What we know about the stalking case involving Black ranchers in El Paso County

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5min 01sec
Courtesy Vern Howard
Courtney Mallery, 41, stands on his farm, Freedom Acres Ranch in rural El Paso County in this undated photo. The Mallerys are accusing their neighbors and local law enforcement of racism by intimidation, killing their livestock and making threats. Courtney and Nicole Mallery were arrested on Feb. 6, 2023 after neighbors filed felony stalking charges against them.

Updated 3:35 p.m.

A two-year-old dispute between Black ranchers in rural El Paso County and their white neighbors has led to allegations of stalking and racism and very little clarity over the truth.

What is clear, is that court records show there have been nearly two dozen complaints filed by both parties within the last two years. Nicole and Courtney Mallery — the owners of Freedom Acres Ranch in El Paso County — were granted temporary protection orders on a couple of occasions against their neighbors over the last two years, but their cries for help have mostly been dismissed in the courts at this point. Their neighbors, Teresa and Bonnie Clark, currently have restraining orders against them that are in effect.

The Mallerys for two years have complained that neighbors and others trespassed on their property, pointed guns at them, called them racial slurs, released dogs on them, damaged their ranch gate and security cameras, harmed their animals and would incite violence against them on social media.

They were the first to file a complaint beginning in December 2021, where they highlighted some of the above. The Clarks first filed complaints against the Mallerys in January 2022, claiming the Mallerys would stalk them, cross their easement and intimidate them by sitting at their fence and watching them until they went inside, and constantly called the police on them.

Lack of clarity regarding where each family's property ends has been a major point of contention in the dispute between the Mallerys and the Clarks.

But Courtney and Nicole Mallery were both arrested Monday morning on warrants stemming from stalking charges filed against them by neighbors. Nicole Mallery was released Monday, and Courtney Mallery was released Tuesday night with help from the Rocky Mountain NAACP after El Paso County Judge Deborah Pearson bumped his bond up to $6,000 in court Tuesday afternoon.


Here’s what we learned from a criminal affidavit against the Mallerys

According to a criminal affidavit, Courtney Mallery, 41, was charged with felony stalking, misdemeanor tampering with a utility meter, and a petty charge of theft under $50 on Dec. 9. His wife, Nicole, had also been charged with felony stalking last year.

After consulting with the local District Attorney's Office, El Paso County Sheriff's Sgt. Emery “Ray” Gerhart filed a sworn affidavit charging Courtney Mallery. In it, he lists complaints from Teresa Clark, who said the Mallerys have harassed her repeatedly. 

In an emailed statement sent to Colorado Public Radio on Friday, Teresa Clark said she’s in fear for her life, her animals, her house and her friends. She said she lives with her 82-year-old mother in Yoder, who she is afraid for too.

“I’m disabled from brain surgery, I have had a stroke,” Clark said in the note. “I have been victimized for the last two years.”

In the affidavit, Gerhart said Clark had been in contact with him about being harassed by the Mallerys since March 2022.

In one incident, Clark showed Gerhart a video she took of her truck with a window busted out and tire tracks from the scene leading to the Mallerys’ property.

Other pictures and video Clark gave to police, according to Gerhart, allegedly showed multiple cameras on the Mallery property that pointed toward her house. The Mallery’s home and Clark's home are about a mile apart, separated by an easement. According to the affidavit, the county does not recognize the easement as a road. Gerhart stated the easement is the main source of egress for Clark and her family.

Clark gathers mail and places her trash on the easement as well, the affidavit states. Clark also showed police pictures and video of the Mallerys stopping their vehicle in the easement near Clark’s gate, the complaint states. 

Nicole Mallery is seen in other videos near the easement with her hands in the air saying, “Hands up don't shoot,” Gerhart said in the affidavit. Courtney Mallery is also seen shortly after walking by Clark's property with his hands in the air, the complaint states. Nicole Mallery is seen in the video using a loudspeaker, mentioning things that Clark should “pack for heaven,” the affidavit states. 

Other times, the Mallerys are seen driving past her property or up to the easement sometimes as Clark gets ready to leave for work and when she returns, Gerhart said in the affidavit.

As recent as December, police said Courtney Mallery was seen crossing his fence line and taking Clark's trash can, the affidavit states. Gerhart in the affidavit said he finds it highly unusual that the Mallerys put themselves in close proximity to Clark.

“This is compounded by the fact that both Mallerys have obtained temporary protection orders against Ms. Clark,” Gerhart writes in the affidavit.

