“Shortly after we opened our restaurant, there was an altercation where a man was beat to death … outside of my restaurant, beat to death by another man. No weapons. And I immediately wondered, how am I going to protect everyone?”
— Boebert, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 27
“After a violent incident outside my business, I took advantage of Colorado’s open-carry laws and began to carry at work.”
— Boebert, speaking in a viral ad, tweeted Jan. 3
We’re often interested in the “origin stories” of politicians — regular lines that they use over and over to explain their political motivations.
Boebert is a strong booster of gun rights. She arrived in Congress this year after leveraging her fame as the owner of a restaurant, Shooters Grill of Rifle, Colo., where the wait staff often serve customers with open-carry firearms. A sign outside tells customers that guns are welcome.
Over and over, Boebert says she started allowing her staff to carry guns after a man was killed outside her restaurant. But we’ve obtained police and coroner reports that show her story is mainly fiction.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 22, 2013, a man was found collapsed on a street in downtown Rifle, a town of fewer than 10,000 people in the state’s Western Slope region. He appeared to have no pulse. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
According to the raw investigative files provided to The Fact Checker by the Rifle Police Department, investigators quickly determined that the man, Anthony Green, had been briefly involved in a fight, possibly related to a drug transaction. Witnesses said Green had fought with a man who had a prosthetic leg, which then fell off. Green “duked that guy out,” a witness said.
Then another person (a minor whose name is redacted in police records) was “tussling” with Green “for a second” before Green started running from the scene. The minor then helped the first man restore his prosthetic leg. The man attacked by Green told police that the fight was over a woman.
Police opened a homicide investigation after Green was found dead.
“He had been in a fight and he died,” said Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein. “They investigated from day one as a homicide.”
But as investigators interviewed witnesses and collected evidence, the possibility of murder quickly appeared remote. Green had a gash on his head, but that appeared to be from a fall. There were no obvious injuries to his abdomen. In his pocket, he was carrying a glass pipe that was filled with the residue of methamphetamine.
Witnesses had said Green had run several blocks after the altercation but police searched the area and found no blood or other evidence of a deadly fight.
Finally, the autopsy report, written by forensic pathologist Robert Kurtzman less than two weeks after Green’s body was found, concluded that Green died of “methamphetamine intoxication.” Kurtzman noted that “postmortem examination of the decedent revealed superficial abrasions consistent with a fall. The abrasions were not associated with any internal injury,” whereas “methamphetamine is known to cause sudden death and abnormal behavior.” (The toxicology report showed Green’s methamphetamine level was 1900 nanograms per milliliter, which is quite high.) Kurtzman said the death was accidental — the “unintentional consequence of habitual drug abuse.”
“That’s it in a nutshell,” Klein said. “No one was charged with homicide in that case.”
So Boebert is wrong to claim that the man was beaten to death. If anything, Green appears to have been throwing most of the punches. Then he died of a drug overdose.
Boebert often recounts that the fight took place “outside her restaurant.” But that’s not correct, either, according to police records. They show that the fight took place near the corner of First Street and East Avenue, which is about three blocks from Shooters Grill. Green started running up East Avenue, before turning left into an alleyway past the town library that took him to Railroad Avenue, where he collapsed in front of an abandoned Timberline store.
A 2018 Denver Post article on Shooters Grill, headlined “Armed and Ready to Feed You,” described how “a man was beaten to death in a nearby alley.” Boebert at one point was affiliated with another restaurant, across the street from Shooters, that had backed onto the alley that Green ran through. But that’s not same thing as the fight taking place just outside.
We tried to reach Boebert for comment on her cellphone but she directed us to her communications staff. We did not get a response before publication.
Update: Ben Stout, Boebert’s communications director, contacted The Fact Checker after this article appeared and argued that her statement was accurate because Green’s body was discovered about a half block from her restaurant. He could not explain why she claims Green was beaten to death outside the restaurant, except to cite a local newspaper report shortly after Green’s death (nearly eight years ago) that had said the cause of death was unknown.
Boebert offered her own comment on Twitter: “Washington Post agrees with me that a man got into a fight and died less than a block from my restaurant. Then assigns three Pinocchios? Jeff Bezos’ ‘fact checkers’ are rapidly becoming tabloids.”
The Pinocchio Test
We often find that politicians’ origin stories get untethered from reality the more they are repeated.
Boebert tells the story of a man who was beaten to death outside her restaurant. Police considered it a possible homicide but quickly concluded that the man died of a drug overdose. There was a fight, but it took place blocks away from her restaurant; the man merely ran near her business before collapsing.
Boebert earns Three Pinocchios.
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