Maui News

Former Maui Man Held Hostage in Colorado Standoff

July 30, 2016, 8:15 AM HST
* Updated July 30, 7:03 PM
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Blake Ramelb. Photo credit: Sierra Coullahan.

Blake Ramelb. Photo credit: Sierra Coullahan.

A former Maui man tells his harrowing tale of how he was held hostage at gunpoint on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, during a stop on the Independence Pass in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado.

tells Maui Now that after the incident, “I definitely feel lucky to be alive.”bkr

On Wednesday at around 5 p.m., Ramelb decided to drive up Independence Pass to get some photos for his company website.  He had planned to set up a hammock and hang out at a picnic area, and was drawn to Lincoln Creek Road. The road is located about 11 miles east of Aspen, on Highway 82’s seasonal Independence Pass.

That’s when he came up on two vehicles blocking the road that appeared to him to have been in an accident.

He observed two males with their hands on their heads and saw a hand reach out of a truck and wave him forward.  “I thought they were in need of some help so I started driving towards them,” said Ramelb in his BKR Crew blog about the incident.

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When he got close to the truck, a male got out and pulled a gun on him, according to Ramelb’s account.  “He told me to get out of my car and put my hands on my head because he wanted to kill me. He thought I was a threat to him and thought I came to kill him.”

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“We offered him one of our cars and our cell phones, hoping he would take the bait and just leave. He didn’t want to rob us. He wanted to kill us,” according to Ramelb’s account.

The two other hostages were able to escape when the gunman got distracted by an approaching vehicle; but Ramelb, was wearing a surgical boot and was left alone with the gunman.

The Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center received the initial 911 call at around 5:15 p.m., but received only minimal information due to poor cellular phone service in the area.  Additional calls indicated a gunman was pointing a firearm at people in the area.

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“I knew if I had any chance, I would have to talk him out of shooting me… So, I asked where he was from and asked him about his family. I was trying to get as much personal information as I could to calm him down,” Ramelb wrote.

The man told him he was Jason Bourne, who is a character in a spy operative movie series, the latest installment of which was released this week in the US.

“The Gunman thought I was there to kill him and he didn’t want money to begin with, he said he didn’t want me to kill his family, he didn’t want to die, but looking at his eyes, I saw that he didn’t care if he did. He was suicidal. He wanted to die and he wanted to take me with him,” Ramelb wrote.

“The gunman was convinced I worked for the government and was there to take him out,” Ramelb explained.  When police arrived, Ramelb acted as the “middle man,” yelling the gunman’s demands to police, including a $100 million dollar request.

Initial responding deputies, along with an officer of the Aspen Police Department, located the man near two vehicles and discovered that he was holding another man (Ramelb) against his will. The armed man was later identified as Brolin J. McConnell, 30, of Colorado Springs.

Aspen police say deputies evacuated several people from the area, and contained the scene while they attempted to communicate with McConnell. During this time, police say several shots were fired by McConnell.

Twice during the standoff, the gunman instructed Ramelb to turn away from him and he fired, but missed, according to Ramelb.

“I was looking away from him and thought that I was shot, but couldn’t feel it. I didn’t take my hands off of my head to check for a wound, because I knew if I did then he would shoot me dead. I thought at that moment that I was gone, but I wasn’t. He missed. He fired and it went right past my head,” Ramelb wrote.

In an attempt to calm the gunman, Ramelb asked if he had been to Hawaiʻi, where he was from, and talked about the Aloha Spirit, “and how everyone there is kind and welcoming.”

“My family came to mind. The fact that I didn’t get a chance to say good bye and say how much I love all of them. My whole life, I just wanted to make my dad proud and change the world. I knew I hadn’t gotten there yet. I knew I had to survive to accomplish that goal. I knew there was more out there than death for me. I was breaking down, but I couldn’t let my family and friends down,” Ramelb wrote.

The gunman’s erratic behavior went from moments of calmness to anger and agitation according to Ramelb.  “It came to the point where he told me he was going to kill me and than himself. I knew I had no time. So, I waited for any opportunity to arise,” he wrote.

That moment came when the gunman moved towards the center of the backseats in the vehicle, with the gun still pointed at Ramelb, and turned around for a second, according to Ramelb’s account

“When I saw that initial movement I ran (hopped), behind the truck-bed. I saw the cop on the top of the road move in and I heard the gunman swear and yell, I figured the cop(s) on the hill above me moved in on the gunman. Knowing that I was still in his line of sight I zig zagged and ran through any trees or objects that could keep my head away from any bullet(s) heading my way,”  Ramelb wrote.

Deputies took the opportunity to approach McConnell and take him into custody. According to police reports, McConnell obeyed the deputies’ commands and surrendered to authorities.

Once he got up the road, Ramelb said he was greeted by officers with rifles, the witnesses and the other two hostages that had escaped. “I knew at that point I was alive,” he stated.

McConnell was transported to the Pitkin County Jail, where he was charged with First Degree Kidnapping, a class 2 felony, and Prohibited Use of a Weapon, a class 2 misdemeanor.

Ramelb tells Maui Now that his father and brother still live on Maui.  He graduated from Lahainaluna in 2013 and attended Sacred Hearts School from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

While at Lahainaluna, Ramelb ran cross country, but was forced to quit sports after suffering from bone spurs and collapsed arches that required multiple surgeries.  He recently had a ligament repair on his left foot at the Steadman Clinic in Vail to address chronic pain, and will be undergoing surgery on his other foot in the next few months.

“This whole hostage experience has just made my belief in life a lot more relevant and stronger. You never know when you will face a problem like this and I just want to encourage people to never take life for granted,” Ramelb told Maui Now.

Ramelb currently owns a clothing/movement company called BKR Crew and moved to Colorado at the age of 18 to expand his business.  His plans are to establish residency while in Colorado so that he can obtain instate tuition to finish up college at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“It’s a very cliche thing to say, but you never really understand it until you live it. Live everyday likes its your last. I started BKR Crew because I enjoy everyday of life and want to spread the message that you do not have to live for someone else, if you just be yourself and do the things that make you happy, than you will die happy,” Ramelb wrote in his blog.

He said he wants to “find the potential in everyone to get rid of the bad and welcome the good into their lives.”

 

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