Accidents abound after snowstorm

Elementary school principal warned for impersonating officer after car crash

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— Steamboat Springs police officers kept busy Monday responding to nearly two dozen car accidents, but the workload - and the speed at which motorists traveled icy and snowpacked roads - slowed significantly by Tuesday.

Police Capt. Joel Rae said only three accidents were reported in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, a welcome reprieve from Monday's 23 reported accidents.

"Compared to (Monday), it was much, much better," Rae said. "The roads on U.S. Highway 40 were pretty much cleared before noon. (Monday) was a bear until at least 2 or 3 p.m., when the roads started freezing and it got worse."

Each of the 23 accidents involved two vehicles, and there were no injuries.

One accident included an interesting twist.

At about 5:15 p.m. Monday, a 22-year-old Steamboat Springs man reportedly drove into the open tailgate of a Toyota Tacoma pickup in the 400 block of Anglers Drive. The man then left the scene of the accident.

The Toyota Tacoma belongs to Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal Mark MacHale, who, according to police, yelled for the driver, Derek Allan Kinowski, to stop after Kinowski began to drive away from the accident scene.

"He hit me and spun out trying to get away," MacHale said. "I couldn't get his license plate because of the snow, so I followed him."

MacHale followed Kinowski, who also was driving a Toyota Tacoma, to Third Street and Lincoln Avenue, where Kinowski made a sharp left off Lincoln Avenue, ran into a curb and stopped.

Rae said MacHale told Kinowski he was a police officer and would arrest him if he didn't hand over his car keys. Kinowski gave his keys to MacHale, Rae said.

When officers arrived, MacHale told them that he told Kinowski he was a police officer. MacHale also said it was a "bad decision," Rae said. Impersonating a law enforcement officer is a crime.

Kinowski was arrested on suspicion of driving under suspension, leaving the scene of an accident, failing to notify police of an accident, driving without Colorado vehicle registration and not having proof of insurance, and MacHale was issued a warning for impersonating a police officer.

MacHale said he was trying to get the young man to stop driving and he came up with the plan to pretend he was a police officer on the spot.

"I have a big, commanding voice; he was a scared kid," MacHale said. "I figured I'd try it. Sometimes you do things in the spur of the moment without thinking about it. My goal was to get him to stop, and he did."

Kinowski's bond was set at $1,500, and he is scheduled to appear in Routt County Court at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 16.

There was no such excitement Tuesday, when the only three accidents to which Steamboat officers responded were the result of motorists driving too fast for conditions, Rae said.

Routt County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Brandenburg said there were no reports of accidents in the county on Tuesday.

Brandenburg credited the lack of accidents to drivers being more cognizant of the slick road conditions.

"Apparently, people are driving slower," he said.

Comments

Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 9 months ago

If Gary Wall can impersonate a sheriff, why can't a school principal impersonate a cop? Seems fair to me.

Seriously though, both parties did wrong in this particular instance and should both be held accountable. Fair is fair.

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aristocat 7 years, 9 months ago

MacHale: (in a very loud commanding voice) "I'm a police officer! Hand over your keys!" Kinowske: (leans over and hand keys to MacHale and with a sigh of relief) "Phew! Officer you should have put your lights on....I thought I was trying to outrun Principal HacHale!"

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gwendolyn 7 years, 9 months ago

A warning? A warning? No matter what the kid did, this principal had no business whatsoever impersonating a police officer and his friggin' excuse for doing so is incredibly ridiculous.

Is this how Mr. MacHale runs the elementary school, too? By shoving his authority around and lying to students and possibly parents, too???

Wow. This town truly hires the best....

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justaguy 7 years, 9 months ago

I would like to say that I am very happy that my son does not attend Strawberry Park Elementary. One does not have to dismiss the fact that the "kid" was wrong and did a bad thing but is this how you would expect a elementary school leader to act. If my child did go to Strawberry Park I feel that I would have to my him to Soda Creek. I can understand wanting this person to have to live up to what he did but this was just wrong. This person is suppost to be a role model for our children and parents. He just straight flew off the handle. Not only did he impersonate a police officer but I am sure that he drove the speed limit and did not break any traffic rules by running this guy down. Some might think that Mr. MacHale might have a temper problem.

THIS IS THE PERSON THAT IS LEADING OUR CHILDREN!!!

