SWAT arrests Fort Collins man over barking dog dispute
08 June 2012
What began in 2009 as a dispute over a pair of barking dogs escalated
into a vicious neighborhood battle that saw one Fort Collins man
arrested at gunpoint by the SWAT team Thursday night as he wandered his
yard with a loaded handgun.
Now, Neil Brooks, 48, is jailed and effectively barred from living in
his own home because a magistrate on Friday deemed him too great a
threat to his neighbors, with whom he has clashed about landscaping,
offensive gestures, rude emails, anonymous notes and allegations of
secret city mediation sessions.
“He was wandering around his yard with the handgun in his hand. The
neighbors were feeling threatened,” Fort Collins police Lt. Hal Dean
said. “To them, he appeared ready to use it.”
Dean added: “Given the totality of the circumstances and Mr. Brooks’
behavior over the last few months, we felt that the prudent thing to do
was to serve the warrant with the SWAT team. His behavior in the
neighborhood has become a little more concerning for the neighbors.”
Brooks, who is medically disabled and struggles to sleep due to chronic
eye pain, began complaining about his neighbor’s dogs almost
immediately after moving into the upscale West Vine Bungalows
neighborhood with his wife in February 2009.
He complained that his neighbors’ two dogs barked all day long while
their owners were away. He sent what he called “kindly notes” asking
the owners to quiet their dogs. He consulted an animal behaviorist and
suggested the dogs’ owners buy bark collars.
He got no satisfaction.
After getting copies of the city’s noise-control ordinances, he called
animal control and Fort Collins police, who declined to intervene.
Brooks says he was lied to about the law.
demanded that the HOA
enforce its covenants against noisy dogs
He researched homeowners association rules and demanded that the HOA
intervene and enforce its covenants against noisy dogs. His neighbors
who make up the HOA board declined. They said many of them also owned
dogs who sometimes bark.
Brooks says his neighbors circled their wagons to protect their friends from him.
After repeated requests, Brooks agreed to city-run mediation. But the
mediator canceled the sessions after meeting with Brooks’ neighbors and
apparently concluding he was unwilling to compromise.
Brooks sees a conspiracy there
Brooks says the mediator, who has since left the city, was secretly friends with his neighbors.
Brooks then sued his neighbors and the HOA to try to force them to
enforce a covenant against barking dogs. A judge threw out the lawsuit
last summer and ordered Brooks to pay $73,000 in legal costs.
Brooks sees a conspiracy there: He believes the judge in the case has
some connection through marriage to a builder who also manages HOAs.
Brooks met with several city officials, including Dean, last year.
Brooks wanted police to cite his neighbors for their dogs, even though
the couple had already sold their house and left the neighborhood early
“The problem was that the neighbors had already moved. The incidents
had occurred a year before and the dog had been dead for six months,”
Dean said. “When we told him we couldn’t do that ... he wasn’t
satisfied. That kind of exasperated him, and things went on from there.”
In a lengthy explanation of the situation that Brooks gave to the
Coloradoan earlier this year pleading for news coverage of his plight,
he said he and his wife wanted to be good neighbors. He said they tried
to be polite in asking their neighbors to curb their dogs’ barking and
even sent over a fruit basket when things temporarily got better.
his repeated complaints turned the neighborhood against him
But his repeated complaints turned the neighborhood against him, and
Brooks says neighbors have been making rude gestures toward him when
they pass. He said one man even tried to run him off the road, and in
an email, the HOA board president called him “an insistent and viral
complainer that has brought stress and grief to an otherwise beautiful
In a recent complaint to police, West Vine residents said Brooks had taken to sitting outside on his porch, handgun at his side.
“We tried to do everything right, abide by the law and be decent in
asking the appropriate people and agencies for help, in a civil and
reasonable way. We still can’t believe this happened to us,” Brooks
said earlier this year. “We’re prisoners in our own house.”
Brooks is now a prisoner at the Larimer County Jail
Brooks is now a prisoner at the Larimer County Jail, being held on a
$10,000 bond on a possible charge of felony menacing. Dean said Brooks’
actions on Thursday, when viewed in combination with his past history,
prompted officers to seek an arrest warrant when neighbors called
Magistrate Matthew Zehe on Friday afternoon ordered Brooks to remain at
least 50 yards from his neighbors, which means he’ll be unable to stay
at his home if they are in theirs.
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