A local newspaper reported on an alleged rape at police chief’s home. Then someone stole all the copies

An entire print run of a newspaper circulated in Ouray, Colorado (above) were stolen by a man upset with the reporting of a sexual assault case (AP/Nathan Bilow)

A Colorado newspaper was set to run a story about a teen girl's alleged rape at the home of the city's police chief. On the day the story hit newsstands, all of the print copies disappeared across the county. The publisher believes someone in town is trying to suppress the story.

On Wednesday, the Ouray County Plaindealer reported that a teenage girl was assaulted multiple times during a late-night party with the police chief's step-son and two other people.

The 17-year-old reported that she screamed and fought back against her attackers, but Ouray County Police Chief Jeff Wood remained asleep upstairs.

The three young men were arrested and charged with sexual assault, according to the Ouray County Plaindealer.

Mr Wood did not provide a comment to the Ouray County Plaindealer for its story.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Wood and Ouray Mayor Ethan Funk for comment.

The city of Ouray offered the following comment to The Independent:

“Due to the Police Chief’s residence being involved in this reported incident, the City has been monitoring the developing case since it was first reported in May of 2023. The investigating agency is the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The Ouray Police Department has not been involved in the investigation and limited information has been released by CBI. The City will continue to monitor the released information and provide thesupport necessary as this case moves through the justice system. Currently, no personnel investigations are being conducted in the Ouray Police Department regarding this case.”

The paper reports that the teen's case was referred to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation by the Ouray County Sheriff's Office.

Officials in Ouray said they had been monitoring the development of the case since it involved the police chief's homes. City officials said the Ouray Police Department was not involved in the investigation.

The account of the attack and ongoing investigation was intended to be the paper's front page, above the fold story in its print edition on Wednesday, but someone stole the physical copies from newsstands across Ouray.

A note alerting the public to the thefts appeared above the paper's online edition.

"I'm sorry that most of you locals who like to get your papers from the racks were not able to put your quarters in and receive your weekly news today," the statement said. "All of our newspaper racks in Ouray and all but one rack in Ridgway were hit by a thief who stole all the newspapers. From what we know so far, it seems this person put in four quarters and took all the papers at these racks. It's pretty clear that someone didn't want the community to read the news this week."

The paper asked that members of the public with information about the thefts contact the Montrose County Sheriff's office rather than the Ouray County Sheriff's Office.

"I'll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions on which story they didn't want you to read. Whoever did this took the time to steal hundreds of newspapers around the county, to prevent you from reading the news," the statement said. "Whoever did this does not understand that stealing newspapers doesn't stop a story. We're not going to stop doing our job, which is to shine light on important issues in our community and keep you informed. This person is not going to shut down the freedom of the press by stealing a few hundred newspapers. Our community won't stand for it and we won't, either."

The Ouray County Plaindealer said it was working with the Montrose Daily Press to produce another run of their story. It said readers would be notified when the reprints were available.

"If you meant to intimidate us, you just strengthened our resolve," the paper said in the statement.

Co-publisher Mike Wiggins shared similar sentiments on X/Twitter.

"If you hoped to silence or intimidate us, you failed miserably. We'll find out who did this. And another press run is imminent," he wrote.