El Paso County Sheriff defends his office in wake of allegations of racism made by Black ranchers in Yoder

El Paso County Sheriff Joseph Roybal
Image from video via El Paso County Sheriff's Office
El Paso County Sheriff Joseph Roybal speaks to media Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023 about a longstanding dispute between ranchers in a rural eastern part of the county.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office attempted to dispel allegations of racism against the department Tuesday by releasing two years’ worth of police reports from disputes between a family of Black ranchers and their white neighbors, and other arrest records.

The ongoing dispute between the Mallerys and Clarks has led to allegations of stalking and racism, and very little clarity over the truth since the situation gained national attention on social media. Nearly two dozen complaints and restraining order requests filed by both parties show allegations of racism, harassment, stalking and intimidation. 

Courtney and Nicole Mallery — the owners of Freedom Acres Ranch — were charged with felony stalking on their neighbor's farm in Yoder, about an hour east of Colorado Springs. Both were arrested Feb. 6 on warrants related to those charges but have since been released on bond. The Mallerys have accused the Sheriff’s Office of colluding with neighbors by harassing and intimidating them in an attempt to get them to move off their land. They’ve complained about being called racial slurs, the deaths of several of their farm animals, and what they consider a suspicious shooting death of their ranch hand. 

But the sheriff’s office said it wants to set the record straight. The office said it took 24 reports from about 170 calls for service and complaints involving the Mallerys and Clarks in the last two years. Only cases not associated with an active investigation were shared publicly, the office said. The sheriff’s office said it responded to over 200,000 calls for service overall in unincorporated El Paso County during that time period.

Read through the reports here.

At a press conference Tuesday at Centennial Hall in El Paso County, County Commissioner Longinos Gonzales Jr. asked neighbors and community members in El Paso County to work together to find a peaceful resolution to disputes. 

“The situation has created unnecessary tensions between our community and our neighbors, which is regrettable,” Gonzales said. 

Sheriff Joseph Roybal said misinformation and a mischaracterization of his office and employees has made many Yoder residents uneasy. He said Tuesday that some members of his staff and their family members have been specifically targeted by the misinformation. He noted a story that was first published by the Ark Republic about the Mallerys’ claims and said his office was never contacted for comment. 

What newly released records and footage show

Between August 2021 and September 2022, the sheriff’s office received numerous calls from the Mallery family, Teresa Clark and other residents in the area. Deputies responded in person and by phone to the service calls. Numerous cases were taken, including restraining order violations, criminal mischief and trespassing. 

Teresa Clark called police 46 times, Nicole Mallery called police 47 times, and Courtney Mallery called the police 11 times in the last two years.

An additional nine calls were made by other parties in the area, police said. There were also an additional 13 field interview records associated with the involved parties, police said. 

El Paso Sheriff's Lt. Chris Gonzales said the property that belongs to Nicole and Courtney Mallory is a large parcel of more than 1,000 acres. The other nearby parcels, including the Clarks, are closer to 40 acres. There is over 1.4 miles of land between the Mallory homestead and the Clark homestead, Gonzales said.

An easement divides the Clark and Mallery properties, which holds the only access to several ranch properties, including the Clarks’. The sole purpose of this easement is to provide property access to the adjacent landlocked properties. 

Police said the easement is actually on the Mallerys’ property line. The Clarks had complained that the Mallerys were on their property while on the easement. Police said that the Mallerys were able to be charged with felony stalking due to cameras on their property that faced the Clarks.

“According to state statutes, you are not allowed to record other individuals on a lengthy basis,” Gonzales said. “And due to the constant surveillance on the Clark property as well as the use of that surveillance to time their arrival with Ms. Clark as well as showing up and taunting her, the district attorney, as well as a judge, agreed that that constitutes a violation.” 

Police said the Mallerys would routinely arrive in the area within minutes of Teresa Clark going outside of her house and would taunt her from the property line. Nicole Mallery is accused of sitting at her neighbor's bus stop blocking the way, preventing her neighbor from getting their kid to the bus stop. Nicole does not have any children who attend schools in the area, police said.

