Zoey Ripple: Felony trespassing beef for drunk CU grad shot by homeowner
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Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett speaks generally about the decision to formally charge Ripple in the coming days, and notes that incidents like this one (sans the shooting) are mighty common in Boulder.
As we pointed out in our first report, also included here, 21-year-old Ripple, who graduated from CU-Boulder a few short weeks ago (she was initially identified in the press as a student), is an unlikely person to have been involved in such an incident. Her employment history includes work as a food blogger and employee at the Columbine Country Club, and her criminal history is so minor that her single offense has already been wiped off her permanent record.
Likewise, the owners of the home in question -- Doreen Orion, author of the perky travelogue Queen of the Road, and her husband, Timothy Justice -- aren't the sorts who typically turn up in tales about shootings. But when Ripple stumbled into their home and didn't respond to demands to leave, Justice fired a shot that struck the young woman in the hip.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Garnett announced that Justice wouldn't be arrested because his actions fall under Colorado's Make My Day statute -- legislation with which he has a long and interesting history.
"I've been around for a while and I've always been a person who voices my opinion," Garnett notes. "I recently went back and found some clippings from 1985, and I lobbied against the statute when I was a deputy DA. I was concerned at the time that it would be used by folks involved in criminal activity -- like a drug dealer in a house who used force against another drug dealer. But the intent of the law is to maintain the sanctity of people's homes, and I think in the almost thirty years since it passed, some of the fears I had about it being abused have largely not come about. I think it's worked pretty well."
The law looks at "what a person can reasonably perceive" when it comes to an intruder, Garnett continues -- and while, in this case, Ripple was merely drunk (her blood alcohol content has been calculated at .2, nearly triple the legal limit for intoxication) rather than intent on burglary, "we concluded that these folks reasonably perceived the type of threat that lets the Make My Day law kick in."
As for Ripple, the Boulder Daily Camera reports in the item linked above that she was arrested today on suspicion of first-degree trespassing. (Editor's note: The text of this article has been changed to reflect the new development.) The count is appropriate on its face, Garnett feels: "It simply means you entered someone's house without their permission." But he portrays the allegation in instances like this one as an effort to assist, rather than only punish, the people involved.
"This is sort of an offshoot of the drinking culture on University Hill, where people wander into the wrong house for one reason or another," he says. "And the charge is a way to make sure we help the person get treatment for what may be a serious drinking problem. We want to help them get that under control."
Is Ripple struggling with such an issue? More investigation will be necessary to determine that, Garnett concedes -- but he says, "When you have a young person with an apparent blood-alcohol content of .2, that's an indication. You have to work pretty hard to get to a .2."
How often do sloshed individuals, most of them young adults, trespass in someone else's house? "We file an average of fifteen of these a year -- so about once a month or more," Garnett says.
Although, fortunately, they don't usually end up with someone being shot. See our earlier coverage for more details.
Original item, 8:29 a.m. May 25: The featured players in a Boulder "Make My Day" shooting could hardly be more unlikely: Zoey Ripple, CU student and ultra-perky food blogger, and the pair of Timothy Justice and Doreen Orion, whose saga of traveling the country for a year in a "glorified tin can" is told in the book Queen of the Road.
Justice won't be charged. But Ripple, who was ultra-drunk at the time of the incident, isn't out of the woods yet.
According to the Boulder Police Department, officers were dispatched to a very nice house on the 400 block of College Avenue (it's listed for sale at $2.75 million) at 3:26 a.m. yesterday morning following a 911 call by Orion. Here it is, courtesy of the Boulder Daily Camera:
An exterior look at the Orion-Justice home, from its Realtor.com listing.
Boulder cops say the husband and wife in question -- Orion, who's heard in the 911 audio, and Justice -- had been sleeping when they heard a noise. At first, they thought it might have been a raccoon gaining access via a nearby screen door that was closed but not locked. However, Orion soon realized the intruder walked on two legs, not four, and had entered the bedroom.
The pair reportedly shouted for the person to leave, with Justice adding that he had a gun and would use it -- and he proved it when he fired a shot in the direction of a light the intruder held while walking toward the bed. An instant later, a body fell and the couple discovered that Justice had plugged a young woman -- Ripple -- in the hip.
Doreen Orion and Timothy Justice.
As you can hear in the 911 audio, Orion said the woman was cogent enough to make a phone call after the shooting. although she sounded kinda stoned. But blotto is more like it: She subsequently tested at .20 blood alcohol content, nearly triple the legal limit for drunkenness.
Ripple, a CU student listed on the university's website as majoring in speech, language and hearing sciences, is hardly a notorious scofflaw. The Camera discovered that she'd pleaded guilty to shoplifting in Broomfield in 2010, but her record was cleared after she successfully completed a deferred sentence. Her LinkedIn profile lists her as "Food and Beverage Intern Manager" at Columbine Country Club, and she's also blogged about food for the website Bite Into Boulder. Her most recent review, a June 2011 analysis of Khow Thai, features lines like "Thai food is one of my absolute top favorite foods" and "So BEWARE, those who cannot handle the heat, stray from the items on the menu with chili peppers by their name!"
The presumption at this point is that Ripple was simply so out of it that she mistakenly wandered into the wrong house and was unable to respond to Justice before he sent a chunk of lead in her direction. But in a prepared statement shared by the Camera, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett also offered compassion to Orion, whose online bio describes her background as a psychiatrist and appearances on Good Morning America and the Discovery Channel, and Justice.
Ripple's Bite Into Boulder photo.
"This was an unfortunate incident for the homeowners in this case, who are understandably upset by what occurred, and for Ms. Ripple, who could have been fatally wounded," Garnett wrote. "It is also unfortunate that we see a lot of incidents in Boulder where people become so intoxicated that they illegally trespass into another's residence. Luckily most of them don't result in someone being shot, but as this case illustrates, it certainly is a possibility."
Because Justice's actions are protected under Colorado's Make My Day statute, Garnett has decided he won't face charges. But at this writing, the DA hasn't definitely decided whether to pursue a case against Ripple or let the bullet in her hip serve as a reminder about how important it is to know when to say when.
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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Azura Lakin: Make My Day law means no charges for killing Shaun Cassidy with bottle."