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justaguy 7 years, 9 months ago

"I have a big, commanding voice; he was a scared kid," MacHale said. "I figured I'd try it. Sometimes you do things in the spur of the moment without thinking about it. My goal was to get him to stop, and he did."

I bet you that he uses that same tactic against the children at the school. I would hope that every parent of a child that goes to that school has a long talk with their kids about their rights as Americans. This guy seems proud of the fact that he could easily scare kids.

HIS JOB IS TO WORK WITH KIDS!!!!

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Tall_Poppy 7 years, 9 months ago

"Wow. This town truly hires the best...."

No kidding.... And what about Kerry St. James? Isn't it about time he got something more than a warning for impersonating an attorney?

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gwendolyn 7 years, 9 months ago

The "kid" got his ticket. In spades. The principal got bogus crap.

Given that the purported reason for even following the hit and run offender was that the license plate was unreadable, at what point in this pursuit do you think the principal could have actually acquired that information? Could it have been acquired without ever impersonating an officer or even confronting the offending driver?

Maybe when the car hit a curb and came to a stop Mr. MacHale could have used better judgment and simply have written down the license plate number at that time and called it in?

At what point did Mr. MacHale actually call 911 to report his pursuit or enlist the aid of officers?

While I can appreciate Mr. MacHale's desire to exchange insurance information, hit and runs are better left to the police to follow-up on. What if the "kid" had been carrying a weapon? Beyond himself, who else could Mr. MacHale put into danger with his pursuit?

No matter how you slice it, this principal used EXTREMELY poor judgment in his actions. No doubt this was part and parcel to the bullying syndrome displayed so heavily in this town by many of it's public school principals....

MacHale was out of line and crossed the line. Apparently he has Big Brother Syndrome and believes Homeland Security's multitude of constitutional rights violations gives HIM the right to deputize himself at any time....

A warning? Surely this offense deserves more than that which the city would give a pet owner walking his dog off a leash...

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french_fry 7 years, 9 months ago

gwendolyn: there you go, blaming the victim instead of the person who caused of the accident. The "kid" as you called him was driving under a suspended license, no proof of insurance and trying to avoid responsibility and you attack the principal? People like you who serve on juries let bad guys off if the cops do one little procedural thing incorrectly. Think about the big picture for once. Maybe this kid will own up to his actions and learn something. His handing over his keys to the "cop" might be the first step.

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dave reynolds 7 years, 9 months ago

you all sem so worried about the Principal..how bout the general public hold them accountable..they are no driving cell phone talking inconsiderate people..he did what he had to sure it was extreme..but how many of you ACTUALLY DRIVE THE SPEED LIMIT STOP WHEN THE LIGHT TURNS YELLOW pass on double yellow lines or solid white line for that matter..lets not call the kettle black if aren't playing by the rules either..it is progressively getting worse in this town..we have been VERY lucky to have not had a FATUAL accident herte but if things keep going the way we are it will happen..you can bash me and dis like me I've lived here 25 years and hacve witnessed it getting worse..

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 9 months ago

Paddlefisher- what you say is true, but since this was based on a specific incident that involved a principal inpersonating an officer to stop a kid that rightly should have been stopped.

It shows that "taking the law into your own hands" is okay. As stated before, he's lucky the kid didn't have a weapon or didn't ask to see a badge, and then beat the snot out of him when he couldn't produce one.

This sets a bad example for the kids in his school to follow. As far as the kid goes, I'm hoping he gets what he deserves x5.

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dave reynolds 7 years, 9 months ago

you are right he did not lead by example..should have been ticketed..but was Billy Kidd arrested for shoplifting..I THINK NOT..if me or you would have pulled either of these incidents we'de be makin bail..so what you say as a whole we should start playing by the rules or things are going to get worse cause we as citizens are really not setting any better example than Mr. McHale..our children are learning its O.K. to bend the rules...selective law enforcement maybe..but come on our law enforcement officers are dealing with lost cell phones and such(kidding) we need not to ty them up with such rediculious calls and let them do there jobs..i for one salute them for I wouldn't be so patient..theyare not baby sitters but these days its looking that way..the record is a testament to my statement..as a whole people need to be accountable for thier actions..and the elite can not expect law enforcement to answer to their bekon whim

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 9 months ago

RCWatch- That is correct, but that also allows the perp to perform a Citizen's Ass-whuppin'. I'm also betting a good lawyer can get the kid off under these circumstances, and sue for good measure. In today's world, it wouldn't surprise me.

