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Security upgrades planned at La Plata County Fairgrounds after horse incident

Video, lighting improvements planned for campus in Durango
La Plata County Fairgrounds will see security improvements after an animal cruelty incident in late June. (Durango Herald file)

La Plata County is increasing security at the county fairgrounds in response to an alleged animal cruelty incident involving a sexual act with a horse.

In mid-June, Durango Police Department responded to the fairgrounds after receiving a report of a man having sexual intercourse with a horse. The man, identified as Jonah Barrett-Lesko, 26, of La Plata County was arrested June 28 and charged with animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor, and possession of burglary tools, a Class 5 felony.

Within days of the incident, County Manager Chuck Stevens and other county staff members were at the fairgrounds assessing security measures.

“Horrific incident, right off the bat. ... I don’t think any amount of security would prevent something like that,” Stevens said. “The incident was horrible, but it caused us to review our security and our defensive posture.”

Barrett-Lesko appeared on private security footage inside the stall area of the fairgrounds. Police also found numerous burglary tools, including a grinder and bolt cutters, in a backpack left at the scene.

The county fairgrounds is a public facility and part of the county campus, Stevens said. Standard fencing, motion-activated lights and surveillance cameras were all on-site at the time of the incident.

Jun 28, 2021
Durango man faces cruelty charge for alleged sexual act with a horse

“We identified some things that we can make improvements on,” he said. “We certainly didn’t find anything that would have prevented this incident.”

La Plata County has purchased six additional locks and plans to add additional motion-activated lights and security cameras to key areas on the campus. The security footage will be able to be reviewed even if the camera itself is damaged.

The county estimates it will spend $20,000 to $25,000 on security improvements for the site, Stevens said.

In the future, the county may consider hiring security guards to provide roving surveillance at the fairgrounds and all county facilities.

“I think we had reasonable security for the threats we perceived at the time,” Stevens said.

Trash and loitering have been problems in the past.

“We are seeing some different behaviors now that we’re certainly taking into account as we’re reviewing our security at the fairgrounds,” Stevens said.

Jonah Barrett-Lesko

Barrett-Lesko was booked June 28 into the La Plata County Jail on a $5,000 bail. He was released June 29 after a judge reduced the bail to a personal recognizance bond, which does not require a monetary payment.

Court proceedings for Barrett-Lesko’s felony and misdemeanor charges are scheduled to begin July 16 and July 28.

“The security of our citizens and my employees is absolutely my No. 1 priority,” Stevens said. “We don’t take this lightly.”