The man held hostage Wednesday evening at a campground off Independence Pass says he’s thankful to be alive.
Blake Ramelb, 21, wrote about the ordeal in a blog post, where he describes almost dying at the hands of 31-year-old Brolin McConnell – a man who had been a stranger up until he held him at gunpoint.
“It’s hitting me hard as I write down what happened to me yesterday, but all I can say to myself is ‘I’m alive,” Ramelb wrote. “I was worried about my family and worried that they were worried. I didn’t want them to freak out because I was alive and coming home.”
Police reports paint a harrowing picture of Wednesday evening’s incident, which happened at the Lincoln Creek campground.
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Witnesses say McConnell blocked the road with his truck, and pointed two pistols at two men inside of another vehicle. Police say he forced those two men to take off their shirts to prove they weren’t armed as he held them at gunpoint.
Ramelb, who had come to Independence Pass to take photos, then pulled up to the trailhead. He was recovering from surgery, and wearing a cast on his left foot. He initially thought the three men in front of him had been involved in an accident and needed help.
“When I got close to the truck, the guy got out and pulled a gun on me,” Ramelb wrote. “He told me to get out of my car and put my hands on my head because he wanted to kill me.
“He thought I was a threat to him, and thought I came to kill him. I was extremely confused and was just there to get pictures for my website.”
Ramelb says all three men pleaded with McConnell, and offered him anything he wanted. He says they later realized “he didn’t want to rob us. He wanted to kill us.”
Police say when another vehicle pulled up the trailhead, McConnell got distracted. This gave the other two hostages the chance to run away.
One of them later told police “I thought of myself as a dead man.”
When deputies from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the trailhead, they saw him pointing two pistols at Ramelb, who had his hands on his head.
Ramelb said he worked to negotiate with McConnell, who claimed to be Jason Bourne and thought the 21-year-old hotel worker was sent by the government to kill him and his family.
McConnell also had Ramelb negotiate with police, and tell them that he wanted $100 million.
“At this point, I was weak from standing, and wasn’t supposed to be standing on my surgical foot that long,” Ramelb wrote. “My hands and arms grew tired and went numb. I felt like I was going to faint, but then the adrenaline helped me stay awake.”
At one point, McConnell fired at Ramelb, but missed. Ramelb says he could feel the bullet whizzing by his leg, and smell the gunpowder.
“If I didn’t change the pace of the situation … I was surely dead soon,” Ramelb wrote. “He was only a few feet away from me, and he was covered from the vehicles, from what I could tell. I was in front of the gunman so the cops couldn’t take a clear shot at him. I slowly inched myself away every chance he took his eyes off me.”
When McConnell became distracted, Ramelb saw his chance and ran away.
According to police, deputies then closed in on McConnell, who dropped his guns and got on the ground.
In a police report, one officer said he believed McConnell was “on some type of drug such as methamphetamine” and mashing his teeth after he was arrested. Investigators later found a vape pen near his truck.
“McConnell’s behavior was erratic; he would be calm and able to carry a conversation, then McConnell would ask if we were on live TV and would mention the Truman Show,” the police report read.
McConnell appeared in court for an advisement hearing on Thursday morning. He faces charges for first-degree kidnapping and felony menacing, as well as second-degree misdemeanors for false imprisonment and prohibited use of a firearm.
During the hearing, records say McConnell said he “didn’t kidnap anyone. I just held him hostage.”
He later denied any involvement in the crime.
McConnell is not set to be formally charged until Aug. 15.
The hostage situation prompted authorities to close Independence Pass from Aspen to Twin Lakes.
9NEWS Reporter Noel Brennan is speaking to Ramelb this afternoon. You can see the interview on 9NEWS at 9 and 10 p.m.