunity to attend meetings throughout the day and take trips across the state to represent the city. He cited one such as a trip he made last week to Golden to lobby for a $1 million grant to support planned changes to Craig’s water system.

Readers wanted to know how Ponikvar planned to address the perception of business conflicts of interest and whether the mayor — as a business owner — profited from normal city business.

“… What I offer to the city is no more than I did before I got onto council. …,” he said. “You will not see me soliciting business from any city entity. I stay out of it.”

Ogden, who formerly owned Three Sons Construction in Craig, said that, when he owned his business, he abstained from voting “if something came up.” In his new role with the school district, Ogden said he represents the district. but added “there is no personal gain. … It has been helpful to foster the strong relationship between school district and city.”

The candidates also articulated different approaches to their involvement in the day-to-day oversight of city business.

Ponikvar described attending regular staff meetings. Ogden, on the other hand, said he intends to “allow department heads to do their jobs unencumbered. … They have done a wonderful job over the decades.”

Ogden added that he felt it was important to “continue the city of Craig’s transparency with community and constituents.”

Economic development

The candidates were given an opportunity to describe what City Council is currently doing to attract and retain new businesses and young professionals, as well as specific actions they would take to attract both. Both Ponikvar and Ogden emphasized the need for additional amenities to help make the community both appealing and retain young professionals.

Both spoke about recent efforts to revitalize downtown businesses with a matching grant program, new investments in Breeze Park, and trail improvements under the Master Parks and Recreation plan, finalized late last year.

About the grant program, which will see the city give a dollar for dollar match up to $10,000, Ponikvar said, “If you have a $20,000 project that will upgrade your business, we will become your partner.”

Ponikvar also spoke of his work to support growth at Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Ogden noted his recent work in bringing the city, school district, and Humane Society together in the creation of the town’s first dog park. He also said he would continue to encourage city staff to maintain the downtown snow removal program instituted this year.

The two men expressed different views on the role of community development versus economic development.

Ponikvar spoke of his disappointment that council didn’t fund the Moffat County Economic Development Partnership.

“They had a long-term vision for economic development …,” Ponikvar said, noting that Yampa Valley Electric Association was preparing to launch residential broadband services, something he said “would not have come here without what Michelle Perry did. … We still need a vision for the future and that your mayor will offer that vision and lead it for the future.”

In contrast, Ogden said he believes economic development begins with developing the community. He also expressed a willingness to fund some community development projects by spending down reserves.

“The first step is, we start by cleaning up our own streets, our own backyards … then move forward with these programs and attract out of town businesses,” Ogden said in rebuttal.

The two men also disagreed on the proposal to create an economic development department within the city to work on a long-term vision. Ponikvar supported the idea, while Ogden did not, though Ogden did concede it might be something the city might need to consider in the future.

Recreation center

All candidates, including both men running for mayor, expressed support for a recreational center in Craig.

“I would love to see one in Craig,” Ponikvar said. “When you want to attract people to Craig. you have to provide recreation.”

Ogden agreed adding, “It’s something we’ve been missing.”

Both spoke of the need for the creation of a special recreation taxing district to help pay initial construction costs, as well as fund ongoing maintenance.

“If a rec center were to happen, it will happen because of you, the voters,” Ponikvar said.

Candidates ended with brief closing statements. The forum was streamed live and can be viewed on the Craig Press Facebook page.

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part story about the Craig Press/Craig Association of Realtors candidate forum held Monday, March 18, in advance of the April 2 municipal election. Part two, featuring candidates for Craig City Council, will be published Friday. Clay Thorp and Andy Bockelman contributed to this report. 

Yampa Valley law enforcement cracking down on counterfeit money

Craig Police Department investigators are working with other law enforcement agencies in the Yampa Valley to keep residents from falling victim to counterfeit currency.

In the last six months, several arrests have been made related to counterfeit currency in Craig and fake bills taken off the streets.

"There are suspects that have been charged," said Craig Police Department Capt. Bill Leonard. "However, right now the plan we are working with is, because there have been cases in Hayden and Steamboat, we're working with investigators in Steamboat and an officer in Hayden to put all the cases together."

According to an analysis of Craig Press police blotter entries for 2018 and 2019, police in Craig reported either confiscating or obtaining counterfeit bills at least five times since October — many of them $100 bills.

The Craig Press obtained three felony arrest records on charges of possession of a forged instrument — arrest records for Fredrick Charles Battle, 47, of Craig, Jessie Allen Grubbs, 27, of Hayden, and Hec Merton Mcentee, 43, of Hayden.

According to an arrest affidavit in Mcentee's case, on Feb. 26 police found five $100 bills with "markings that are not consistent with U.S. currency," in a backpack that allegedly belonged to Mcentee. Mcentee posted a $750 bond Feb. 27. Mcentee also faces other misdemeanor charges and a felony charge of possession of an explosive or incendiary device.

