The Telluride Marshal’s Office is unable to comment on a possible motive in the Friday shooting that left a man wounded and schools on temporary lockdown.
Witnesses alleged to officers that Brian Aitken, 38, shot another man in the leg as the man was walking away. Aitken, who according to San Miguel County Jail records is no longer in custody, was arrested on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder. Formal charges are pending.
“We felt it was an appropriate charge levied against Mr. Aitken,” Telluride Marshal Josh Comte said Monday, referring to the information gathered from witnesses. He said he could not speak to a possible motive, but did say the wounded man was released from medical care and is recovering.
On Nov. 19, Deputy Marshal James Wilson responded to reports of a shooting in the 700 block of West Galena in Telluride, near the schools. He saw a group of men gathered around a man on the ground, whose leg was bleeding, and another man applying pressure to the wound.
The crowd pointed him toward an address on West Galena. There, Wilson saw Aitken, whom he recognized.
Aitken kept his hands visible and told Wilson where the gun was, the deputy marshal wrote in a brief arrest affidavit. Upon patting Aitken down, Wilson found an empty holster inside his waistband at the small of his back, per the document.
“I heard the shooting victim yell, ‘that’s (expletive) up, you shot me.’ Mr. Aitken began yelling back at the man,” Wilson wrote.
“ … Based on witness and victim’s statements, Brian Aitken (allegedly) shot (man) as he was walking away.”
The injured man was taken away for medical care.
Aitken was cooperative and the initial lockdown that was put in place at the nearby school was quickly lifted, Comte said.
“When our deputies arrived, we encountered one male suffering from a gunshot wound and the second being Mr. Aitken. He cooperated with the deputy’s commands and was taken into custody without incident,” said Comte.
Court records did not list an attorney for Aitken, who is due in court Dec. 7.
Aitken made headlines in 2018, when then-Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey pardoned him for possessing illegal ammunition.
New Jersey’s Feb. 28, 2018 report on reprieves, pardons and commutations states Aitken had been arrested Jan. 2, 2009 and later was convicted of “unlawful possession of Dum-Dum bullets” (or hollow-nose bullets) in violation of New Jersey law.
Aitken’s seven-year prison sentence was commuted in 2010; the formal pardon came in 2018, following a mostly successful appeal of his original conviction on weapons offenses.
News reports from 2018 said his conviction involved handguns he legally purchased in Colorado and which were unloaded and disassembled when police in New Jersey found them in the trunk of his vehicle.
According to the March 2012 ruling by the New Jersey Court of Appeals, he was charged because he did not have a permit to carry the weapons police found. Aitken was in the process of moving to New Jersey at the time.
Aitken’s jury during trial asked three times about New Jersey’s exemptions to the permit requirement; the trial judge instructed the jury that, although there are exemptions to New Jersey’s permit law, he had determined as a matter of law these exemptions did not apply and jurors could not consider them.
The New Jersey Court of Appeals reversed Aitken’s conviction for second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, finding the trial judge should have instructed the jury about exemptions. The court also found the state failed to prove all elements of fourth-degree possession of a large capacity magazine and that Aitken’s motion for acquittal should have been granted on that count.
The court upheld his conviction on count three, possession of “Dum-Dum,” or hollow-nose bullets.
“Although the state may elect to pursue a retrial, we note that the state has conceded that the gubernatorial commutation (in 2010) of the custodial sentence precludes imposition of any custodial sentence following such a retrial,” the appellate court justices’ order states.
Christie pardoned Aitken for the ammo offense six years after the appellate ruling.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.