Suspect captured in shooting in Colorado over property dispute that left 3 dead

A man accused of killing three people and wounding another in a shooting Monday in southern Colorado, prompting shelter-in-place orders and a manhunt, was taken into custody Tuesday, officials said.

Deputies responded to a call reporting multiple shots fired at about 1 p.m. in a wooded area in Custer County, a rural part of the state about 60 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. Officials said the dispute erupted over property lines.

Within an hour, a SWAT team arrived, and the Custer County Sheriff's Department issued a shelter-in-place order. Responding officers and the suspect, identified as 45-year-old Hanme K. Clark, engaged in an hourslong standoff before Clark escaped. By 9 p.m., the shelter-in-place was lifted.

The sheriff's office said deputies discovered two men and a woman dead at the scene. A fourth victim was found wounded and was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to the sheriff's office. She's expected to survive.

The suspect was arrested near Albuquerque, New Mexico, by New Mexico State Police and U.S. Marshals during a high-risk felony traffic stop, officials said Tuesday afternoon. He was driving a white Dodge Ram pickup truck with a topper and Colorado license plate BHLK27.

Custer County Sheriff Rich Smith said Tuesday that the suspect was detained peacefully and no one was injured. A woman, who was not immediately identified by police, was in the vehicle at the time of Clark's arrest and police are investigating her involvement in the incident, according to Smith.

Authorities said the suspect was wanted on three counts of first-degree murder. He is currently being held in New Mexico and will be extradited back to Colorado, Smith added.

Who were the victims?

Officials released the identities of the victims Tuesday afternoon. They were from multiple families and all involved in the property dispute with the suspect, officials said.

Rob Geers, 63, Beth Wade Geers, 73, and James Daulton, 58, were all killed. Patty Daulton was injured and is being treated at a trauma center in Colorado Springs, the Custer County Sheriff's Office said.

The sheriff's office did not give Patty Daulton's age.

Smith said the Geers family and the Daulton family were owners of properties that bordered the suspect's property.

Dispute erupted over property lines

The shooting began with a dispute over property lines, the sheriff's office said. In a news conference Tuesday, Smith said a dispute between the suspect and his neighbors had been ongoing for some time.

The deceased victims were all involved in the dispute over easements, Smith said. An easement is a portion of a person's property that is legally granted to others to use. Smith said an easement on the suspect's property allowing his neighbors to drive through his property was a "source of irritation for him."

The sheriff said deputies have responded to numerous complaints from the suspect about his neighbors, and from the neighbors about the suspect. Property disputes like the one that spurred the shooting happen "almost every day" in the area, Smith said.

"We’ve been to this suspect’s house several times," Smith said, adding there was "absolutely no indication that it would lead to this."

The suspect was not on his own property when he fired, the sheriff said.

Custer County is a mountainous area just northeast of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and is home to about 4,700 people, according to the 2020 census.

"This is a peaceful place," Smith said. Through tears, Smith said the community and numerous law enforcement agencies helped in the shooting response.

The deadly shooting is the latest act of violence amid historically high levels of gun violence, which surged during the coronavirus pandemic. In recent years, firearm homicide rates across the United States have sharply increased. The Gun Violence Archive has tracked more than 38,000 gun deaths so far this year, and 608 mass shootings.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Custer County Colorado shooting leaves 3 dead; suspect in custody