Town hall torched, records inside destroyed — Green Mountain Falls, CO
One of the suspects in an arson fire that destroyed the historic Green Mountain Falls town hall last week described himself and an alleged accomplice as “anti-government,” and said he wanted to “do something to a judicial building.”
Zach Shaffer, 21, made the statement to an El Paso County Sheriff’s deputy the afternoon of Feb. 24, when he was at Memorial Hospital being treated for third-degree burns to his hands and ankles, according to an arrest warrant. Shaffer was advised of his rights, and agreed to answer the deputy’s questions.
Shaffer has been arrested on suspicion of first-degree arson, second-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit first-degree arson. He is free on a $25,000 bond.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Kyle Lawrence, 22, who is facing the same charges as Shaffer. Lawrence was taken to the burn unit at the University of Colorado Hospital, where he remained Tuesday for treatment of second- and third-degree burns.
Both were taken into custody after a standoff on Friday at a home on Eagle View Drive in Colorado Springs. Deputies were tipped off through Crime Stoppers that the two might be involved with the Thursday morning fire.
According to the warrant, Shaffer described himself and Lawrence as anti-government, and told the deputy he had an idea to do “something to a judicial building.” He asked Lawrence if he wanted to “partake” in something, though he didn’t go into details. However, he said, Lawrence knew it would involve gasoline and a judicial building.
Why he picked the Green Mountain Falls town hall is not fully explained in the arrest document. Shaffer said he had lived in the town, and once received a speeding ticket. And while he had no bad dealings with police, he said “he had heard several people complain about how they were crooked bastards.”
Shaffer bought a sledge hammer and crowbar, and told Lawrence he was going to use them to break into the building, the warrant said. When they got there, the window was unlocked, so both entered the building that way. Shaffer said the intent was to just break computers, “but then they decided to burn the building.”
Each poured about five gallons of gasoline inside. Shaffer grabbed both gas cans and was heading toward the window when he heard the vapors ignite. He said he threw the gas cans out the window and, realizing he was on fire, rolled on the ground to extinguish the flames. He also saw that Lawrence was on fire.
Once they got away from the building, they went back to Shaffer’s house.
The historic Green Mountain Falls building was erected in 1898 and first served as the town’s school house. It was later converted into the Town Hall, and was filled with important documents. Town officials are still trying to determine which records were lost in the fire.