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Fisherman attacked in Animas River by hammer-wielding man in Durango

Alleged attacker told police he wanted to hurt or kill someone

A man fishing in the Animas River on Thursday was attacked from behind by a hammer-wielding man who later told police he had gone to the river with the intent of hurting or killing someone, according to law enforcement.


Suspect Harrison Charles Hill, 23, is being held on suspicion of first-degree assault, a class 4 felony, for attacking Kenneth Riddle, 63, of Durango, while Riddle was in the river fishing behind 555 Rivergate Lane, where Hill lives with his parents, according to the Durango Police Department. Hill is being held in the La Plata County Jail.

Durango Police were dispatched just after 3 p.m. Thursday to a call of a fight between two men in the Animas River. While en route, another call came over the radio saying that one man was holding the other underwater. When police arrived they separated the men, who were still scuffling in the river.

An eyewitness told police she witnessed Hill enter the river and sneak up behind Riddle and strike him in the head with a hammer, then continue to strike him in the head while holding Riddle underwater. The witness said Hill threw the hammer out into the river when he heard approaching sirens.

Riddle’s head, face and arms were covered in his own blood and he seemed dazed, confused and unsteady on his feet when he spoke to police after the attack, according to police reports. Riddle was still breathing heavily when he told police his first thought was that he had been shot in the head with a gun.

“Apparently the suspect hit him about five times in the head as Riddle was ducking and dodging,” said Durango Police Cmdr. Ray Shupe.

Riddle said he did not know the suspect. He was treated at the scene by medics from Durango Fire Protection District before being taken to Mercy Hospital where he received stitches for various head wounds.

“Luckily, he wasn’t critically injured,” Shupe said.

Hill’s clothing was soaked in water and blood that police said they believed came primarily from Riddle. Hill also had an abrasion on his face, “a mild bloody lip” and a bloody finger. He was “calm and collected” as he sat on the riverbank and spoke with police after the attack.

Hill told officers he had grabbed the hammer and made his way to the river with the intent of hurting or killing someone, according an arrest affidavit. Police later determined that Hill had jumped about 10 feet from the second-floor balcony of his apartment and then made his way to the river.

Hill went on to tell police that he heard voices in his head and that he attacked Riddle to get the voices to stop.

“We’ve dealt with this suspect several times,” Shupe said. “Our CORE team, which is our co-responder team, and Axis (Health System) have been working with this individual on different occasions and on different calls. And part of the issue we have is that we lack services in Durango for this individual.”

There is no lockdown psychiatric facility in Durango.

“Ours is voluntary,” Shupe said. “So if they go there on commitment, we’re not able to hold them. If we want someone to go to a facility like that, we have to transport them to Denver or Grand Junction. And this individual had been placed at Mercy a couple of different times on what we call a mental-health hold. And he was evaluated and then released again.”

Shupe concluded by saying this is the first time Hill has physically assaulted someone “who wasn’t a family member.”


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