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Facts released on death after party
4/18/2008 By: Carole McWilliams
Officials are releasing details about the death of an Ignacio man in Bayfield on March 11.
At about 1 a.m., a Bayfield marshal’s deputy was dispatched to a disturbance at a townhome on Star Crossing Drive, east of the Shell station.
Johnathan Winlock, 21, of Ignacio died on the way to a hospital in Farmington after that disturbance. At the time, the Bayfield Marshal’s Office referred press inquiries to the town manager, who in turn referred them to District Attorney Craig Westberg.
This week Westberg released reports on what happened that night, although he said the medical examiner in Albuquerque still has not stated a cause of death.
Events started the evening of Monday March 10 at a going away party for a friend of the townhome residents. Winlock was among the partiers.
Most had left by midnight. The man and woman who lived in the townhome were trying to go to bed because they had to work the next day. One partier had passed out in a bedroom. Another man and Winlock were downstairs in the living room drinking shots of several types of liquor mixed together.
Several of the reports said Winlock seemed to be extremely intoxicated.
At some point Winlock started breaking things and trying to fight with the man he’d been drinking with and the man who lived there, while they tried to get him under control and calmed down. Winlock apparently threatened to kill them.
The woman who lived there called the police.
Marshal’s deputy Christopher Choate was at the end of a 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift when he responded. His backup, La Plata County sheriff’s deputy James Coleman, was coming from Durango.
Choate found the man who lived there holding Winlock in a headlock downstairs in the home. At Choate’s request, the man let go of Winlock, and Choate handcuffed the man.
Choate said he was outside with the man and woman who lived there, and the man who’d been drinking shots with Winlock trying to sort out what happened. Winlock was still inside. He ran upstairs. Crashing sounds came from the upstairs. The interviews don’t clarify what that was.
Choate went inside and was starting up the stairs after Winlock when Winlock jumped or fell from the second floor onto the stairs, then hit his head.
Winlock was combative after that and didn’t have any obvious injuries. But at an unspecified time later that night, he was dead.
Because Winlock died in custody, the case was referred to Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Kirby Lewis to determine whether a crime had been committed. He led interviews of people at the townhome when the disturbance happened, and the people who responded.
Lewis’s report said, “Deputy Choate said that as he began going up the stairs, a ‘body’ fell from almost directly above him ‘like a rock’ and hit in the bottom five steps area, about two feet in front of him. … the body was upside down, with the person’s head toward the bottom of the stairs and the feet pointed up the stairs. (Choate) did not know if the person fell down the stairs head first or feet first.”
Choate said the woman had been outside and he didn’t know if she went upstairs when the crashing sounds started. But she said in her interview that she had just come out of her upstairs bedroom when Winlock jumped or fell, and she went outside after that.
Lewis reported, “(She) does not know for certain if Mr. Winlock jumped off the balcony or fell off. Her opinion is that it was not a fall… Mr. Winlock was going feet first, landed on his feet on the edge of a step then fell backwards down the stairs and struck his head.”
She didn’t provide information on what happened after that. She went outside.
Lewis reported Choate said Winlock got up and started toward him, and he pushed Winlock away. Winlock stumbled to the floor. Choate called for medical response after retrieving the handcuffs from the man outside and getting them on Winlock.
The rest of that interview deals with getting Winlock onto a gurney and into the ambulance. Like other interviewees, Choate was surprised Winlock had died.
Lewis reported, “Deputy Choate said he was under the belief that this was a call they deal with all the time, that Mr. Winlock was going to be looked at (at Mercy), a (blood alcohol sample) would be obtained, and Mr. Winlock would be transported to detox.”
Sheriff’s deputy Coleman also filed a report. He said he drove from Durango and arrived at around 1:13 a.m., just before three Upper Pine paramedics arrived.
Winlock was “pretty incoherent” and smelled strongly of alcohol. He didn’t answer medic Matt Sowash’s questions about possible injuries. Coleman said Winlock didn’t seem to be in any pain.
Coleman said the struggling Winlock was loaded on a gurney, and his wrists and feet were restrained. The ambulance started for Mercy Medical Center at around 1:36 a.m. Coleman followed in his patrol car. They reached Mercy at around 1:56 a.m.
Winlock was combative in the ambulance and was still struggling in the ER, Coleman reported. He resisted a blood draw. Coleman left Mercy at around 2:30 a.m.
He found out later that day from a Durango police officer that Winlock had died.
Lewis, the CBI agent, also interviewed Upper Pine EMT Matt Sowash, who described Winlock as very intoxicated and combative. He was shocked to hear that Winlock had died.
Lewis visited the townhome and measured the distance Winlock had fallen at 8 feet, 7.5 inches, plus or minus six inches depending on which step Winlock landed on.
None of the interviews deal with Winlock’s transfer from Mercy to San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, why he was being taken there, or whether he was in an ambulance or helicopter. He died on the way, in New Mexico.
Westberg said this week there are no plans to file any charges in the incident.
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