Left to right: Deputy Arin Hart, Battalion Captain Dan Dailey, Deputy Steve James, Cell phone image provided to the Herald Democrat.
Lake County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Steve James has been charged following the March 27 confrontation at the jail where James and another deputy put Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Captain Dan Dailey in handcuffs and into a cell. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has declined to place charges against Dailey. News reports indicate Sheriff Ed Holte is not available for comment.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, on Thursday, said, “It came down to a public safety issue.”
James, said Hurlbert, prevented a woman in need of medical attention from receiving that care.
The charges are first-degree official misconduct, obstruction of medical personnel and trespassing on public property. All are class-two misdemeanors.
The third charge, explained Hurlbert, is when a public servant is in a public building and is kept from his duties.
On the evening of March 27 a Leadville woman drove to the sheriff’s office to file an abuse complaint against her husband. While talking to James and Deputy Arin Hart, she complained of a neck injury. James had the sheriff’s dispatcher in the next room issued an emergency call for an ambulance.
But Fire Capt. Dailey was monitoring the radio and responded, as well as the ambulance. When he arrived with two other firefighters in the sheriff’s office, James and Hart ordered the firefighters to leave.
Dailey refused. So the deputies handcuffed him and put him in jail while the two other firefighters left. Police Chief Mike Leak arrived at the jail awhile later and removed Dailey from his cell.
Fire Chief Robert Harvey said later that Dailey had acted appropriately by responding to the emergency call.
Leadville officials said there has been a two-year feud between the Sheriff Ed Holte and the fire department over who should be dispatched first to emergency calls. Holte believes the deputies should respond to most calls first to assess the situation, then call the fire department if needed.
However, Mayor Bud Elliott accuses Holte of violating an agreement between the city of Leadville and Lake County over the choice of first responders.
Hurlbert sent investigators to Leadville shortly after the jailing and released his conclusions on Wednesday.
“Our primary concern was the safety of the public,” Hurlbert said. “We felt the deputy kept the EMT (Dailey) from treating the person and that the EMT was merely doing his duty.”
Hurlbert said his office is continuing to investigate another incident last week in which Deputy John Ortega used a Taser stun gun on 30 high school students during a career fair at the school. Ortega, who was immediately suspended for one week without pay, said the students had asked him to Taser them and had given him permission. School officials said the students did not give their permission.
Mayor Bud Elliott and Fire Chief Bob Harvey said this incident stems from an ongoing dispute between the sheriff’s office and fire department.
“It is reprehensible,” said Harvey. “This is what we are all about; being there to render aid to assist and care. So, as far as I am concerned, this could have been more appropriately handled had my crew been allowed to begin the basic life support procedures and then taken care of (other issues) later. This was not the appropriate time, place or event for these issues to come out.”
Dailey did not want to comment on the charges filed against James when reached at the firehouse Wednesday evening.