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justaguy 7 years, 9 months ago

Is everyone missing the point that Principal HacHale stated that he wanted to scare this "kid"

"I have a big, commanding voice; he was a scared kid," MacHale said. "I figured I'd try it. Sometimes you do things in the spur of the moment without thinking about it. My goal was to get him to stop, and he did."

I have a son that goes to Soda Creek and I have to say that if this were to happen with a leader at his school I would not stop till this person was not around my child to any capacity. I feel that Principal HacHale may have some anger issues and need help.

How could he have thought that this would be even close to O.K.? I hope that he does not try any of his "spur of the moment without thinking about it" tactics on your children.

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Gladys 7 years, 9 months ago

You are acting like this was some little kid running in the hallway. I am wondering how you would feel about this "kid", with no registration, no insurance and suspended license, if he had plowed into you while driving your young son to school? I think it was stupid (considering the principal did not know who was in the car) but find it hard to believe he actually intended to and blatantly impersonated a police officer. I would imagine that is what the real police officer thought when he issued the principal a warning.

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dogd 7 years, 9 months ago

Just a "guy"?

My gawd how this town has been invaded by downright fruity pilgrims. You sound like the parent of future infallible "good kids" who are always "right" while the stream of pricipals, teachers, and police keep "picking on them". The principal did not act perfectly, but get real.

Are you the "guy"? who reports wounded mice and suspicious people shovelling roofs to the police dept.?

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 9 months ago

Gladys- MacHale is a principal of an elementary school. He knows this, I'm assuming, since the School District signs his paychecks.

He was the victim of a hit and run. He chased down a vehicle in obviously bad weather, which could have cause another accident involving others, which could put him at fault, too.

When the other vehicle stopped, MacHale identified himself as a police officer, knowing full well he is not, as I outlined in my first paragraph above. What about that is not actually intended or blatant in his impersonating an officer? Did the collision cause him to momentarily forget that he is a school principal?

I'm not excusing the kid; he was a reckless idiot who deserves to have the book thrown at him. This doesn't excuse what MacHale did, though. The police should have adhered to this law that went into effect 3 years ago which states:

"The law, which was signed by Gov. Bill Owens on Tuesday, changed the crime of impersonating a peace officer from a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison and a $1,000 fine to a class 1 misdemeanor with penalties up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine."

www.coloradoan.com/news/coloradoanpublishing/Miller/050203_ourview-impersonatorlaw.html

Granted, this law was put into effect due to some people claiming to be officers and pulling people over to cause them harm. Still, it's the law. If MacHale can disregard a law, why can't the kid?

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Gladys 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't know...I really don't think the principal "planned" the impersonation - I think once he caught up to the kid, who crashed again, that it was just a spur of the moment blurt to get the keys and to keep the kid there until the police arrived. I think if he thought he were actually committing a crime himself, he would not have even told the real cop what he had said to the kid. Stupid, yes, but again I don't think his intent was to actually impersonate an officer. If it were me, I probably would have dragged the kid out of the car and slapped the snot out of him. Of course then I would have been arrested for assault. I just think this whole "impersonation" thing has been blown out of proportion. And I don't see this principal as being a danger to the kids in his school.

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justaguy 7 years, 9 months ago

Dogd, To respond, my child (1) is fallible and has made mistakes in the past and there are always consequences for his actions. I am not the fruity pilgrim that you claim that I am. I have a very colorful past and have lived in places that were a lot different then Steamboat. I am not the one making stupid calls to the police. The only time I call the cops is when I need, never mind, not going to go there. The reason I moved to this wonderful town is that I wanted to move my son away from all the craziness in the city schools. What a concept. The only point that I am trying to make out of all this is that there are certain standards that you must be willing to except taking on such a roll as principal. The fact that Mr. MacHale seems proud of the fact that with his voice alone he was able to "scare" this kid into submission should be a clear sign of questionable behavior.

