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TCBA’s troubling bar tab

WALSENBURG — Recently published reports indicate alcohol problems are nothing new at The Career Building Academy, with incidents reported to local law enforcement agencies as far back as May 2015. In mid-November, a Huerfano County sheriff’s deputy responded to the alternative high school located west of Walsenburg on a report of a run-a-way juvenile. Deputy Corey Daniels contacted the 16-year old youth, who said he had walked away from the facility to avoid a confrontation with students who were intoxicated. The youth also told the deputy academy counselors were drinking and providing alcohol to students at the residential facility. Daniels’ investigation led him to contact the counselors on duty, Taylor Miles, 22 and Dalton Crowell-Brewer, 21. In his report, Daniels said when Crowell-Brewer came out of his dorm room, he detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage on him. Daniels report said Crowell-Brewer allegedly told him he had two beers after the kids had gone to bed. The students staying at the facility were called into the commons area and Daniels suspected they too, had been drinking. The Colorado State Patrol was

notified and dispatched a trooper to administer alcohol breath tests. The field breath tests indicated the juveniles had been drinking and Daniels’ report said Crowell-Brewer’s speech was slurred. The next morning, TCBA Founder and President Rick Johnson came to Walsenburg and dismissed the two counselors and TCBA Principal Dennis Hoyt. The counselors were arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors, with Crowell-Brewer was also charged with resisting arrest, a class two misdemeanor. Three juveniles were charged with minor in possession of alcohol and the county department of social services contacted the youth’s parents to come to Walsenburg and take custody of their children. Johnson said four students were returned to their Peyton/Colorado Springs charter school and three others returned to their school in Pueblo. The Pueblo Chieftain recently reported, less than a week before the incident, that Huerfano County sheriff’s deputies responded to the school on Nov. 13 on a report of an 18-year-old male making threats toward staff and students at the residential campus. The student was found to be intoxicated. HCSO Deputy Ben Bounds reported when he contacted the student, who is from Colorado Springs, about the incident, the student smelled of alcohol. Bounds said he asked the student if he had been drinking and the student admitted he had drank some wine. The student was removed from the school that night, but Bounds wrote in his report, that due to his condition of intoxication, he was held in protective custody until he could be released to a parent or other responsible party. But the troubles began long before the November incidents. The Chieftain reported that on May 3, Walsenburg police were called to check on a male who was lying near railroad tracks by Power Plant Road. WPD Officer Joshua Berzanji reported the juvenile male, who later said he was a student at the academy, was highly intoxicated. Berzanji described the student as being incoherent with slurred speech. The officer said he tried to get the juvenile to stand, but he was unable to maintain control by himself and had to be supported. The youth allegedly admitted to drinking Kentucky Deluxe, a blended whiskey. Later, the juvenile told police he had been drinking at the school and the park, but could not provide additional details because he was too intoxicated. While medical personnel were attending to the juvenile, a sheriff’s deputy questioned four males who were nearby, and learned that three of them were also students at the school, and the fourth was a staff member. When the deputy asked how the juvenile became intoxicated, the students said they didn’t know because the juvenile had separated from the others and was gone for about two hours. Two of the students denied drinking alcohol, while a third told police they drank a bottle of vodka they had hidden on the school grounds before they walked into town. Police later learned that two of the students; Jeremiah Ferguson and Sage Chris Durga, who were both 21 and from Pueblo, admitted to buying alcohol in Walsenburg and drinking shots in a park. A third student, Brian Kasan, 18, also of Pueblo, admitted to drinking alcohol. Durga and Ferguson were arrested on suspicion of two felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and Kasan was arrested also on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and underage consumption of alcohol. Johnson was contacted this week by the Chieftain regarding the incidents but declined comment. He referred calls to the school’s attorney, Bob Gardner. Gardner said the school’s board has addressed the issue of underage drinking in several ways. He said employees have been fired or have resigned and students have been dropped from the residential program and moved back to their home schools. “I guess the bottom line for all of this is, based on the recent incidents, that’s the reason the board has suspended the program in Walsenburg,” he said. “The board will not reopen the program until appropriate staff is hired and the processes and procedures are in place to prevent any reoccurrence.”