A man who allegedly sped away from a Cortez police officer while being held at gunpoint was later chased off a rural Montezuma County property by a homeowner with a shotgun in early February.
Montezuma County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence on Friday set bond for Damien A. Baca, 29, at $250,000. The District Attorney’s Office has not yet filed charges.
The incident – which a Cortez police officer described in an affidavit as “extremely tense and chaotic” — occurred on the night of Feb. 2. Mesa County Sheriff’s Office arrested Baca on a warrant in Grand Junction on Feb. 6 and he was transported to Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 14.
According to the affidavit, Cortez police officer Noah Herrmann responded to a report of a driver swerving on U.S. Highway 160 as he drove north into Cortez, about 10:20 p.m. on Feb. 2. Herrmann waited in a parking lot and then followed the silver Chrysler 300.
Herrmann activated his emergency lights, and Baca made abrupt turns before stopping on North Elm Street. The officer approached the Chrysler and noticed “an unusual amount of movement” from the driver and that he kept reaching for his waistband.
The officer told Baca to keep his hands on the steering wheel. Baca put his left hand up and his right hand on the steering wheel, according to the affidavit, at which point Herrmann grabbed Baca’s left hand and then his right hand. Herrmann reported that he noticed the grip of a handgun tucked in his pants.
While still holding Baca’s left hand, Herrmann unholstered his Glock 22, pointed it at Baca and told him to freeze. Baca then put the keys back in the ignition and sped off. Herrmann reported that he feared for his life.
Two officers and a sergeant then pursued the Chrysler north on North Broadway. As speeds exceeded 115 mph, the sergeant called off the pursuit at County Road M.
Law enforcement agencies in Colorado and Utah were informed, and several attempted to contact the vehicle throughout the night, but Baca evaded them, reportedly driving more than 100 mph.
About 7:40 a.m. the next day, Feb. 3, MCSO deputies recovered a black Adidas duffel bag containing 2 pounds and 4 ounces of meth after they responded to a report of trespass on County Road 19, just off the highway.
A resident at the Road 19 home said he saw a vehicle at the end of his driveway about 11 p.m. on Feb. 2. When he tried to contact the vehicle, it sped off, the affidavit said.
But the vehicle returned the next morning, and the homeowner reported that he chased the man, identified as Baca, off his property with a shotgun. The man, who apparently was trying to reach a tractor-trailer on the property, allegedly reached for his waistband during the encounter.
In court Friday, District Attorney Will Furse commended Herrmann, saying that the officer exercised restraint when lethal force might have been justified. He said the officer’s video was “very intense.”
Furse argued for a $100,000 bond, citing a criminal history that includes convictions or charges of burglary, damage to property, obstructing police officers, reckless driving, criminal impersonation, drug distribution, weapon possession by a previous offender and child abuse.
Baca poses a “significant danger to this community,” Furse said.
Public defender Justin Bogan asked to address bond the following week, citing the complexity of the allegations against Baca.
Lawrence said Baca put officers and the public in danger and noted the meth posed a threat to the public. She set bond at $250,000.
“I’m not really sure that’s high enough,” the judge said.
If Baca bonds out of Montezuma County Detention Center, Lawrence added conditions of GPS monitoring, sobriety monitoring and imposed a protection order restraining Baca from three victims in the case and officer Herrmann.
firstname.lastname@example.orgThis story was updated on Feb. 20 to reflect that the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office arrested Baca on Feb. 6.