According to an arrest affidavit in Grubbs' case, Craig police found a fake $100 bill in Grubbs' jacket pocket after arresting him on a misdemeanor warrant Feb. 7. Police said they found heroin and items commonly used to smoke the drug, so Grubbs is also facing a felony drug possession charge and a possession of drug paraphernalia charge. Grubbs was freed on a $1,000 public recognizance bond Feb. 8.

There was no arrest affidavit available for Battle, who bonded out on a $1,000 bond March 6.

In an email, Steamboat Springs Police Department Operations Commander Annette Dopplick said their team responded to at least two possible reports of counterfeit currency in the last six months, but none yet this year. Dopplick said SSPD works with federal agencies on counterfeit currency to combat the fly-by-night nature of those often possessing fake bills.

"SSPD collaborates with the U.S. Secret Service very early in any counterfeit investigation," Dopplick said. "In fact, we are usually in contact with our S.S. field agent while on the originating call. In general, counterfeiting crime tends to be transient in nature and offenders move quickly to escape detection."

However, Leonard said any federal involvement in Craig's investigation at this point is "kind of unlikely," because CPD investigators, in conjunction with the district attorney, have already identified state criminal charges for suspects caught with fake bills.

Leonard said it isn't likely someone locally is printing bills. Instead, the bills are likely bought in bulk on a website.

"Most of these bills in these cases are ones purchased online and they're clearly marked — although very small — that they're not intended to be valid currency," Leonard said. "Unfortunately, some people have accepted those as valid and we've had to put out this information. It's frustrating that places can sell real looking currency, that people can buy it online and then use it as real currency and we unfortunately we have people accept it."

In the email, Steamboat police gave residents several tips to avoid being ripped off by fake money:

• An ultraviolet light source can be used to verify authenticity on some notes.

• Report counterfeit attempts immediately. Be attentive to descriptions and vehicles associated to the attempt.

• Bank personnel are experts. If you are accepting cash for a large purchase, consider visiting a local branch of your bank and ask for assistance verifying the currency.

• Security surveillance of point-of-sale locations can be an effective deterrent to fraud, including counterfeit fraud.

• Follow best practices for all personal transactions. Choose a public place (preferably with surveillance), identify all individuals using photo IDs, complete a bill of sale, have a witness, verify currency as authentic, take photographs of the involved property or make a video recording of the transaction. Be willing to stop the transaction. When something feels wrong, it usually is.

• Help the vulnerable in the community protect against fraud. It is especially important to talk to your aging family members about the increasing sophistication in counterfeiting.

• Be a mindful caregiver when monitoring a child's fundraising activities. Help kids learn what to look for.

• Be familiar with legitimate currency. A guide is available at https://www.secretservice.gov/data/KnowYourMoney.pdf. Small business owners are encouraged to order the printed brochure as it can be very useful for employees to have at point-of-sale locations.

In evidence photographs obtained by the Craig Press courtesy of the Craig Police Department, the fake $100 bill appears to bear a small, bright orange symbol “kinda like the head of a dog to the right of the 100,” Leonard said.

The bill also has an Asian seal Leonard said could be Chinese.

With this in mind, Leonard said residents can be on the lookout for the symbols.

"The last time I checked, Benjamins don't have a Chinese seal on them," Leonard said. "I don't think that's what Ben intended."

Craig, Steamboat Kroger stores not impacted by strike vote

Union members who work at King Soopers and City Market voted to authorize a strike Thursday, March 14, and Friday, March 15, following the Kroger company’s latest contract proposal, which stipulates workers must wait up to 10 years to be paid sick leave.

More than 12,000 workers represented by UFCW Local 7 work at 109 King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado.

However, Craig store employees are not union members. Union officials originally said the nearest union store was the City Market in Steamboat Springs, but that proved to be inaccurate.

Those stores are “union-free” and will not be impacted, City Market spokesperson Adam Williamson said during in an interview with Steamboat Pilot and Today.

“It’s going to be business as usual, for sure, in your area,” Williamson said Wednesday, March 13. “They are union-free —  both Steamboat Springs and Craig.”

Union contracts ended Jan. 12, and Local 7 has been engaged in bargaining for new contracts since mid-December.

The vote to strike has not resulted in job action, however it did result in ads for temporary workers and brought Kroger officials back to the negotiating table, according to a letter from UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova.

"The hardworking women and men of King Soopers and City Market are standing together for their families, their customers, and their communities,” Cordova wrote in a news release. "We need more full-time jobs, not just for more hours for workers who have earned it, but because you deserve the best customer service when you shop. We need first-day sick pay and access to health care, not just to get better ourselves, but to ensure that the stores are fully staffed when you shop.”