NATIONAL NEWS

Authorities capture man accused of killing 3 in simmering Colorado property dispute

Nov 20, 2023, 10:51 PM | Updated: Nov 21, 2023, 4:58 pm

DENVER (AP) — A man was captured Tuesday after 25 hours on the run after police say he fatally shot three people and critically wounded a fourth in his latest property dispute with neighbors in rural Colorado, authorities said.

The suspect, Hanme K. Clark, 45, was arrested by New Mexico State police near Albuquerque, the Custer County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado announced Tuesday afternoon. Officers found a weapon in the pickup truck, but it’s not clear if it was the weapon used in the slayings, said Officer Wilson Silver with the New Mexico State Police.

Other neighbors not involved in the shooting have accused Clark of harassing them, denying them court-ordered use of part of his property to access their property, and posting signs saying he was armed, court records said.

The shooting broke out early Monday afternoon as a surveyor was working on a property owned by Rob Geers near Clark’s, near Westcliffe about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Colorado Springs. The town is set in a valley between two mountain ranges and the area is home to both farms and ranches as well as vacation homes.

The surveyor told investigators that a man Geers identified as Clark approached them, yelling about trespassing, and then started to shoot. The surveyor was able to escape, running to a home about a half mile away, Clark’s arrest affidavit said.

According to the document, Patty Daulton, who was wounded in the shooting, called 911, saying she thought her husband and two other people had been shot to death. Gunfire could be heard in the background of the call, it said.

The victims were identified as Geers, 63, his wife Beth Wade Geers, 73, and James Daulton, 58, Patty Daulton’s husband, Custer County officials said. Patty Daulton was being treated at a trauma center, officials said.

The Daultons and Geers owned property near Clark’s, Custer County Sheriff Rich Smith said.

Rob Geers had accused Clark of trespassing on his land four times, court records in the shooting case said. On Nov. 17, Geers said a hidden camera captured an image of a man dressed in hunting gear and carrying a rifle, his face covered, on his land that he said he was sure was Clark. He also claimed that Clark and his girlfriend had “decided to target him and his wife with harassment and trespassing” and had been concerned about a weapon being seen.

The property dispute had led sheriff’s deputies to the area several times in recent years, but there was no indication that it would lead to violence, Smith said.

A week before the shooting, another area landowner asked that Clark be held in contempt of a June 2022 court order that had allowed them to cross the suspect’s property to access their land.

The suspect had also been accused earlier of locking a gate and posting a sign near the gate that said “the owner of this property is armed,” said Kevin Flesch, an attorney for one of the defendants who lost his easement access.

Easements are legal rights to cross someone else’s land, usually to access one’s own property and are often vital in rural American communities like this one.

Property boundaries in the county created soon after the Civil War are not always as clear as they would be in cities, Smith said, leading to calls for deputies to respond to property disputes almost every day.

The suspect was a part-owner of a business called Herbal Gardens Wellness, Smith said. Its website said it is dedicated to promoting health and well-being through the use of herbal remedies.

In the hours after the shooting, authorities in Westcliffe, a town of just about 500 people, called in help from other agencies and searched the woods and area buildings for Clark using night vision equipment, telling residents to remain in their homes, Smith said. But Smith said authorities later learned that Clark likely had left the area before they arrived, when his vehicle was spotted in Salida about 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. That prompted another shelter in place order for residents there as authorities looked for Clark with help from drones and a Denver police helicopter.

It was not clear if Clark had an attorney who would comment on his behalf. A telephone message left for a lawyer who represented Clark in the lawsuit over the easement was not immediately returned.

The shooting was one of several mass shootings that occurred in the past few days around the country.

Four people were wounded Monday night when a gunman opened fire in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, before apparently killing himself, police said.

On Sunday, a Tennessee man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while on the run after a series of shootings that killed four of his female relatives.

Officers found the body of Mavis Christian Jr., 52, in his car during a search following shootings at three locations in Memphis that left three women and a teenage girl dead and a teenage girl critically wounded, the Memphis Police Department said.

___

Hanson reported from Helena, Montana.

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