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Police say off-duty Vail worker said he had a gun after mask argument in lift line

February 27, 2021, 11:52 am
File photo of a Vail lift line from late last season.

Things got a little tense – and the chairlift line got a little longer – at Vail on Friday after an off-duty Vail Resorts employee was asked by an on-duty employee to pull up his facemask, allegedly argued and then said he had a gun.

That prompted a 911 call to Vail police and the subsequent cuffing and summonsing for disorderly conduct of the off-duty employee, William Laufenburg, 26, of Avon.

“We got a 911 call reporting that a man had just threatened that he had a gun over an argument over mask wearing,” Vail Police Commander Ryan Kenney told RealVail.com. “It didn’t quite happen that way. As he walked by the guy who asked him to pull up his mask, he had just said, ‘I have a gun,’ and he kept walking. He didn’t threaten anybody. Nothing happened.”

The incident happened about 11 a.m., Friday in the Chair 6 lift line at Vail’s Golden Peak area.

“We caught up to [Laufenburg] in the lift line, interviewed both the alleged victim and him and ended up giving him a summons for disorderly conduct because of what he said and the disturbance he caused because he said it,” Kenney said.

Kenney added that Laufenburg was handcuffed and removed from the area, but no gun was ultimately found on the Avon man.

“We gave him a summons because that doesn’t qualify under COVID as a custody arrest. The courts won’t let us take them into custody right now,” Kenney said, adding that despite big crowds at Vail this season there have not been a lot of pandemic-related conflicts.

“No, not at all. As a matter of fact, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the small number of incidents we’ve had,” Kenney said. “I think most people are very cordial about it, and every once in a while, we’ll get a flareup, but nothing out of control.”

Another Avon man was charged with assault for allegedly punching a man over mask wearing in Vail earlier this ski season.

Friday’s incident did not help with a typically large lift line to start the weekend at Vail.

“From what I’ve been told, there was a very large lift line at the time,” Kenney said. “This just made things a little bit worse, so I don’t think he caused the lift line, he just caused it to get a lot worse.”

Vail and other Colorado ski resorts have been trying to enforce social distancing and mandatory face coverings during the global pandemic that has claimed more than 500,000 American lives and led to an abrupt shutdown of the state’s ski industry in mid-March last year.

“Vail Mountain confirms that there was an incident involving a Vail Resorts employee on Friday, February 27, 2021, at the Golden Peak base area,” Vail spokesman John Plack wrote in an email on Saturday. “Security immediately notified the Vail Police Department who arrived on scene.”

Twenty Eagle County residents have lost their lives to the disease in the last year – including several prominent members of the community – and there have been more than 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 locally.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

6 Responses to Police say off-duty Vail worker said he had a gun after mask argument in lift line

  1. Dan Reply

    February 28, 2021 at 9:54 am

    I live and ski in park city. Everyday i see in every lift, people with masks off. Earlier in the year i would say something to them, but im getting tited of being the b
    bad guy.
    I feel vails not trying very hard to create a safe enviroment for locals and guest, despite their supposed stance.

  2. J Reply

    February 28, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    This has scary points all over it.
    Penalizing someone for saying something. That is much much worse than any virus or disease.
    I am sad for humanity after reading this.

    • Russel Shackleford Reply

      March 1, 2021 at 7:29 am

      J, you seem confused. Or misguided. Disgruntled? I don’t know. You’re trying to take some grand stance about the downfall of America but you sound like an idiot. Of course you can’t start saying you have a bomb on an airplane. Of course you can’t start yelling fire in a crowded theater. Just like you can’t say you have a gun in a crowded lift line.

      Don’t play semantics, if he was in a room of people talking about guns and said I have a gun, that would be totally reasonable and normal. Owning firearms is a totally fine thing to do. But you know that’s not the context in which this was said.

      The thing that makes me sad for humanity is people like you spreading their dumb opinions on social media like they’re part of some grand revolution.

  3. Jeremy Moore Reply

    February 28, 2021 at 5:04 pm

    If he owns a gun, he should have it taken and never be able to buy one again

  4. Stacy Reply

    February 28, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    If someone asks you to pull up your mask, and you reply is “I have a gun”, wouldn’t that be considered making a threat? Why else would he reply with I have a gun, if not to intimidate the person who is asking you to follow a simple rule. Unless of course, he mistakenly heard him ask do you have a gun? And he answered with I have a gun.

  5. Tim Scholtes Reply

    March 1, 2021 at 2:24 am

    He will likely loose his job. The correct and only punishment. Disorderly conduct? If correctly stated, He only said he had a gun in a conceal carry state. Do they really want to go down the road of fining for improper or missing masks.

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