In the zenith of gratitude ceremonies three FBI agents paid tribute to the SWAT team, a volunteer unit that includes law-enforcement officers from the Teller County Sheriff's Office and Woodland Park Police Department.
The team helped capture the fugitive Timothy Vigil who fled to Teller County Dec. 27 in an attempt to escape arrest in Colorado Springs.
Sheriff Mike Ensminger introduced the ceremony at the Ute Pass Cultural Center. “The team works hard at what they try to achieve, whether it's emergency call-out, partnering with our community members or educating our citizens,” Ensminger said. “I watched the operation from beginning to end. It was probably the smoothest error-free operation I've ever had a chance to witness.”
Special Agent Jon Cronan addressed the team. “I came out here with one other guy on Dec. 27; three people had kidnapped two men, tortured and held them for ransom, tied `em up inside the house,” Cronan said. “They had every intention of killing them after they got the ransom.”
But the captives escaped and reported that the three men had left the house in Colorado Springs. “The men said that Timothy Vigil was the one to watch,” Cronan said. “We were just following leads and told Commander (Jason) Mikesell that we'd be in the area.”
From tips, the FBI learned that Vigil was holed up in a house in Divide. Mikesell called in the SWAT team. “There's no way in the world we were going to be able to extract this guy inside this house with all his buddies, their guns and all the other things they had inside this house where they had barricaded themselves,” Cronan said.
While the team's detective worked on a search warrant other detectives canvassed neighborhoods trying to develop probable cause for the warrant. “The team went out in this field and it's freezing cold, dogs are barking, people are coming outside their houses and we're sitting out there shivering for hours,” Cronan said. “These are volunteers; I was struck at how professional these guys were. This is not anything out of the ordinary for these men and women; they did their job they volunteered to do it. And we need to take moment to appreciate them.”
Vigil was held at the Teller County jail and subsequently transported to the El Paso County detention center.
Officers received a certificate of appreciation from the FBI. Along with Cronan, FBI agents Steve Smith and Eric Jergenson congratulated the team. Woodland Park Police Chief Bob Larson was also present.
Some SWAT officers are members of the county's Emergency Response Team: Commander Jason Mikesell (TCSO), Sgt. Roger Sandefur (TCSO), Sgt. Miles DeYoung (WPPD), Sgt. Greg Couch (TCSO), Cpl. Chris Moeller (WPPD), Cpl. David Moorhead (TCSO), Sgt. Josh Miller (TCSO), Cpl. Chad Davey(TCSO), Cpl. Andy Leibbrand (WPPD),Deputy Conrad Stoll(TCSO) and Deputy Nick Pieper(TCSO).
Others are members of the Patrol unit: CPL. Jeff Sanchez (TCSO), Deputy Derek True (TCSO), Deputy Sean Bow (TCSO) and Deputy Reid Rebb(TCSO). The Detective is Steve Hellman, (TCSO). “Collectively they are a group of law-enforcement professionals who do their job about as good as anybody I know in this line of work,” Ensminger said.
The ceremony concluded with a reception for the officers, their families and friends.