Gun violence took two lives that day in 1961

By Mona Blandford

In the 1950s-60s, my husband Bob was a State Patrolman. One day in July, 1961, on his day off, as we visited with company, he got a phone call saying a state patrolman was lying on the side of the road just east of Kremmling, having been shot, along with our County Sheriff and a Game and Fish officer. Bob didn't stop to put on his uniform, but got his Sam Brown (the belt containing bullets, gun holder, etc.) and gun and went to see what was happening.

When he got there, he found Lt. Hiram Short, Sheriff Chancy Van Pelt and the Game and Fish Officer Bob Hoover close to death. With the help of passersby, he got them to the hospital. He told me to call the main office, which I did, and he and a deputy sheriff went in pursuit of the shooter. Later they discovered Deputy John Clark shot at a road block that had been set up.

Because I was a nurse aide, I went to see what I could do to help with the wounded men. As I watched the lieutenant’s shirt being cut off to treat him, I knew it could have been Bob there. Then a nurses handed me the lieutenant’s Sam Brown and service revolver to hold onto. I guess I was the closest person to being official there, and the gun needed to be kept safe for various reasons.

The gun belt was still warm from the lieutenant’s body. Just writing this almost 50 years later is bringing tears once more. He died shortly after, the bullet having cut the aorta in his chest. The odd thing was, there was no blood on him. It was all internal.

Our Episcopal priest came by and prayed with all the fellows, but the Eagle county deputy had the lower part of his face blown off and died not too long after the lieutenant. Sheriff Van Pelt only lived because his heart was contracting as the bullet grazed the heart sack. had his heart been pulsing out, he would have died almost instantly.

The man from the Game and Fish Commission was shot five times, all in non-life-threatening places. As he lay in the hallway on a gurney, he was suffering pain and fear and crying aloud at times. The other three men were quiet, so close to death they couldn’t make much noise.

After the biggest manhunt in Colorado history at that time, the shooter was found and brought into jail. No one could figure out why this 26-year-old guy – that looked like a 12-year-old – had done this. He had stopped alongside the road, and some said he was out looking down on some ducks on the river below. The only one who kne the truth never spoke of it. It was surmised the Game and Fish guy had stopped to see what the guy was doing and noticed some guns in the back seat of the car. He immediately called for backup. It was supposed that he had said or done something to set this guy off. It was odd that of all those shot, the Game and Fish guy was shot five times as if to make him suffer but not die, while each of the other shots were meant to kill.

The shooter, Delmar Dean Spooner, was sentenced to life and he died in Canon City at age 64, a model prisoner, his jailer said. I went to his trial. During a break, as we were standing in the hallway, this 5-foot-5 young kid was brought by. He looked at me with such a look of hate and anger I froze and looked away fast. his mother testified that her son had been reclusive and had built himself a cabin of railroad ties in their back yard and stayed to himself. This was the only clue. He was “different.”