Bounty hunters’ fugitive isn’t in doghouse with prosecutors
JOHN C. ENSSLIN
Prosecutors on Thursday dropped charges against a man accused of shooting at Dog the Bounty Hunter and his sidekick while they were chasing the fugitive down in Colorado Springs.
Police jailed Hoang Nguyen, 35, on suspicion of attempted murder after television personality Duane “Dog” Chapman and local bail bondsman Bobby Brown reported that they had been fired upon on April 21.
However, Assistant 4th District Attorney Dan Zook said conflicting witness statements, a lack of evidence and a failure by Chapman to respond to several requests for videotape led prosecutors to drop the case.
The decision – outlined in a court hearing before Judge J. Patrick Kelly – prompted a call from Nguyen’s public defender to prosecute the people who filed the complaint.
“I plan to file a motion to compel prosecution against the parties for false reporting,” said Deputy Public Defender Bill Schoewe. “I’ve also advised my client to seek a civil attorney to bring a civil lawsuit against them.”
Zook said prosecutors felt “there was a lack of sufficient evidence,” to proceed with the case. He also noted discrepancies in the stories that the bounty hunters gave police.
He said Chapman’s son Leland described the gunman as standing about 50 feet away holding a silver colored handgun and that he saw a flash.
However Chapman said he spotted Nguyen near a dumpster but initially stated that he wasn’t sure if he saw a gun. Police said he later changed that statement to say the suspect did point a gun at him.
Zook said Brown estimated the suspect was standing 70 yards away and another individual in the group estimated he was 93 yards away.
Zook also said police found no bullet hole, bullet or shell casing that would have indicated where a shot was fired
The incident occurred in the parking lot of the Galley Apartments at 3617 E. Unitah St., where the bounty hunters had a tip that Nguyen had moved into a new apartment.
As the suspect fled, they fired pepper spray pellets at him. They caught up and apprehended him six hours later.
At the time of the incident, Chapman and a camera crew were taping an episode for his show on the A&E network. They were looking for Nguyen, who had failed to appear for a Feb. 6 hearing on a domestic violence charge. He was free on a $12,000 bond posted through Brown.
Brown, reached Thursday, said police skipped key investigative steps, such as swabbing Nguyen for gunpowder. Instead, Brown said, police spokesman Lt. David Whitlock made public statements suggesting that Chapman and Brown were hunting for publicity.
“That’s (expletive) to put in there that we do this for ratings. Ninety-nine percent of the people we arrest are CSPD warrants,” Brown said. “I mean, we’re doing their job, and he was just totally, totally out of line by his comment.”
“He should have just said, ‘This is an ongoing investigation,” he said.
On the day after the incident, Brown told the Gazette, “The cameras were behind me and they catch it all,” Brown said. “I would hazard to guess that 99.999 (percent), it’s on tape.”
However, Zook said prosecutors called Chapman numerous times requesting a copy of the tape. He said Chapman called back once to say he would get back to them, but never turned over any tape.
For more court coverage, go to the Sidebar blog at Gazette.com