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Was officer’s slaying the work of a group?

SHARE Was officer’s slaying the work of a group?

The May 29 killing of a Cortez police officer "may not be the criminal action of individuals but may involve others in an anti-government group," according to a District Court judge.

Law enforcement authorities have been looking for Jason McVean, of Durango, and Alan Pilon, of Dove Creek, Colo., since the shooting. A third suspect, Robert Mason of Durango, Colo., fatally shot himself near Bluff, Utah, as authorities closed in on June 4.Before his death, Mason twice shot and seriously wounded San Juan County deputy sheriff Kelly Bradford, who had responded to a citizen call for help from the Swinging Bridge area east of Bluff on the San Juan River.

McVean and Pilon have eluded a manhunt that, at its peak in early June, involved more than 500 searchers from 51 agencies and was centered in the southeastern Utah area between Bluff and Montezuma Creek on the Navajo Nation Reservation.

In ruling that some court records should remain sealed in the shooting death of officer Dale Claxton in Cortez, Montezuma County District Court Judge Sharon Hansen said the case might involve people in addition to those already named.

"Because this case involves the possibility that more than just two individuals may be involved, it continues to be an ongoing investigative effort by law enforcement," she said.

Hansen granted part of The Denver Post's request for documents in the case, unsealing the search warrant and inventories of property from two trailers and a shed at Animas Air Park in Durango. She said most of the information in those documents already has been disclosed by law-enforcement agencies.

The judge, however, denied the newspaper's petition to unseal affidavits in support of the search warrant because, she said, "the integrity of the investigation would be compromised by the release of all the search warrant documents."

Early in the search, when authorities searched the men's property, they uncovered anti-government literature, bomb-making instructions, pipe bombs, guns and camping gear, among other things.

Police Chief Roy Lane has said he does not believe Pilon and McVean are part of a larger conspiracy, although there are individuals sympathetic to them, and some could be helping them or could have helped them in the past.