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Park County Shakeup Following Deputy's Death: Sergeant Resigns, Undersheriff On Leave

By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) - CBS4 has learned that a Park County sheriff's sergeant was in the process of being demoted, and then resigned Monday over the tactics that led to the Feb. 24 death of Cpl. Nate Carrigan. Additionally, CBS4 has learned Park County Undersheriff Monte Gore was placed on paid administrative leave Monday.

nate carrigan
Park County Sheriff Cpl. Nate Carrigan (credit: Park County Sheriff)

Carrigan was shot and killed Feb. 24 when he and two other deputies served an eviction order on political activist Martin Wirth. Officials say Wirth opened fire, killing Carrigan and wounding Deputy Kolby Martin and Cpt. Mark Hancock. Deputies returned fire and killed Wirth. Park County Sgt. Welles Tonjes was part of the chain of command that put the deputies at Wirth's home.

martin wirth
Martin Wirth (credit: Facebook)

Monday, Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener told Tonjes he was going to be demoted to the position of deputy sheriff. Tonjes then resigned, according to Wegener and Tonjes.

"It was related to the handling of how the deputies responded," Wegener said Wednesday evening. "For me this was something we had to address."

Wegener declined to comment further about what precisely Tonjes did that led to his demotion and resignation. Tonjes told CBS4, "I believe now they are looking for a scapegoat. I didn't do anything wrong. I'm as shocked as anybody else. I don't know why he demoted me."

Fred Wegener
Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener in 2016 (credit: CBS)

At the same time, Gore, the No. 2 administrator with the department, was placed on administrative leave. Wegener said there were some concerns about the way Gore notified Carrigan's father about his son's death. But he said he placed his undersheriff on leave this week for some "administrative things that were done incorrectly. It was a series of events," said Wegener, although he declined to elaborate on what those events were.

Monte Gore
Monte Gore (credit: Park County)

CBS4 has not been able to reach Gore for comment.

Asked how long Gore might be on paid administrative leave, Wegener said it would be "a little bit of time."

Tonjes elaborated on the events that led up to the killing of Cpl. Carrigan. He said prior to the eviction action he spoke to Carrigan on the phone that morning. He said Carrigan "was concerned about this. We all were." But he said he counseled Carrigan "You can't come on like stormtroopers. I was concerned about their safety." But Tonjes said he pointed out to Carrigan that "this was a civil action, and they had no warrant." He said Carrigan was upset by their conversation. Tonjes said when the gunfire broke out, he was in Fairplay interviewing a job applicant, nowhere near the shooting scene.

Memorial services for Cpl. Carrigan are scheduled for March 14 at the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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