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dave reynolds 7 years, 9 months ago

Mr McHale did what he had to do ...personally I say good for him he took a dangerous "punk" of the road who by the way puts you,your kids and everyone else at risk by his deliberate disreguard for the law..OH wait a minute..this type of behavior is acceptable in Steamboat..I know you are tired of me saying this but it is the NORM to speed,tailgate,run red lights,talk on cellphones,not yeild to pedistrans,etc....I'm not perfect but it is really getting out of hand..this stuff happens EVERYDAY so why rip on this guy for holding someone accountable for thier actions..you ask why I'm harping about this..my wife was 20 sec. away from being seriously injured by someone who was so busy talking on their cell that they could not stop and run through a window where she was standing..I also had someone get out of their truck at the light by Sinclair(hwy 40) and yank my door open because " you cut me off at Mnt. Werner" so this dips##t decided to tailgate me to the light..I literly was in fear of my safety as well as my daughters..I did nothing wrong merged how I was taught in DRS. ED...so kudos to Mr McHale for his actions..maybe this should happen more often..I for one am going to start holding people accountable by reporting them

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snowplayer 7 years, 9 months ago

This whole situation seems totally blown out of hand. Everyone makes mistakes and no one is proud of them, Mr. Mac Hale included. When someone puts a life at risk ( our own or someone elses) and breaks the law doing it those of us who are responsible make spur of the moment decisions to contribute to that person being held responsible... you make a citizens arrest, you make note of the perp's indentifying info or in this case, follow them until that is possible due to snow on a license plate which we all know happens in snow country.
Don't dilude yourself. We all make these decisions when there is addrenaline telling us that we need to do what is right, even if we cannot utilize perfect judgement in the heat of the moment. No one is perfect, NO ONE! Although Mr. MacHale made a mistake in reporting himself to be a cop, he had every right to place the young man under arrest and take action when he crashed a second time to stop him from fleeing the scene AGAIN.
Mr. MacHale refered to this guy as a "kid" due to his age but don't assume the Principal as SPE is intimidating or scaring kids. This was merely a slip of the tounge. This guy was NOT a "kid" he was a young man of 22 (no where near school age) who should have known better and taken responsibility for his actions, not to mention he should not have been driving in the first place without license, registration or insurance.
Mr. MacHale is a great principal who does great things for our kids, holds them as the highest priority and treats them very well. It is one thing to pick a battle, it is something else to start a battle for a stupid reason. Don't blame Mr. MacHale for the other guys mistake and crime. Recognize that he was the only one who took responsibility for his actions by being honest with the police officer and leave it at that. This matter has nothing to do with his ability to be a great principal. If you want to give or deny your support of him as a principal, go observe him in your kids' school. If your kid goes to SCE, or somewhere else... it has nothing to do with you. Stop fueling a torch which is not yours to carry!

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gwendolyn 7 years, 9 months ago

slip of the tongue?

good grief.

what the people of this town will say and do to protect the "special" people. never ceases to amaze me.

If I had done the same thing, I would have been arrested or ticketed. I am certain of it. Why? I'm nobody. Nobody of any particular importance to this community, that is.

The CO law was specifically changed to PROTECT people from false impersonations of police officers and the penalties were considerably increased. All the circumstantial exceptions that posters would choose to make are best left to a judge or jury to decide AFTER a ticket/arrest is made. Not BEFORE.

But, no ticket was written and no arrest made. Just a little slap on the wrist and please don't do that again, sir.

Many of us living in this community would have been given a ticket or arrested under the same circumstances. No doubt in my mind at all about that.

Asking that the law be followed and enforced is not a STUPID reason to hold MacHale accountable. It is the BEST reason.

Just because one party in a case is potentially guilty of a far greater crime doesn't make the secondary party any less guilty if he, too, commits a crime.

It's precisely this kind of selective thinking and judgment that seems to prevail in this town and does the community, in whole, no good service at all.

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Gladys 7 years, 9 months ago

I agree a ticket would have been appropriate, however, to say he is a horrible man or horrible Principal that uses scare tactics or bully practices on elementary children is a bit out of line. I don't think parents need to be in fear for their children.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 9 months ago

Gladys- I agree with you. I don't know MacHale personally, so I can't say this is a "normal" reaction. Still, by chasing this kid down, that does put other people at risk. The kid already hit & ran; what if it had turned into a full cross-town/county chase? Luckily, it didn't.

I just think, to be fair, both people should pay for each one doing something wrong. In this day & age, I'd be surprised if MacHale didn't have a cell phone on him. He could have calmly followed the kid all the while talking to 911, directing them to where they were headed, all without having a confrontation that had the possiblity of going wrong. Maybe he didn't have a cell phone with him, but then who called the police from where when MacHale did stop the kid?

Sure, hindsight is blah, blah, blah.

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