DIVIDE, Colo. - Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger denied an open records request from CALL7 Investigators to review his department records on failed 911 calls for the last three years, citing in a letter that it wasn’t in the public’s interest.
CALL7 began asking questions about the Teller County 911 system after a business owner said he made a distress call, but deputies never arrived to his BBQ restaurant. The restaurant is less than a mile away from the Teller County Sheriff’s Office.
Steve Kerrison, owner of the Smoking Q west of Colorado Springs, called 911 two times on Aug. 3 to report a man had nearly hit a truck and a fence in his restaurant’s parking lot.
Kerrison called twice, within a 20-minute time period, according to 911 calls that the sheriff did release. Kerrison said he also called the Teller County dispatch center after he became frustrated that no deputies had shown up to help.
In one of the calls he asked the dispatcher: “How long is it going to be before a unit is here?”
The dispatcher responds: “Um, I don’t have an ETA, but they’re on their way as fast as they can.”
But things escalated when Kerrison pulled a gun on the suspected drunk driver, later identified as Roy Cornwell, after Kerrison thought Cornwell was going for a gun because he was reaching under the front passenger seat.
Kerrison can be heard on the 911 call yelling, “If you reach for a gun I’m going to shoot you.”
The dispatcher tried calming Kerrison down.
“Don’t shoot anyone,” she tells him, adding that help is on the way.
“I’m a retired cop, and it was just instinct,” Kerrison told CALL7.
Kerrison, who had a concealed weapons permit through the Teller County Sherriff’s Office, said he only held the gun on Cornwell for a few seconds until he realized Cornwell was only going for his wallet.
Cornwell told CALL7 on the phone that after Kerrison pulled a gun on him, he also wanted deputies to show up and was wondering why it was taking so long.
“I wanted to call 911 and say , 'Where the hell are you guys?'” Cornwell said.
Ensminger said deputies did respond to the 911 call, but they “did it at a distance,” meaning deputies were not in close proximity to the restaurant.
At first, Ensminger wouldn’t elaborate on what that meant, but finally said that deputies have 570 square miles to patrol and with limited staff it takes time for deputies to get from one location to another.
Ensminger wouldn’t answer questions about whether or not deputies responded to the restaurant, saying there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the case -- because of Kerrison's actions -- and he couldn’t comment. He also wouldn’t tell CALL7 where deputies were located with the calls came in.
Kerrison said he had no option but to let Cornwell leave.
"He asked me if he could go, and I said, 'I guess they (deputies) are not coming,'” Kerrison said.
Cornwell told CALL7 that he drove to the sheriff’s office after leaving the restaurant to file a complaint against Kerrison. Kerrison was arrested several days later and was charged with menacing and false imprisonment for pulling the gun on Cornwell.
Those charges were dropped in October, according to court records.
At the sheriff’s office deputies gave Cornwell a breathalyzer, which showed he had no alcohol in his system.
He explained to deputies that he went to the dentist office earlier in the day to get a filling and the effects of anesthesia had not worn off.
Cornwell said his wife had been drinking, but she was in the passenger side of the truck. He said that Kerrison might have thought the alcohol on her breath was coming from him.
Ensminger told CALL7 when we began asking about the delayed 911 response that this wasn’t a story and that deputies must have responded because there’s an ongoing criminal investigation.
He also said he believes the Teller County Tea Party is the source of the story. Ensminger, who is a Republican, wasn’t endorsed by the TCTP and has had issues with the group.
Kerrison said he feels the sheriff is out to get him because he put a “Recall Ensminger” sign out in front of his restaurant after his arrest. Kerrison took the sign down after he couldn’t get the backing to start a recall.