Colorado Public Radio previously reported that the Mallerys were the first to file a complaint against their neighbors beginning in December 2021, based on court records. After police released their internal records Tuesday, it was discovered that the Mallerys were in fact the first to contact police about a dispute over the easement in April 2021. 

Records show Nicole Mallery complained that her neighbor Teresa Clark was grazing animals on her land, in the easement. Then on May 11, 2021, Nicole and Courtney Mallory called the sheriff’s office to report an unidentified male trespassing on their property. Deputies were able to locate a man who was suffering from a medical episode, and he was taken to the hospital.

A few days after that, Courtney Mallory called police again because he was concerned for his safety after the murder of his ranch hand, Donaciano Amaya, who was shot in the back of the head and found on the Mallerys’ property. 

Police said Tuesday they have a person of interest in Amaya’s homicide case.

The Clarks told police 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.

Courtesy Vern Howard
Courtney Mallery, 41, stands on his farm, Freedom Acres Ranch in rural El Paso County in this undated photo.

Sheriff’s office speaks on accountability

Roybal has said recently that he had his staff review all 24 case reports taken by police from the Mallerys, Clarks and others to ensure his team had done all they could to effectively respond to the 170 calls over the last two years. 

He said they found two events where they could have done more during their investigation. 

“Those two cases have been reactivated to ensure we work them more completely,” Roybal said. “One of these cases lists the Mallorys as the victim. Those two reports are not included in the packets released [Tuesday] since they are reactivated at this time.”

Roybal added that the Mallerys made 19 personnel complaints alleging employee misconduct, but all were investigated and no misconduct was found. Among those was a complaint against Deputy Sgt. Emery Gerhart, who filed the stalking charges against the Mallerys.

“I want to ensure the citizens of El Paso County, we at the Sheriff's Office, take our oath seriously,” Roybal said Tuesday. “... I'm confident our actions and responses to the calls and complaints in the Yoder community have been objective and based on facts and law not on race. 

“No one would be more eager than I to rid my office of a deputy sheriff who was racist in treating members of the community unfairly based on race.” He said so far no progress has been made in attempts to coordinate a meeting with the Mallerys through the Black and Latino Leadership Coalition to address the issue.

Court error in Courtney Mallery’s bond 

Roybal said he also wanted to provide clarity about claims that Courtney Mallery was unfairly held in custody when he and Nicole were arrested Feb. 6. Nicole Mallery was released from custody that same day, but Courtney was released the following day with help from the Rocky Mountain NAACP after his bond was bumped up to $6,000 in court.

“Following [Courtney’s] arrest, the warrant itself had a $2,000 bond indicated,” Roybal said Tuesday. “However, at the time of booking, my intake staff realized a $2,000 bond was inconsistent with state statute based on this stalking charge for which he was being booked. My staff notified the courts who confirmed the error and in turn sent the jail an updated copy of the warrant.”

In a separate incident from the property disputes in April 2021, Nicole Mallery was charged with felony menacing, felony criminal impersonation and prohibited use of a firearm. A process server had entered the Mallerys’ property to serve Courtney Mallery with civil papers while Nicole was allegedly home alone and showering. Police records show Nicole yelled at the man to get off her property and fired her shotgun toward him.

Police body-cam footage also showed this encounter. In an interview with police, Nicole Mallery said she was afraid and did not know who the man was. She asked to file a complaint against the man for trespassing but was charged for firing her weapon at him. Police also said she gave an inconsistent statement by initially telling them she never fired her weapon.

According to Colorado law, it is illegal to recklessly discharge firearms toward any person or into any dwelling or any other building or occupied structure, or into any motor vehicle occupied by any person.

However, the “Make My Day Law” in Colorado grants homeowners immunity if they respond accordingly when threatened by a home invasion and burglary. Police said Nicole Mallery was charged because the man in video footage clearly identified himself as a court person who was there to serve papers.

In a March 2022 police report, police described Nicole Mallery as “generally antagonistic,” and “one of the most antagonistic people” they had ever met.