The Thanksgiving holiday turned tragic last week when a Mancos, Colo., man was shot and killed by a Colorado State Patrol officer along Hwy. 135 south of Crested Butte following a single-vehicle accident.
Little information has been released by authorities about what happened on Nov. 22 between the time the truck Patrick Michael Langhoff was driving overturned on the slippery highway in the midst of a snowstorm, and when he’s alleged to have brandished a gun in front of Colorado State Patrol officers.
Langhoff was shot and killed by an officer who had responded to the scene of the crash. State Patrol Sergeant Joshua Boden has since been placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with policy.
What is known from relatives is that Langhoff, 59, came from a large Catholic family from Wisconsin and that he was driving to visit family members who were in the Crested Butte area for Thanksgiving. Family members disclosed to the Times that Langoff had a history of depression and alcohol issues. However, they say he would never intentionally hurt another soul.
The incident is currently subject to two investigations — one by the 7th Judicial District Critical Incident Investigative Team (CIIT) as part of routine protocol in an officer-involved shooting (see related story). The other is being conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
What happened on Hwy. 135?
According to CBI, State Patrol was called to the single-vehicle accident just north of Crested Butte South at about 4 p.m. Area resident Tracy Wentz was just getting home when she saw the truck overturned on the west side of the highway. The lights were blinking and the doors were closed, she noted.
Around 4:30 p.m., Wentz left her home to attend a Thanksgiving meal. She saw emergency personnel on scene and thought it was a routine response to a motor vehicle accident. Traffic was being directed by the crash site at that time.
CBI has not disclosed the timeline of events. However, the agency reported this week that the initial investigation by the CIIT indicates that Langhoff “brandished a firearm during the course of the response and was shot during the incident.” He was pronounced dead at the scene.
At about 4:45 p.m., Crested Butte resident Hunter Gienapp and his girlfriend were driving south on Hwy. 135 following an RTA bus. As they approached the scene, Gienapp noticed there were five law enforcement vehicles and two other cars on the side of the road, in addition to what looked like a silver Suburban resting on its roof.
Gienapp saw a woman who he described as about 5 feet 6 inches tall dressed in black crossing the road. She dropped to her knees, he said, and cradled her head. On the other side of the road, Gienapp said, two officers hovered over a man.
“From my quick glance it looked like they were maybe trying to do CPR,” he said. “My girlfriend said that the two officers lifted (the man) off the ground and laid him back down and it looked like they had their hands on his chest.”
As Gienapp continued along Hwy. 135, he said numerous law enforcement vehicles passed him on the way to the scene.
Hwy. 135 was subsequently closed for a period of time.
Witnesses reported a Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) bus was in the area when the shooting occurred. RTA Executive Director Scott Truex confirmed as much. However, he said that the older-model was not equipped with a camera that would have captured video of the incident.
When Wentz returned from her holiday dinner, she saw that the contingent of law enforcement vehicles had grown significantly. From her home on the east side of the highway, she watched the lights flash long past 11 p.m.
‘One of my closest friends’
Langhoff was born and raised in Shorewood, Wisc., the fourth son in a family of nine children. Family members in Wisconsin, who asked not to be named, said he left home to attend the University of Michigan, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He later earned his master’s of business administration from Carnegie Mellon University.
“He was a very, very intelligent man,” a brother said.
Langhoff lived for a period of time in Ohio, Tennessee, California, Arizona, Michigan and Nevada. Family members said he was divorced and had two children. A brother said Langhoff had worked as a supply chain consultant in the automobile industry, but in the economic downturn in 2008, that career ended. Most recently, he worked on a ranch in Mancos, west of Durango.
Family members said Langhoff had struggled in recent years. They believe that he suffered from depression and acknowledged he had “troubles with alcohol.” Records show that Langhoff was arrested in Montezuma County on Oct. 18 for driving under the influence.
District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller confirmed the investigation into the accident was alcohol-related.
Despite his troubles, family members said Langhoff remained close to them. In addition to his plan to meet family for Thanksgiving, he spent a weekend in Kansas just weeks ago with a brother. He also traveled back to Wisconsin this past August.
“In all candor, he was one of my closest friends in the whole world,” a brother said.
The Langhoff family expressed their appreciation to people who responded to the accident on Thanksgiving. They also extend their thoughts and prayers to Sergeant Boden and his family.
Boden has worked for State Patrol for 13 years, according to a CBI statement. However, State Patrol did not respond to a Times request for additional information about his tenure as of press time.
Langhoff’s family members were clear about what they wanted the Gunnison Valley to know about their brother — that they believe he never would have pointed a gun at another person.
“Patrick would never hurt another human being,” said a brother. “He was exceptionally smart, one of the most well-read people I have ever encountered. He was very kind to his siblings and his nieces and nephews. He was a very good guy who had some problems.”
INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION UNIT LAUNCHED
The accident and shooting on Hwy. 135 is currently under investigation by two separate law enforcement units — the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and a special team known as the 7th Judicial Critical Incident Investigation Team (CIIT). It is common practice for CIIT to be activated in a officer-involved shooting.
The CIIT is formed through a mutual agreement between law enforcement and judicial agencies, District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller explained. When the CIIT is activated at the request of one of the agencies, representatives are chosen from the group to provide an independent review of evidence. The team is chosen by the CIIT coordinator and a lead investigator is appointed.
“Typically the law enforcement executive of the agency that employs the officer that was involved in the use of force activates the team,” Hotsenpiller said. “In this case, Captain Laurie Hadley of the Colorado State Patrol Troop 5C, which is the troop we’re in, contacted me and also contacted CBI shortly after it happened and filled everybody in.”
Hotsenpiller said that Matt Taramarcaz of the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office has been named lead investigator of the CIIT probe. Other members of the CIIT are from the Hinsdale County Sheriff’s Office as well as police departments in Gunnison, Montrose and Delta and CBI.
Hotsenpiller said the scope of the CIIT is to investigate an officer’s use of force — to determine whether a crime has been committed or the action was justified by self defense.
“You want an outside agency to come in and do an objective, thorough investigation of an officer’s use of force,” said Hotsenpiller. “But what people sometimes don’t click on is that it’s actually a criminal investigation.”
Following the investigation, Hotsenpiller said, a summary report is submitted to the DA.
“I have to make a determination of whether or not an officer’s use of force was justified … or if criminal charges should be brought against the officer for his use of force,” he added.
No specific time frame has been determined for when that report will be submitted, Hotsenpiller said.
(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)