Longmont police on Friday investigated the scene of a Thursday night explosion and shooting at a local hotel, as guests toted belongings from rooms they had to evacuate the night before.
Police say a convicted murderer who had been paroled in April detonated an explosive device before being shot by a Longmont officer as he approached one of the blown-out windows.
According to a press release, Longmont police and state parole officers were called to the Residence Inn by Marriott at 1450 Dry Creek Drive at 12:54 p.m. Thursday after receiving information that a guest, Leon Gladwell, might be a danger to himself and had knives and propane tanks in his room.
Gladwell, 40, was sentenced to prison for murdering his grandmother in 1998. He was paroled April 2, according to Annie Skinner, a public information officer for the Colorado Department of Corrections.
When police arrived Thursday, officers said, Gladwell was “angry, uncooperative and armed with several knives.” Police confiscated the knives and Gladwell moved to his room and refused to cooperate further. In an attempt to deescalate the situation, officers left to get a felony arrest warrant for Gladwell.
Longmont SWAT returned to the address but Gladwell again refused to come out, and at 7:21 p.m. he set off an explosive device that “created a fireball in the room” and blewout two windows of the third floor room, police said.
Officers continued to negotiate a surrender, but Gladwell refused to exit. About 8:45 pm, Gladwell approached the blown-out third-floor window with what was believed to be a propane tank, and was shot by a perimeter officer.
Gladwell moved out of sight and continued to refuse to exit, but at 11:45 pm. police determined Gladwell was “incapacitated.”
Officers entered the room and took Gladwell into custody without further incident.
Gladwell was transported to an area hospital with at least one gunshot wound. Longmont police Deputy Chief Jeff Satur said Gladwell was in a stabilized but critical condition as of Friday afternoon.
The officer who shot Gladwell was placed on paid administrative leave per department policy while a Boulder County shoot team investigates the incident.
Satur said no guests, police or residents were injured in the explosion. The fire sprinklers were able to quickly suppress flames from the explosion.
Guests were evacuated shortly after the explosion when Satur said a fire alarm went off, prompting them to leave the building. Satur said he was not sure how many guests were staying at the hotel at the time of evacuation. He said all the guests were relocated to a hotel north of the Residence Inn by Marriott.
Guests could be seen toting their belongings from the hotel Friday afternoon to their cars.
Sitting on a curb near her car was hotel guest Lindsay Alexander. She said the family had to leave their belongings and their dog, Bella, a roughly 13-year-old pit bull, behind during the evacuation. The family was relocated Thursday night to the Courtyard by Marriott, 1410 Dry Creek Drive, which is directly across a parking lot from the Residence Inn by Marriott.
Alexander and her family witnessed much of the commotion. Before the evacuation, she said that her husband and their two children, ages 2 and 4, were heading to the hotel pool around 5:45 p.m. Friday, when they saw police going in and out of the building. At the time, Alexander said they weren’t too concerned and left police to their business.
Around 7:30 p.m. when the family had finished their swim, Alexander said, she heard the fire alarms going off and a hotel employee yelling “fire!”
Alexander said evacuated guests were asked to wait outside on the west side of The Courtyard by Marriott.
Once inside their relocated room, the family could see out their room window, which faces the Residence Inn, as the situation continued to unfold. Alexander said the entire parking lot filled with police. She saw officers pulling on bullet proof vests and what appeared to be gas masks. Satur said police used an armored vehicle, drone and a K-9 at the scene. The Boulder County Regional Bomb Squad will continue to be on scene investigating as well.
Alexander said that her family was staying on the third floor. The family had checked into the hotel Monday night after moving to Colorado from Lugoff, S.C. Alexander said they are in the process of buying a new house in Berthoud, which is expected to close in October. Her husband starts his new job Monday.
Because they moved across the country, she said their hotel room contained many personal documents and belongings and as of early Friday afternoon, she hadn’t yet been able to see how all their stuff had fared. The family had been able to grab some suitcases. The children’s toys, which had been on the floor, had all been soaked by the sprinklers.
“It was crazy,” Alexander said. “I’m still in shock, but it also could have been much worse.”
They were able to go get Bella on Friday. She was found sitting on the hotel room couch unharmed.
Steve Wright and his family — daughter Jess Wright and wife, Terri Wright — also returned to their hotel room Friday afternoon.
“Our room was devastated with water,” Steve Wright said.
Most of their belongings — clothing, suitcases and shoes — had been soaked from the sprinklers. Steve Wright took a video of their hotel room Friday. It showed soggy dry wall that appeared to have come loose from the wall and ceiling, a collapsed ceiling light fixture and some water that had pooled on the surface of a table.
The Wrights were just leaving the hotel to grab dinner Thursday evening, when Steve Wright said the fire alarm went off. Jess Wright said police asked if she would hold open a door for them as they entered the building with a police K-9 in tow.
The Wright family is from Fishers, Ind., and is visiting Colorado for a vacation. Jess and Terri Wright checked into the hotel Thursday, joining Steve Wright, who had been in Longmont since Sept. 14 for his job with a printing company.
The family said the incident delayed their vacation plans, because they didn’t have access to their car until Friday afternoon. The Wrights also expressed skepticism about the hotel not warning guests that there was a parolee staying there and said had the explosion detonated sooner, they might have still been in their room on the first floor. They added that they believe the hotel should have gone on lock down.
Both the Wrights and Alexander described hearing gunshots Thursday. Satur confirmed that the officer fired several shots. He added that police also used multiple “ferret rounds,” a plastic cartridge designed to fire through a door or glass and deliver a chemical agent into a structure. These rounds could be confused with the sound of a gunshot. Satur said a CS chemical agent, or tear gas, was deployed.
Marriott released a statement Friday afternoon via a marketing and communications agency.
“Our top priority is the safety of our employees and guests,” the emailed statement read. “Following the incident that occurred last night, we immediately contacted the Longmont Police Department and are assisting with their investigation. We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and employees. The Longmont Police Department should be contacted directly for any additional comments.”
Smith did not respond to a question about when the hotel stopped admitting guests Thursday.
Gladwell was arrested as a 17-year-old in 1998 for beating his grandmother to death with a bicycle fork in Boulder. He was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty as an adult to a second-degree murder charge, and was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
Gladwell was armed with two knives, Satur said, which violates the conditions of his parole. Gladwell is under arrest for parole violation. Satur also said he expects more charges to be issued against Gladwell, stemming from the damage and destruction of the hotel.
While Satur said there was extensive water damage from the sprinklers, he said the total cost of the damage to the hotel is not yet known.
Satur encouraged anyone who might have known Gladwell and has information on his background to contact Longmont police at the non-emergency number: 303-651-8501.
Satur said hotel guests and employees were nothing but helpful to police.
“I know we disrupted a lot of residents at this hotel and the suspect disrupted a lot of lives,” Satur said. “I appreciate everyone at the hotel and surrounding hotels for their cooperation.”