[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
An amusement park in Colorado almost became the scene of a horrific tragedy over the weekend.
According to 9NEWS, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a deceased man at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park shortly after 9 a.m. on Saturday. Authorities said 20-year-old Diego Barajas Medina was found dead in the women’s bathroom by the maintenance crew before the park opened that day.
The death alone is shocking and unsettling, but here’s where things get really chilling. They found him wearing body armor and tactical clothing, similar to what a SWAT team member would wear. He was reportedly heavily armed with an AR-style rifle, a semi-automatic handgun, multiple loaded magazines for the weapons, and explosive devices. His motives are unclear, but it’s obviously believed, based on what was found at the scene, that Barajas Medina had a plan to carry out a mass shooting at the park. However, he apparently changed his mind and died by suicide instead.
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What’s even more eerie? Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario revealed there was writing on the bathroom stall that said:
“I’m not a killer. I just wanted to get into the caves.”
Huh?! The message no doubt sparked some confusion for investigators and the public, but it’s important to note that Vallario could not confirm if Barajas Medina had been the one to write it. What he does know so far is that while people enter the park via a gondola, the gunman choose a different route and drove up the service road. And he illegally entered while the place was closed.
Vallario said the man’s firearms were ghost guns, and he had a combination of real and fake weapons. There were also multiple improvised explosive devices found in his vehicle. After searching the theme park, authorities thankfully did not find any explosives elsewhere.
When police searched his home in Carbondale, they did not find more bombs there, either. Despite there seemingly being no indications suggesting anything Barajas Medina planned, Sheriff Vallario made it clear that he was going to attack the community before he died, given what was found at the scene:
“Given the preparation, given the amount of weapons and ordinance he had it almost seemed very highly likely he intended to use those against the community. He chose not to.”
Sheriff Vallario added:
“While this investigation is still ongoing and very active it is important to realize that given the amount of weapons, ammunition, and explosive devices found, the suspect could have implemented an attack of devastating proportions upon the community and first responders.”
At this time, Vallario said investigators have not conducted any in-depth interviews with those close to the gunman. The FBI is helping to review his phone records and social media accounts. Meanwhile, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park‘s general manager Nancy Heard issued a statement about the situation:
“This very sad and tragic incident reminds us how much our Glenwood Springs community means to us. We appreciate the swift action and thorough work of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department and Coroner’s Office, as well as the Garfield County All Hazard Response Team and other authorities assisting in the investigation, working together to ensure the park is safe to reopen. Thank you for all you do.”
What a scary, scary situation. It’s horrifying to think what could have happened, especially knowing there was a chance the park would have been packed due to it being the weekend before Halloween. Here is more about the incident (below):
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If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, help is available. Consider contacting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, by calling, texting, or chatting, or go to 988lifeline.org.
If you’re experiencing emotional distress related to incidents of mass violence, you can call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or visit their website at https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline for more resources.
[Image via 9NEWS/YouTube]