Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall and the Colorado State Patrol owe the public honest accounts of what happened during a Saturday night traffic stop that resulted in Wall being given a court summons for driving under the influence.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the State Patrol has refused to provide any specifics about the incident, and Wall has said only that he wasn't intoxicated and didn't take roadside sobriety tests.
That's not good enough. As an elected official and the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Routt County, Wall should be held to a higher standard. Instead of hiding behind the cloak of legal defense, the sheriff needs to address his take on the events of Saturday night. Did he have any drinks before driving home from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's 100th anniversary celebration at Sidney Peak Ranch? Why did he not take roadside sobriety tests? Was he driving his county-owned vehicle? Who gave him a ride home after the traffic stop?
Wall insists he is innocent. And we presume that innocence until he is convicted in a court of law. But his silence on the issue is concerning, particularly for someone who campaigned for sheriff on a platform that emphasized openness with the community he was elected to serve.
Also concerning - and ironic - is the message Wall's actions seem to send to teens and other members of the community: Whether or not you've had any drinks, refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officers. That seems more like the behavior of a defendant than a sheriff.
Wall's standing in the public eye isn't helped by some of his decisions since he took office less than a year ago. Wall battled with Routt County commissioners about the starting salary for Undersheriff David Bustos, an old friend of Wall's who last worked in law enforcement 30 years ago. In May, Bustos was ticketed for causing an accident - and $1,100 worth of damage to his county vehicle - in Utah while picking up an office desk. That incident sparked an ongoing debate between Wall and the commissioners about Sheriff's Office policies.
Saturday night's incident is the most concerning, and that's why we think Wall owes his constituents an explanation.
We have the same expectations of openness from the Colorado State Patrol, which has refused to provide any information about the traffic stop, including copies of the court summons issued to Wall and the incident report. For the State Patrol to cite the top law official in the county for DUI and not provide any details is disturbing. Why, if Wall was indeed intoxicated, was he not arrested and taken for a chemical test? What were the circumstances behind the decision to pull him over for failing to dim his headlights?
It's time for some of these questions to be answered. We urge both Wall and the State Patrol to do the right thing and shine light on this discouraging incident.