“Having lived in a rural portion of El Paso County for 20 years and investigating criminal activity solely in the rural portions of eastern El Paso county for seven years, I find this activity highly unusual and outright disturbing.”

Gerhart said all of these incidents were documented by Clark in a 19-page “stalking log” that she maintains against the Mallerys. He said last August, they attempted to set up a meeting and resolve the issue with the Mallerys by contacting Nicole Mallery's attorney, but they were unable to arrange a meeting. 

It is unclear at the moment why the sheriff’s office didn’t assign someone else to investigate the claims, because the Mallerys have also complained about Gerhart, claiming he was complicit in intimidating them and trying to force them off of their land.

Gerhart stated in the affidavit that he was the subject of four of the Mallerys’ complaints against El Paso County Sheriff deputies in the last two years — all of which were dismissed. In total, Gerhart said the Mallerys filed more than 15 internal affairs complaints against deputies.

El Paso County Sheriff's Office executes search warrant at the Mallerys’ ranch

In the affidavit, Gerhart said he obtained a warrant on Nov. 22 to search the Mallerys’ property, and the next day he visited their ranch and took three surveillance cameras and three motion sensors that were directed at Clark's home.

Gerhart said Courtney Mallery met him while he was executing the warrant, and he explained that the cameras were being taken as part of the ongoing stalking investigation. 

While at the Mallerys’ home, Gerhart said he saw “unusual” wiring coming from one of the nearby transformers on a power pole, the affidavit states.

He had already received photos and video from Clark showing Courtney and Nicole Mallery working with someone else to access the power transformer, the affidavit states. Gerhart then called the South East Power Company Association and told them about the potential power tampering.

An inspector arrived soon after and determined the power company did not conduct the “unusual” wiring, and disconnected the power supply from the transformer. The company later placed a lock on the box, according to a complaint filed against the company by Teresa Clark, which has since been dismissed.

NAACP investigating, MLK Commission supports the Mallerys

Vern Howard, chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, a private group that organizes MLK events nationally and also supports victims of social injustice, spoke on behalf of the Mallerys Thursday and said they are emotionally distraught and frustrated with a justice system that “intentionally refuses to assist them.” 

The Rocky Mountain NAACP is currently investigating the Mallerys’ case and said their first priority is to ensure the Mallerys are safe, and that they get an attorney. A realtor’s association is looking into land deeds to determine where the property line is truly located between the Mallery and Clark homes, Howard said.

He added that the Mallerys believe they were targeted by neighbors and others in the area a few years ago after purchasing the property, which was abandoned prior to their arrival. Howard said the Mallerys being Black didn't help.

“El Paso County has a strong history of white supremacy and the Klan in Colorado. It's where the movie BlacKkKlansman took place,” Howard said. He referenced the movie about Ron Stallworth — the first Black police officer to work at the Colorado Springs Police Department — who in 1978 successfully infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs to unravel the organization.

“The Mallerys’ dogs were poisoned with antifreeze, their goats have been butchered and other livestock,” Howard said Thursday. “The Mallerys started filing police reports constantly to get something done, but the El Paso sheriff refused to respond and take their calls for help seriously. The sheriff’s office told them if they continued to make these allegations in calling the police, then they would be arrested.” 

The sheriff’s office denied the allegations of partiality and said it has investigated, but the only crimes they could find were committed by the Mallerys themselves. They reported responding to 170 calls for service and 911 calls, and 19 complaints from the Mallerys and their neighbors in the last couple of years. 

Colorado Public Radio News has a records request pending to review these documents.

Howard said the Mallerys also believe Courtney Mallery was held illegally in jail on Monday, giving the Clarks time to file another restraining order. Teresa Clark filed a restraining order against Courtney Mallery in December, which has since been mandated by the courts. Judge Pearson ordered Courtney Mallery to have no contact with Teresa or Bonnie Clark in court on Tuesday. 

Another complaint was filed by Teresa Clark on Tuesday morning against Courtney Mallery, the day of his hearing. That same morning, Clark also filed a complaint against a man she believes is working for the Mallerys and poisoned her livestock, court records show.

“The sheriff’s office refused to do anything when the Mallerys came to them for help when they feared for their lives,” Howard said. He said the Mallerys have suffered a loss of more than $200,000 in damages to their livestock and property.

Courtney Mallery’s next court date is scheduled for Feb. 14. Nicole Mallery’s next hearing is Feb. 16.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misstated the amount in damages to livestock and property the Mallerys say they have sustained.