An Aurora man who says he made a “dumb mistake” will spend more than a year in jail for shooting a pellet gun at a cyclist.
That man’s split-second decision has stayed with Whitney Painter well beyond the quiet July morning it happened.
She was riding on a tandem bicycle with her husband through Golden Gate Canyon around 7 a.m.on July 16.
“I heard it release,” she said over the phone on Friday. “I didn’t understand what it was until I felt the pain.”
A pellet had struck her in the back.
“I said, ‘Oh my gosh that guy shot me!’” she said.
That guy is 65-year-old Scott Brown.
In Jefferson County Court on Friday - nearly three months after he told deputies he shot his pellet gun at the “road hazard” - he was sentenced to one-and-a-half years in jail, to be followed by two years of probation with conditions of mental health evaluation and treatment, no possession of weapons, a protective order and 50 hours community service.
Jefferson County deputies responded to the incident back in July.
The couple was riding west on Golden Gate Canyon Road when it happened. They heard a pop, and Whitney felt pain in her back.
Whitney’s husband, Barton Sheldrake, was able to get a description of the vehicle a pellet gun had been fired.
Deputies tracked down the older white van to the base of Golden Gate Canyon Road at White Ranch Park, then waited in the parking lot to see who would approach the van. Soon, a man did.
According to the sheriff’s office report, when approached, Brown at first denied knowing about the incident, but then said it was a “dumb mistake.”
Brown told deputies he was frustrated as he drove up the canyon because he thought the bike was a “road hazard,” so he pulled out his pellet gun and fired at the couple.
The report states Brown “knew it was stupid” and had just lost his temper.
Painter's wounds have healed, but she remains concerned about the chilling effect an act like this can cause within the cycling community.
“The idea that some cyclists are breaking the rules of the road and it’s okay to exercise vigilante justice [is most concerning],” Painter said.
She says the incident has not kept her or her husband off the bike, however.
“It has really galvanized my clarity about how I will not be terrorized off these roads,” she said.
She and her husband continue to ride, respectfully, wherever they want to.
She hopes her story can serve as a reminder for both drivers and cyclists to regard the rules of the road.
Most important, she says, is to give cyclists three feet of space when passing and just wait a moment to pass if there’s an oncoming vehicle, avoiding the temptation to ‘thread the needle’.
“I don’t think drivers want to endanger people, they just don’t know what to do,” she said.
After the incident, deputies collected Brown’s pellet gun and cartridges and issued him a summons for several charges, including third degree assault, reckless endangerment, and throwing missiles at vehicles - harassment of bicycles.
He pleaded guilty.
Painter says the cycling community sent more than 500 emails to the judge presiding over the case; the judge said she read every one before handing down Brown’s sentence.
At our request, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office pulled some data on auto versus bicyclist incidents.
In 2017, they responded to about one incident per month during the warm months, when most cyclists are out on the roadways.