Oak Creek Town Board member accused of hate crime

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Bernard "Bernie" Gagne Jr.

Editor's note: On Jan. 9, 2013, Gagne pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment. All the other charges were dropped.

An Oak Creek Town Board member was arrested on a warrant Monday night accusing him of committing a hate crime against an Oak Creek teenager who is black.

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office investigated the allegations and arrested Bernard “Bernie” A. Gagne Jr. on suspicion of committing a bias-motivated crime, a Class 5 felony, misdemeanor third-degree assault and misdemeanor menacing.

When reached by cellphone Tuesday, Gagne, 49, did not want to discuss the allegations.

According to an affidavit filed with the Routt County Court, a woman contacted the Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 17 and said her 17-year-old grandson had been assaulted by Gagne on Sept. 1.

Deputy Shawn Hockaday later interviewed the teen, who said he was leaving the Select Super Market in Oak Creek when Gagne stopped him and started threatening him, the affidavit states.

“... Gagne informed him that Oak Creek did not need any of his kind around,” the affidavit states. “At one point Gagne told (the teen) that he would kill him and his friends.”

The teen said he laughed at Gagne, and Gagne then tried to pull him out of the car, the affidavit states.

“When he could not get him out of the vehicle, Gagne then told (the teen) not to laugh at him and punched (the teen) in the face,” the affidavit states.

The teen said he then left and went to a friend’s house. The teen and his friends then went to Gagne’s house to talk about the incident.

“After talking to Gagne about the incident, he shook (the teen’s) hand and apologized about hitting" the teen, the affidavit states.

The boy's grandmother reported that when her grandson came home, she could see swelling under his eye, but her grandson did not want to pursue criminal charges at that time because “everything was OK.”

Gagne was advised of his rights in court Monday afternoon and then released from custody after posting a $2,000 bond.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for everyone involved,” Gagne said.

Gagne said he did not want to discuss the accusations because he was advised by Routt County Judge James Garrecht that anything he said later could be used against him in court.

“There were some charges pressed, and I’ll have to face up to those charges, and we’ll see what happens,” Gagne said.

Official charges had not yet been filed Tuesday by the Routt County District Attorney’s Office.

Gagne said he has not yet hired a lawyer. He is due to return to court at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 2.

Gagne was appointed to the Town Board in January 2010 to fill the seat of a previous board member who resigned. In April 2010, he was elected to a four-year term.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

beverly lemons 2 years, 2 months ago

Picking on a child because he is black? Punching the kid? What is this scum doing in Routt county, trying to start a chapter of the KKK? I hope the judge throws the book at him.

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mark hartless 2 years, 2 months ago

"Hate crimes" are really just thought crimes. Criminalizing certain thoughts would have been a dream-come-true for the Hitlers, Stalins and Idi Amin's of history. Leave it to 21'st century Americans to applaud the notion that verbalizing ones thoughts while commiting an ACTUAL CRIME could be properly considered a "crime" unto itself.

Assault is assault. Would it be any less criminal to punch the guy while saying "I love all black folks but just feel like punching you cause I'm an ass" ???

The victim said he didn't want to persue it. It sounds like the two parties talked and worked through their differences.

Why,then, is an already underfunded and clogged justice system involved?

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

I can say with confidence that race had nothing to do with the incident. Bernie had issues with what this particular person was said to be doing which was related to a recent assault on Bernie's nephew.

I did not see the assault. Nor do I know whether the teenager was doing what has been claimed. Personally, I find that Oak Creek has too many rumor mongers that are good at creating a consistent lie to believe what is "common knowledge" unless there are clear supporting facts.

I think it is quite right to have hate crimes because it is so wrong to be a target for violence merely because of looks or beliefs. So yes, it is less of a crime to assault someone because of being angry at that person or even truly random victim. A hate crime has increased punishment for assault because the victim is not even just a random victim, but whose race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc was the motive for the assault.

There have been and still are some overt racists in Oak Creek government. I've heard racist statement regarding Hispanics and how renting to them ruins Oak Creek for the "rest of us".

Town administration has a long history of letting late payments or nonpayments slide for "locals" while being exceptionally strict on those they don't like. I have personally witnessed a utility late notice being posted on a door on a Friday afternoon and the power was off when the person returned on Monday. I also had tenants that were "locals" that ended up owing a huge electric bill because the Town didn't care about not being paid for four months.

Bernie has not approved of that and has worked to end it.

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JJ Southard 2 years, 2 months ago

^ good thing we have Scott Wedel, Routt County's professional commentier & all knowing fact finder he is. What would we do without him??

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

I know Bernie and had talked to him Sunday about his concerns regarding certain people. His concerns were not about Blacks or Hispanics, but about particular people with names and their friends because of what they were doing.

I am not saying it was okay for Bernie to allegedly punch the teenager. I am saying I am confident that it was not about race.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 2 months ago

What impresses me about this article, if accurate, is that such a confrontation was followed by another meeting of the same parties, apologies, and a handshake.

There will be other information involved, but this act of revisiting one's antagonist to talk a problem through and create better relations ahead is inspiring. Oak Creek should be proud of these kids for their behavior. Teenagers setting a standard we could all hope to meet. Well done.

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bill schurman 2 years, 2 months ago

Back "in the day" a handshake would resolve the problem. Dale McNutt would have driven them home. End of story. Now, everything is a crime and off to jail and Court.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

With the facts that on the day of the incident that the claimed victim of the hate crime did not think it was worth calling the police and instead went and talked to Bernie at the Colorado (not his house) is a pretty strong indication that the victim did not believe it was a hate crime that day or felt unduly threatened.

This looks like a situation where the DA grossly overcharged Bernie and did so because of pressure from the grandmother, not the claimed victim.

If the Sheriff's and DA's office is not able to make the hate crimes claim stick then this should be remembered when they are up for reelection. Exceptional charges should require exceptional circumstances and not be made lightly.

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Cresean Sterne 2 years, 2 months ago

Bernie used to come into Big Tunas and was always a friendly customer who never led me to believe that he was racist. He was nice to talk to and was never negative. It was always nice to have his company. I have a some black in my nationality and never was led to believe for one minute that he is racist. Hitting a minor?? ( BIG NO, NO ) and I'm sure he will get in plenty of trouble for that. I hope I dont bite my tongue off but I do not believe there was any racial intent in this matter

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beverly lemons 2 years, 2 months ago

“... Gagne informed him that Oak Creek did not need ANY OF HIS KIND around,” the affidavit states. “At one point Gagne told (the teen) that he would kill him and his friends.”

Sounds racist to me. He went after a child of color, not an adult, typical racist bully.

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