District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller has determined that a Colorado State Patrol (CSP) officer involved in a deadly shooting last Thanksgiving night following an accident and roadside investigation will not face criminal charges as a result of his actions.
A report released last week by Hotsenpiller’s office detailing an investigation by a special Seventh Judicial District task force and by his own office indicates that Sgt. Joshua Boden was justified in the actions he took on Hwy. 135 between Crested Butte and Crested Butte South which left Patrick Langhoff, 59, dead.
The initial investigation by the 7th Judicial District’s Critical Incident Investigative Team (CIIT) — a group of law enforcement agents and others assembled to review officer involved shootings — indicated that Langhoff brandished a firearm during the course of the response and was shot during the incident. Langhoff was pronounced deceased at the scene.
No officers were injured. However, State Patrol Sergeant Boden was placed on a routine paid administrative leave following the incident. Boden is in the process of returning to active duty. (See related story.)
Accident turns to a deadly shooting
Up until now, little has been known about what happened after law enforcement responded to the one-vehicle accident at mile marker 23 just after 4 p.m. on a snowy Nov. 22, 2018.
The investigation included officer and witness interviews and video from body and vehicle cameras which are referenced in the report.
The DA’s report states that Boden and three officers from Mt. Crested Butte Police arrived on the scene and had “intermittent” contact with Langhoff for more than an hour as he was being evaluated by emergency medical responders. During this time someone brought Langhoff his personal belongings which included a “computer bag” which — unknown to anyone at the time — contained a handgun. Langhoff reportedly refused treatment.
Following his medical clearance, the report states Boden began to investigate whether Langhoff had been driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol at the time of the crash based on his observations.
Boden told investigators in his interview that Langhoff was emotionless and demonstrated “strange behavior,” such as failing to make eye contact and giving short answers. When asked for his driver’s license, Boden said Langhoff handed over his wallet, which Boden thought was unusual.
Boden located a temporary driving permit, typically issued to drivers with recent DUI arrests. It was learned Langhoff had been arrested about a month prior to the accident in Montezuma County.
Langhoff told officers he had consumed six “Sierra Nevada” beers prior to the accident.
Boden asked Langhoff if he would perform voluntary roadside maneuvers, the report states, at which point he became “uncooperative.”
The report says Langhoff asked, “What if I say no?”
Boden, the report says, responded, “Then I’m going to take you into custody right now, OK.”
Boden spoke to Langhoff’s sister — Mary Bromley — who was at the scene, and the report states she encouraged her brother to cooperate.
“No, you know what, here’s what we are going to do, here’s what we’re going to do, OK,” Langhoff reportedly said. “I’m not going to get difficult with any of you guys OK. I’m not going to be difficult with anybody OK, but, I’m done. I’m done.”
He then took “small steps backward” and pulled a .40 caliber Sig Sauer P239 pistol from the bag, the report says. The gun reportedly had a full magazine with a live round in the chamber.
Officers drew their weapons and began giving loud verbal commands to Langhoff to drop the gun. An audio recording reflects “13 direct, articulated verbal commands” within 22 seconds for Langhoff to drop the weapon.
Mt. Crested Butte Police Officer Anthony Burton then pushed Bromley out of the way, concerned for her safety. The report praises Burton for his actions.
Based on officer interviews and videotape of the scene, Langhoff first pointed the gun at his own temple, then was “moving the gun up and down during which movement the gun’s position places officers and others in the line of fire,” the report says.
Langhoff reportedly dropped the gun to his side, cocked the hammer of the pistol and began to bring the gun up again.
Boden then fired three shots, two of which were non-exiting wounds, which Montrose County Forensic Pathologist Michael Benzinger determined was Langhoff's cause of death.
Langhoff’s blood alcohol content at the time of his death was .067, the report states.
Officers rendered life saving aid, the report says. However the Gunnison County Coroner responded to the scene and reported Langhoff deceased.
Lengthy investigation goes in depth
More than three months have elapsed since the incident. Hotsenpiller said previously that original investigators provided numerous reports, several audio interviews and several video recordings related to the incident in electronic form. His office reviewed the material and further investigated Boden’s training, which proved to be “extensive” the report stated.
Hotsenpiller this week told the Times that the length of the investigation was based on the complexity of the case. Hotsenpiller said he wanted to understand where the “threat of force” was directed by Langhoff, and whether Boden had adequate training to make the decision he did.
“The backdrop in these situations in which it is not clear whether an individual is attempting to end their own life or not creates analytical issues for us,” Hotsenpiller explained. “They raise the question of, is the person threatening force against the officers? One way to accomplish the goal of ending your life, if in fact that is your goal, which is very difficult to discern, is to cause the officers to use force by threatening. (These cases) are not simple generally.”
Accounts differ between officers and videotape as to whether Langhoff was pointing the gun at his head when he was shot or if he was raising the gun. Hotsenpiller said the different perspectives are to be expected.
Investigators and Hotsenpiller consulted with the Force Science Institute and other law enforcement agencies to gain better insight as to these different viewpoints and reaction times.
“(The gun) was going up, down, over here — you don’t know where it’s going to go,” Hotsenpiller explained. “And you don’t have enough time to react. If he turns it on you, you’re going to be dead before you get a shot off.”
Additional information also was provided by Langhoff’s sister. Bromley told officers her brother had fallen on hard times after being very successful in life. He was well-educated, financially stable, had been married and had two daughters.
But he had gone through a difficult divorce where he lost his house and a lot of financial assets, the report says. Langhoff’s daughters had stopped communicating with him and these personal events led to him becoming “extremely depressed and he began to drink excessively.”
Langhoff, Bromley told investigators, “had talked about wanting to end his own life.” Bromley described Langhoff as “being very sad.”
Hotsenpiller notes in his report that this case, like others in which law enforcement handles people who are in crisis, are impacted by behavioral health challenges and people who are coping through substance abuse.
“Even when trained, experienced law enforcement officers respond in a reasonable and justifiable manner, as they did here, these incidents will have lasting tragic results for the family of the deceased, the officers involved, and our community,” Hotsenpiller stated.
(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)