A Durango man arrested in March was released from La Plata County Jail in late August after prosecutors sought to dismiss his case “based on problems associated with the investigation,” court documents show.
Durango Police Department arrested Christopher Clark, 41, on accusations of attempted aggravated robbery early March 4, more than an hour and a half after responding to a report of a robbery in the 2500 block of Main Avenue, according to arrest documents.
Prosecutors charged Clark with 10 counts, including attempted robbery, menacing and eight habitual offender counts related to previous convictions from 1998 to 2018. The habitual offender counts could have quadrupled his possible sentence.
Clark was booked on $25,000 bail that was reduced to $15,000.
The description of the alleged suspect “is almost exactly the opposite of Mr. Clark,” said Jason Eley, a defense attorney who represented Clark in the case.
Law enforcement said in arrest documents that the witness described the suspect as a man with a short beard, but Clark’s booking photo shows he was clean-shaven the night of his arrest.
Clark wrote a three-paragraph notice of alibi to the court June 13 that says he “was at 3030 Main Avenue, Durango, Colorado at the time of the alleged offense.”
“Throughout the case, we told DA (the district attorney) that the evidence says that this is not the guy,” Eley said of Clark. “Throughout the case they (district attorneys) said ‘we believe we can prove this.’”
But by the end of August, four days before a scheduled jury trial, prosecutors asked the court to dismiss the case. District Court Judge William Herringer signed an order to the effect the same day. Clark was released from jail Aug. 30, almost six months after his arrest.
District Attorney Christian Champagne did not immediately respond to a call for comment. Durango police Chief Bob Brammer said the agency is doing an internal inquiry.
No new evidence was submitted that could have caused prosecutors to dismiss the case, Eley said.
What documents showThe reporting officer wrote in an arrest affidavit that Durango police Officer C. Murch told him on March 3 that a man wearing all black “persisted to demand money (from) and followed” the alleged victim somewhere around the 2500 block of Main Avenue.
“The male in all black then produced a large knife and swung it at the driver’s side window,” the reporting officer wrote.
Law enforcement “set up a perimeter to look for the assailant” around 10:30 p.m. on March 3 in search of “a white male, approximately thirty or forty years old wearing all black and with a short beard,” according to arrest documents.
Almost two hours later at 12:20 a.m., officer Murch contacted Clark in the 2200 block of Main Avenue, arrest documents show.
Clark was dressed in black and provided a knife to law enforcement, according to court records.
“Based on the time frame, proximity and matching description of the Attempted Robbery suspect, Officer Murch took photographs of Christopher Joe Clark and the knife that Clark had in his pocket,” according to arrest documents.
But Eley said body camera footage from the night does not show Murch with the victim confirming Clark as the suspect. The recording stops before Murch speaks with the victim and starts again once he gets back to a patrol vehicle, Eley said.
“It’s just kind of scary that this could happen to pretty much anybody,” he said. “(Law enforcement can say) ‘we don’t have evidence to say this was you, but we’re going to say this was you.’”