A fatal shooting Tuesday at a Balsam Street home, the scene of a high-profile armed standoff in February, has been ruled a suicide, according to the Cortez Police Department.
Charles Head, 45, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Chief Roy Lane said.
Just before 3 p.m., police scanner traffic reported that someone had received a gunshot wound in the chest at the residence. About 10 minutes later, responders asked the Montezuma County coroner to contact Cortez dispatchers.
Reached by telephone, Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers told The Journal that the gunshot victim had died, but the victim’s identity and cause of death were not released by officials until the next day, after the investigation had ended.
“It is a drastic thing for the whole family,” Lane said. “They are really suffering.”
The home at 812 Balsam St. was the scene of a police action on Feb. 4, when the Cortez Police Department blocked off streets after sending an emergency alert stating that an armed man posed a “significant threat” to people in the area. “Armed gunman in the area,” the alert said. “Please shelter in place. Stay in your house or away from the area.”
The next morning, Charles Head was arrested on suspicion of felony menacing and assault, Lane said. He was later charged in Montezuma County Combined Courts for allegedly threatening and assaulting his wife, Cynthia Head, as well as possessing firearms while intoxicated.
During a county court appearance on Feb. 5, Cynthia Head urged that the court grant a personal recognizance bond. She stated that she was not afraid of her husband, but that he needed counseling. Head had no previous record. A non-harassing protection order was issued for Cynthia Head, which allowed Charles Head to live with his wife at home.
As a condition of bond, Montezuma County Court Judge JenniLynn Lawrence required that Charles Head have all guns removed from his residence before returning home. According to Cynthia Head’s statements to police, there were eight firearms in the home. Also as part of the bond conditions, Head was to undergo a mental health evaluation.
How and where he obtained the firearm used Tuesday was not clear, Lane said, adding that under the court order, the guns were not required to be turned over to the Cortez Police Department. Charles Head was responsible for removing the firearms, Lane said.
District Attorney Will Furse said other options available to people under such a court order would include giving the firearms to a pawn broker or a trusted relative or friend. He said it is “very unusual” for the court to order police to forcibly remove weapons from a suspect’s home.
At a court hearing on Feb. 28, some of Head’s bond conditions were waived, allowing him to travel out of the state for his job and permitting undergo sobriety checks through his employer rather than Montezuma County’s pretrial services department.
According to a Cortez police report about the Feb. 4 incident that was released to The Journal, Cynthia Head called 911 and stated that her husband threatened to shoot police officers, and might deliberately provoke officers into shooting him.
During an interview with an officer, Cynthia Head expressed concerns for her safety, according to the police report. In an effort to avoid escalating the situation Lane had his officers wait outside the home instead of attempting to enter and contact Head. Cortez and State Patrol officers blocked nearby intersections for a couple of hours on Feb. 4, and kept the home under surveillance overnight, Lane said.
Charles Head was arrested the next morning while walking down the street to turn himself in, according to Lane.
The police report reveals a history of troubling behavior by Charles Head leading up to the Feb. 4 standoff, which resulted in the Nixle alert.
After leaving the home on Feb. 4, Cynthia Head reported that he had suffered mental health problems and had previously threatened suicide. According to a report of an interview conducted by officer Michael Moran, “Cynthia also stated if Charles got mad enough she would not put it past him to shoot her.” A year ago, he fired a gun off in the home after threatening suicide, the report said.
The incident report also sheds light on why Cortez police sent out a Nixle alert warning residents to stay indoors and cordoned off Balsam Street with patrol cars.
After an argument, Cynthia Head left the home with her pets and called 911 “stating her husband has a gun and is going to shoot the police,” according to the report.
She told police he had been drinking alcohol, and that when she left, he “slammed her right leg in the front door.” She also reportedly said he “told her to get out while she was still able to.”
Deavers said on Thursday that the toxicology report was pending.
During a court appearance, she told Judge Lawrence the door incident was an accident, and that she was not afraid of him.
While Cynthia Head was being interviewed by police a few blocks away, Charles Head called her and stated “it was going to end tonight,” according to the police report. In the conversation, which was partially recorded by a police body cam, he also “told the cops to come get some” and that “the AR was loaded and he was ready.” He further stated “he was a pretty good shot, and he hoped we were as good as he was, because he was going to come out the front door pulling the trigger,” the report said.
Officer Moran’s interview with Cynthia Head also stated that during an argument the night of Feb. 3, Charles Head threatened divorce and told her that “because she wouldn’t have anything after the divorce, he might as well shoot all the pets, then shoot her and himself.”
Head’s daughter, Robin Scott, told The Journal Wednesday that the family objected to the coverage of her father’s troubles. She was critical of the March 6 report at The-Journal.com about the shooting, saying it revealed too much information too early.
“Family members found out about it on Facebook,” she said. “I’m disappointed in The Journal’s reporting. There was no compassion.”
Scott was upset that the article listed the home’s address and mentioned the Feb. 4 standoff.
The Journal first reported the name of the victim and circumstances of the death on March 8, after an official report from the Cortez Police Department.
Journal reporter Stephanie Alderton contributed to this article.
How to get help
For help with suicidal thoughts, depression or other mental health issues, contact the following sources:
Axis Health Systems www.axishealthsystem.org 970-565-7946 Hotline: 970-247-8255 691 E. Empire St., Cortez
Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
National Crisis Text Hotline: 741741