Friends of the Park County man who shot three deputies as they tried to evict him from his foreclosed home, say Martin Wirth was an intelligent, sane man.
That description runs counter to the portrait of Wirth that has emerged in the wake of the triple shooting.
Wirth was arrested and charged in 1994, in the shooting death of another man following a chess game gone awry in Fort Collins. He was never convicted in that case.
While running for the Senate as a Green Party candidate, Wirth posted on Facebook, “Some police know they need to be abolished. They are a brutal impediment to human progress and a danger to us all.”
“He was really a nice, sweet, generous guy,” said Tim Holland, a friend who met Wirth as Occupy Denver was getting underway. “He would bring homeless people into his home in the winter and keep them warm.”
Holland said it’s difficult to talk about Wirth after what happened in Bailey this week.
“My condolences,” he said. “I feel sympathy all around. I feel bad for the (deputies) who were shot… and those of us who loved Martin also feel a tremendous sense of loss.”
Holland said he’s received threats for saying positive things about his friend.
He said many people will remember Wirth as a “cop-killer,” but said he was a good person to so many other people. “He was very influential in the occupy movement,” he said.
Holland said Wirth had been engaged in a multi-year struggle to keep his home.
“The house was half paid off,” he said. “He’d been making payments for 15 years.”
At some point, Wirth apparently lost his job.
In a video that had been posted on YouTube earlier, Wirth said, “I did not pay mortgage to a bunch of crooks known as Nationstar Mortgage.”
He said paying the mortgage company was akin to “aiding and abetting criminals.”
Wirth later sued the mortgage company, but lost.
“He was challenging them on where the deed was, where the title was,” Holland said. “It’s a legal argument that other people have made and won in the past.”
“He was an engineer,” said fellow activist Andrea Merida. “He was very intelligent. He was also one of those people, you get to be over 50 and suddenly, you’re an expendable member of the workforce.”
Merida said that in spite of the heavy legal weight on his shoulders regarding his property, Wirth was extremely jovial, and “the kind of person who really stood by people who were oppressed.”
“They are certainly, in the mainstream media, trying to paint him as some reclusive, Ted Kaczynski maniac,” Holland said, “but he was not like that at all. He was kindhearted.”
Investigators said that as deputies showed up at Wirth’s house Wednesday morning to carry out an eviction, the homeowner walked out onto his deck, saw the deputies, turned around and walked back into his house. The deputies followed him and that's when he shot at them. The deputies then fired back. One of deputies, Cpl. Nate Carrigan, died.
“We are all mourning the loss of life,” Holland said.
While many people grieve over the loss of Cpl. Nate Carrigan, a man who touched many lives, Holland said Wirth did the same for the oppressed in Denver.