Police are investigating whether a shooting rampage that left three people dead in a bedroom community serving Aspen was a hate crime against the area's growing Latino population, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Mike Stagner, 42, faces three charges of first-degree murder and four of attempted murder. His public defender declined to comment Thursday after a hearing was set for July 16.
Prosecutor Mac Myers said police were investigating whether Tuesday night's shootings were racially motivated. Stagner is white and all his victims were believed to be Latino.
"There are a lot of circumstances about this case that suggest there could be an element of hate crime here, and that is particularly troubling to me," Myers said.
The Mexican consulate in Denver released a statement saying the three people who died were Mexican nationals. It said it had demanded an "expeditious clarification" of the crime.
Colorado has seen its Latino population jump in the last decade, with much of the surge coming in mountain resort areas. Rifle is home to many immigrants who travel 60 miles to Aspen to work in its posh eateries or multimillion-dollar homes.
Hours before the shootings, Stagner made his threat casually at the Sports Corner bar, bartender Ted Diaz Jr. said. He said he didn't think much of the threats because Stagner had nonchalantly talked about killing and suicide many times before.
"It was like me telling you, 'I'm going to McDonald's to get a burger,' " Diaz said.
The rampage began when Juan Hernandez-Carillo was shot and killed as he talked on a pay phone outside a grocery store.
Police said Stagner then walked toward a trailer park, shooting 19-year-old Anjelica Toscano. She was in critical condition Thursday with a gunshot wound to the head.
At the trailer park, he fatally shot two men sitting outside a small mobile home, authorities said. Their names were not released.
He then wounded three more men, officials said.