Colorado Supreme Court break-in caused $35 million in damage, left 3 floors unusable

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals building in Denver, Dec. 20, 2023.

Damages caused in last week’s break-in at the Colorado Supreme Court’s office tower are expected to exceed $35 million.

State Court Administrator Steve Vasencellos revealed the estimate during a Joint Judiciary Committee meeting at the Colorado State Capitol Friday. He also said the fifth, sixth and seventh floors of the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center are unusable due to water damage from the sprinklers.

“After it was no longer a crime scene, (there was) ankle deep water, which subsequently went down all the way to the basement,” Vasencellos said. “But the seventh floor, the sixth floor and the fifth floor will have to be substantially rebuilt from scratch.”

Brandon Olsen was arrested after he shot his way into the building in the early hours of Jan. 2. Denver Police said he threatened an unarmed security guard from Colorado State Patrol Capitol Security Unit at gunpoint and fired additional shots when officers surrounded the building. Olsen also set fire to the seventh floor, which left the sprinkler system running for hours. 

The Arizona man walked outside and surrendered to police around 3 a.m.

Vasencellos said there was also significant damage to the third floor. He also said the building is a disaster recovery site. The damage estimate presented is based on what engineers assessed so far and expects that number to change.

“I imagine as with most construction projects, that will change in terms of timelines to reoccupy the facility for the floors that were substantially undamaged or lightly damaged,” Vasencellos said “ All they require for reoccupation is a substantial cleaning. 

Vasencellos said the carpets need to be vacuumed and deep cleaned. Walls, desks, other surfaces need to be wiped of dust.

The building will reopen to the public on Jan. 16 at 8 a.m. through the entrance at 2 E. 14th Ave. The Colorado Supreme court and the Court of Appeals will hear arguments. Employees are expected to return to some of the less damaged floors at the beginning of March at the earliest, after “substantial industrial hygienic cleaning had been completed.”

Olsen was involved in a two-car collision near 13th Avenue and Lincoln Street around 1:15 a.m. before attacking the building. The 44-year-old grabbed a gun and fled the scene on foot. He shot out an eastside window and entered.

Olsen was taken to the Denver Health Medical Center. After he was cleared by doctors, he was transported to Denver Police headquarters. Olsen appeared before a Denver judge Wednesday. He’s facing two counts of felony arson, criminal mischief and reckless use of a gun.

A Denver Police spokesperson confirmed the break-in was not politically motivated and connected to the Colorado Supreme Court’s recent ruling to remove former President Donald Trump’s name on the ballot for the upcoming primary.