A former candidate for the Colorado legislature who has been in a foreclosure battle for several years and protested against the government during Occupy Denver is suspected of shooting three Park County sheriff’s deputies Wednesday, killing one, before he was shot dead, KMGH-TV reports.
Martin Wirth, 58, was being evicted from his property in Bailey when the shooting occurred, the Park County Sheriff’s Office says.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Corporal Nate Carrigan, a 12-year-veteran deputy was killed in the shooting. Another officer, Patrol Deputy Kolby Martin, an 11-year-veteran, suffered life threatening injuries and is being treated at a local hospital. A third deputy, Captain Mark Hancock, suffered non-life-threatening wounds.
“It is a dark day,” Susan Medina, spokeswoman for the CBI, told KMGH-TV.
Wirth posted on Facebook just months before Thursday’s incident that he felt he was the target of police harassment and feared for his life.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Said He Was Facing Threats From Police & Was a ‘High Value Target’
Wirth posted on Facebook in January that he felt he was being threatened and harassed by police and said his life was in danger. You can read the full post here.
He said that he went to a nearby town to purchase insurance for his truck, but learned that his license had been revoked. He said he refused to “pay extortion” after he was given a speeding ticket in 2014.
“Because I ran for State Senate, I am a high value target. Some police know they need to be abolished. They are a brutal impediment to human progress and a danger to us all. Because I write such things, cops want me dead,” Wirth wrote. “Their primary tool is aggression: unlawfully detaining and terrorizing people, checking for papers, stealing money to enrich towns run by assholes that abuse government to pay for private improvements, that sort of shit.”
Wirth said he had guns pulled on him during the incident in January while trying to get insurance, and was punched in the face by a sheriff’s deputy.
“When people like me run for senate, you know it’s bad. But it’s much more entertaining when the cops are pulling out any excuse to kill you for it. My neighbor suggested that I head on over to the sheriff’s office to apply for a concealed carry permit,” he wrote.
2. The Deputies Were Prepared for a ‘Contentious Eviction,’ Authorities Say
The deputies were prepared for a “contentious eviction,” Colorado Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Medina told KMGH-TV.
Wirth defaulted on the house in 2013 and foreclosure proceedings followed, the Denver Post reports.
Eight sheriff’s office employees, including the sheriff, were at the house to serve the eviction, the newspaper reports. It was deemed to be “high risk.”
“There was a team that went in to take care of this eviction process,” Medina said.
Medina said the suspect opened fire first.
Neighbor Susana Gibson told the newspaper she heard the shots.
“It was, ‘Pop! Pop! Pop!'” she said. “And then a few minutes later I heard, ‘Boom! Boom!'”
3. He Became an Activist Against What He Believed Were ‘Illegal Foreclosures’
While going through his own foreclosure battle, Wirth became an activist against what he believed to be “illegal foreclosures.”
In a YouTube video, which you can watch above, Wirth said, “I did not pay mortgage to a bunch of crooks known as Nationstar Mortgage LLC.”
He said people were being “foreclosed upon despite being current on their mortgages, they were being defrauded by this scam mortgage lenders use, Bank of America’s used it, Nationstar has used it. Asking a law-abiding citizen to pay a company or a person who is actively committing fraud and felonies against their fellow citizens is the same as saying that you can see a crime in progress but you’re obligated to pay the person perpetrating the crime. So to even give them the money is wrong.”
A group called the “Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition” posted in 2014 that Wirth was facing eviction:
As many of us know he has been fighting a valiant battle in court over his property. He was very confident when he entered court, with Janet there to support him, because the judge throughout the case had been actually ruling on the merit of the legal arguments Martin had brought forth. Unfortunately, ‘the powers that be’ apparently felt threatened by Martin’s well researched legal assertions, so they pulled the judge off the case and replaced him with a ‘senior’ judge. This new judge entered the hearing clearly having already made his decision. He essentially summarily dismissed all of Martin’s claims, ruled for the bank and told Martin that he could be evicted Monday.
We are now calling for a non-violent eviction resistance at Martin’s. Martin’s has been an invaluable part of Occupy Denver from the very early days, he has sheltered people on several occasions as well as hosting the Occupy retreat. His property is an amazing mountain escape with lots of room for tents and camping. We hoping we can get as many folks as possible, wiling to stay up on the property and in the home with him. We need to buy him enough time to file for a temporary restraining order on the eviction and attempt to restart the legal battle that he is very adept at.
In June 2014, the group posted on its Facebook page that it was withdrawing support for Wirth because while they believed in his “case and arguments, we cannot in good conscience as an organisation support the tactics he is proposing.”
But after his death on Thursday, they wrote, “We are sorry to share that Martin Wirth, so long active working to end fraudulent foreclosures and evictions, is reported to have died in a shootout with police this morning in Bailey Colorado. Martin recently shared with friends that he was experiencing harassment by the police, and we are sharing that post here. Any media looking for a statement should look at what Martin himself shared.”
4. He Ran for State Senate on the Green Party Ticket
Wirth ran for state senate in 2014 on the Green Party ticket, according to the Denver Post.
In the Post’s voter guide, he explained why he was running:
Asking why I wish to serve is an unproductive question. I would prefer to live a private life. However, my duty is to confront power when it is being abused. Influence peddling usurps the will of the people and foists upon us, not only a mediocre existence, but mediocre ways of thinking about it. Serving in the Senate is not about what I wish. It is about what the people need for us to do. We need to be having discussions that lead to positive actions, rebuilding our sense of community, and leaving the world a better place for seven generations to come.
Wirth, identifying himself as an engineer, said he has been involved in a number of issues an activist, including reducing the cost of higher education, sustaining and expanding public transportation and defending our rights under the constitution.
He received 25 percent of the vote, with 13,019 cast for him, but lost to Republican Kevin Grantham, the Denver Post reports.
5. He Was One of the Leaders of the Occupy Denver Movement
Wirth was also one of the leaders of the Occupy Denver movement, an anti-government and anti-banking-industry protest that came out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to the Denver Post.
During his run for office, he spoke out against corporate welfare, big banks, party politics and eminent domain, according to the Post.
His Facebook page features several images and posts about the Occupy movement.