Lori Mitchell Squirt Gun Incident

ITEM #1:

“I’m on pins and needles. I mean, it’s awful,” Lori Mitchell, the Chaffee County clerk, said. Threats to her office via social media began after the 2020 election, she said, but they’ve since intensified. “Just as an example, what happened to me two days ago: I’m driving a block away from my office and I see out of the corner of my eye, somebody take their right hand, lay it over their left arm, and it looks like they’re shooting a gun at me. It was a squirt gun.

In response to mounting threats “calling our integrity into question,” Mitchell had bulletproof infrastructure installed in her Salida offices. “My staff deserves to feel safe at work,” she says. “I wouldn’t have opened my office to the public (after COVID and the elections) unless I had the bulletproof glass and wall installed.”

ITEM #2

“I’m on pins and needles. I mean, it’s awful,” Lori Mitchell, the Chaffee County clerk, said. Threats to her office via social media began after the 2020 election, she said, but they’ve since intensified. “Just as an example, what happened to me two days ago: I’m driving a block away from my office and I see out of the corner of my eye, somebody take their right hand, lay it over their left arm, and it looks like they’re shooting a gun at me. It was a squirt gun.”

In response to mounting threats “calling our integrity into question,” Mitchell had bulletproof infrastructure installed in her Salida offices. “My staff deserves to feel safe at work,” she says. “I wouldn’t have opened my office to the public (after COVID and the elections) unless I had the bulletproof glass and wall installed.”

ITEM #3

Mitchell hasn’t just been threatened, she has been terrorized. On June 22 an incident occurred in Salida, only a few blocks from the County Administration Building as she left work.

The driver of a late model sport utility vehicle pulled up and pointed a realistic-looking gun at her and simulated firing it. It turned out to be a water gun — but that didn’t change the heart-stopping impact of being threatened. Mitchell said although terrorized, she was also so angry that she followed him and recorded his license plate.

She reported the incident to dispatch that same day. Because it occurred within the city of Salida, she expected a call from the Salida Police Department.

But during a July 6 conversation with Salida Police Chief Russ Johnson, Ark Valley Voice learned that Michell’s incident report had not yet reached the Salida Police Department. Mitchell said the department followed up with her immediately after learning of the incident. As it turns out, the dispatchers heard the word squirt gun — and appeared to minimize the report.

Chaffee County Sheriff John Speeze confirmed that she had described the incident to him. But because it fell outside his law enforcement jurisdiction, the Sheriff’s Department is not in charge of the investigation.

Depending upon circumstances, an incident like this could constitute what is known as felony menacing. “The Colorado state statute for felony menacing is when someone knowingly does something to put a person in fear of serious bodily injury,” said Johnson. “For her to see the object pointed at her, she might not know if it was real or fake but the fear is what matters.”

ITEM #4

2020 election. County Clerk Lori Mitchell and her staff and 2020 election volunteers have been threatened, and their reputations and honesty questioned.

In an incident only a few weeks ago, a sport utility vehicle pulled up next to Mitchell’s car and a man aimed a realistic-looking (squirt) gun at her and fired it. While that may sound innocent, it could actually qualify as felony menacing.

ITEM #5

Mitchell told Newsline that the warning, in the context of the rest of the letter, might refer to a potential that her office, like the clerk’s office in Mesa County, could be investigated by the secretary of state.

“But it’s hard to know because, after all we’ve been through, it’s just worrisome,” Mitchell said.

Earlier in the summer, in response to mounting threats directed at Mitchell, she had bulletproof infrastructure installed in her Salida offices.

In recent days, at Mitchell’s request, agents with the Department of Homeland Security conducted a physical security assessment at the clerk’s office, where 10 people work, and she plans to make improvements based on the agents’ advice.

ITEM #6

“It’s like it’s so beyond the pale, the craziness,” Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell said last week after describing the range of threats and misinformation she and her staff are still facing following the 2020 election. “I think that’s why it’s hard to combat back because it’s like, ‘Oh my God, what the heck is going on?’”

Mitchell said the threats against her office started on social media. They also targeted a worker at a ballot processing machine company that has been the focus of unfounded claims of fraud.

“We did all the proper channels of reporting (the threats) to the sheriff and to the FBI and whatever we had to do,” she said. “But it still was very unnerving for me and my family.”

Things got worse last summer. Mitchell was driving about a block away from her office in Salida, a small town on the banks of the Arkansas River surrounded by sprawling ranches and mountains. She said she noticed something alarming.

“Out of the corner of my eye I saw somebody lay their right hand over their left arm and pull what looked like a (gun) trigger to me,” she said. “And so I ducked in my car. And it was a squirt gun and it splashed on my window and I was just really worked up about it for a number of days.”

ITEM #7

MITCHELL: Out of the corner of my eye, I saw somebody lay their right hand over their left arm and pull what looked like a trigger to me. And so I ducked in my car. And it was a squirt gun, and it splashed on my window. And I was just really worked up about it for a number of days.

ITEM #8

While the Chaffee Democrats don’t often make a big deal about it, it should be noted that the currently divided nature of public opinion has meant that right-wing extreme behavior is punctuating the state’s normally peaceful election processes. In fact, Chaffee County Clerk Mitchell has been threatened and stalked by right-wing extremists, and she is not the only county clerk to face intimidation.

ITEM #9 (not same incident)

When a man with a gun on his hip approached the drive-thru voting station in Salida last November, Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell said many people nearby were concerned.

“You can just feel the tension from the election workers, from my staff, from the other voters, and I just don’t think that’s right,” Mitchell said last month as she recalled the incident.

ITEM #10

Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell, a Democrat, has experienced some of the most concerning and violent behavior since the 2020 election, Crane and Grantham said.

Mitchell did not respond to The Gazette’s multiple requests for comment for this story, but detailed some of her experiences in a July 9 article published by Chaffee County-based online newspaper The Ark Valley Voice. One of the most violent instances occurred June 22 as she left work near the county administration building in Salida, Mitchell told the outlet.

That day, the driver of an SUV pointed a “realistic-looking gun” at Mitchell and mimicked firing it, the newspaper reported. The gun was a water gun, but “that didn’t change the heart-stopping impact of being threatened,” the article said. Mitchell reported being so angry she followed the driver, recorded his license plate and reported the incident to 911.

On July 6, The Ark Valley Voice said the Salida Police Department confirmed it hadn’t received Mitchell’s report, though the department did follow up with her immediately after the incident. When dispatchers heard the word “squirt gun,” they apparently minimized the report, according to the Ark Valley Voice.

Chaffee County Democrats December fund raising letter says, “Fight Back”.

CC Democrats letter.pdf (504.2 KB)

Drama queen!
We need to make sure she is voted out!