A co-owner of Top That Frozen Yogurt, a lightning rod for political controversy this fall, has been charged with intimidation in connection with an altercation that occurred during an informal rally held last week in downtown Durango.
The incident occurred the afternoon of Dec. 6 during the “Freedom Ride,” where Trump supporters drive up and down Main Avenue in downtown Durango, according to the Durango Police Department.
During the ride, another driver was heading north on Main Avenue and started taunting participants in the Freedom Ride and played a song called “F*** Donald Trump,” with the volume turned up, said Durango police Cmdr. Rita Warfield.
The driver came to a stop near 11th Street and Main Avenue. Ryan Bartholomew, co-owner of Top That, traveling the opposite direction, began yelling at the driver. Bartholomew then made a U-turn on Main Avenue to get behind the car that had been playing the song, Warfield said.
Bartholomew’s passenger, Elissa Beckstead, who co-owns the frozen yogurt shop, got out of the vehicle and approached the other car, Warfield said.
The driver drove away, Warfield said, and feeling threatened, headed to the Durango Police Department station at 990 East Second Ave. Bartholomew, as well as another car in the Freedom Ride, followed the driver to the police station, she said.
Once arriving and parking at the police station, Bartholomew allegedly approached the driver and was yelling. The driver, feeling threatened, backed out and accidentally hit Bartholomew’s truck. The driver then left the scene.
Officers later made contact with the driver, identified as Zachary Kalk, to get his account of the incident.
Bartholomew was charged on suspicion of intimidation, a municipal offense, and failing to stop at a stop sign during the incident. Warfield said Bartholomew picked up his summons Saturday.
Kalk was ticketed for hitting Bartholomew’s truck and running a red light during the incident, Warfield said.
“I honestly feel like if they can counter protest, why can’t I?” Kalk said in an email to The Durango Herald. “I actually pay my taxes, I get involved in the community, I volunteer, I shop local and so I feel as a American citizen that I’m entitled to my own rights as these people.”
In an interview Monday, Bartholomew said the driver in the incident has been harassing people in the Freedom Ride for weeks.
“We were targeted,” he said. “We’re the victims.”
Bartholomew said he made the U-turn on Main Avenue to obtain the driver’s license plate number. He said Beckstead got out of the truck to take a photo of it. Bartholomew said he followed the driver because the driver had threatened his life.
Bartholomew said the driver almost hit him when he backed out of the parking spot at the police station. Warfield said video that captured the incident shows no evidence of that, with Bartholomew on the sidewalk.
Top That Frozen Yogurt has been the site of several altercations this year after the downtown dessert shop put up political signs in support of several Republican candidates, including Donald Trump.
The owners have said they have been subject to constant harassment and vandalism. In October, two juveniles were suspected of smashing the shop’s front window with a glass bottle.
The 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has been waiting for Bartholomew to submit a quote for the replacement of the window before pursuing charges. Bartholomew said he is no longer interested in pursuing the matter, calling it a “waste of my time.”
“We’ve been attacked by this liberal, radical left group of people the entire summer,” Bartholomew said. “We’ve been victimized for expressing our First Amendment rights.”
Bartholomew, though, admittedly said there have been times when he has stoked the flames.
“It actually became fun to trigger these libtards in this town and watch them lose their mind,” he said.
Bartholomew was punched in the face at O’Reilly Auto Parts for allegedly taunting a woman who raised concerns that people inside the store were not wearing masks. The woman was charged with disorderly conduct.
Videos have circulated on social media of Bartholomew taunting people with the local Black Lives Matter movement and making derogatory comments about the LGBTQ community. He also put up incendiary signs after the yogurt shop’s window was smashed.
“I don’t give a (expletive) what anyone in that town (Durango) thinks of me,” he said. ”I’d love to (expletive) knuckle up with some of these (expletive) that run their mouth, but they don’t got the brass to show up,” he said in an interview Monday.
Recently, Top That closed its shop in the 600 block of Main Avenue. Bartholomew said there’s a chance Top That could reopen in the spring, but at a different location.