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Updates on the GWS Caverns incident from the GarCo Sheriff

The Glenwood Caverns signature gondolas are at a standstill, with the park closed for the time being.
Hattison Rensberry
The Glenwood Caverns signature gondolas are at a standstill, with the park closed for the time being.

 On the morning of Saturday, October 28th, maintenance crews discovered the body of a 20-year-old man, now confirmed to be Carbondale resident Diego Barajas Medina, at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. KDNK’s Hattison Rensberry has more.

"Rensberry: The man was heavily armed with an AR style 23 caliber rifle and a semi automatic handgun, as well as a collection of both real and fake improvised explosive devices, a pipe bomb, and fake grenades. He arrived at the park in a vehicle after hours and his body was found in a lady's restroom on the property. The body was dressed in tactical gear similar to that of a SWAT team or an army ranger. That includes patches which have yet to be identified. The guns on his person have been confirmed by Sheriff Lou Vallario to be an example of ghost guns.

Vallario: Chances are they probably were not legally acquired in the sense that he's a 20 year old and there's specific laws about what the can and can't purchase. But my understanding is, and this opens it up a whole new avenue of our investigation, they appear to be what are known as ghost guns and to where you can obtain a kit without serialization numbers and enough to actually put together and build, if you will, your own weapon. So we believe at this point, the AR and the handgun that he possessed were both what we consider ghost guns and not something he would have purchased over the counter.

Rensberry: A note that cannot for sure be attributed to him was left on the wall nearby, read out at the press conference by Sheriff Vallario.

Vallario: Apparently it appears it's on a wall, and it says, I'm not a killer, I just wanted to get into the caves. And then again, there's some writing below that which I can't see due to the photograph.

Rensberry: It is thought that the man intended to create significantly more destruction than he actually caused, although his record shows no prior criminal history or connection to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park at this time. Over two days, the park, the body, and the vehicle have been slowly and methodically combed over by members of the Grand Junction Bomb Squad, a hazard response team, local police, and fire departments, as well as the FBI. Here's Sheriff Vallario.

Vallario: again. When I first saw this, it was definitely a realization that this type of danger has come to quiet Glenwood Springs, Colorado, rural Colorado, rural America. And fortunately, for whatever reason, we may never know, although he was very highly prepared, very highly weaponized. He chose not to, um, to, to, to take advantage of any of that, whatever his preparation was, he chose instead, um, as we believe at this point to commit suicide.

Vallario: We are to say the least extremely lucky that he did not fulfill whatever plan he may have intentioned. Um, it could have caused devastating, um, it would certainly have caused devastating impact on this community, uh, potential for many, many people to be killed and injured. And again, for whatever reason that we may never know, he chose not to take that path and certainly we all breathe a sigh of relief from that, one of the reasons Held off providing more detailed information other than the obvious that the Glenwood Caverns Park was closed and we were working law enforcement activity as we wanted to make sure before we put this information out that we had a good handle on exactly what we were dealing with, what type of weapons, what type of explosives and not necessarily provide panic and fear in the community if there was no reason.

You know, now that the scene is secure and we're confident that everybody's safe, now the hard work begins. Again, we have to dive into his life. We have to know everything there is. The FBI is assisting us with that. So there's a lot we don't know, but yes, he would have made one heck of a statement given the location, again, the difficulty of getting up there and the potential that, you know, people that were injured could have, um, could succumb to those injuries just because of the difficulty of getting them to the hospital.

Rensberry: Some residents in the area near the park have reported hearing a large sound that morning, which was confirmed by law enforcement to be part of a series of controlled detonations by the bomb squad during their investigation.

Vallario: We see it all the time, unfortunately, in this country, but we always think The possibility exists and we certainly train for that. The probability is extremely low given the size of our country and the number of these events that, you know, that occur. And it's just something that we prepare for, but we hope would never happen. And unfortunately, we're kind of in the middle right now. We have the potential for something very heinous and gruesome to happen in this community. We were fortunate that it did not occur, but it certainly, again, for lack of better terms, almost took away the innocence of our community.

And it goes back to. You know, say something. So many people are afraid for a variety of reasons to mention something, whether they're afraid of the individual or whether they think they could get sued or what, regardless that people shy away from actually taking those steps.

And, you know, somebody were kind of talking about the red flag laws and things that exist out there. Those only exist if somebody can bring to the attention of law enforcement or or other entities based on which state you're in. That, you know, there's something there. Somebody has to see something.

Somebody has to be aware of it somebody has to say, this isn't right. This person's personality has changed all of a sudden. I'm seeing, you know, these guns in my son's bedroom. Why? So those are all the things that, again, I can't emphasize enough. If you see it, let us know, let authorities know whatever. And there might be ways we can certainly prevent these and we prevent these things all the time. Unfortunately, we only hear about the ones that we missed.

Rensberry: The man is confirmed to have graduated from Roaring Fork High School, and thus far a search of his belongings has not turned up a history related to this incident or evidence of a probable motive. He's presumed to have died by suicide through the use of the handgun. The man's family is currently being assisted by a victim's response team. For KDNK News, I'm Hattison Rensberry."

At this time, it is believed that there is no threat to people at the park or in the wider community of Glenwood Springs. Garfield County Sheriffs are currently interviewing family and friends for more information on why and how this man obtained his explosives and what his motives were. KDNK News will provide updates as they are released by the authorities.

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.