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Would-be BB gun bandit behind bars despite charges being dismissed

Previous assault charge took precedent in sentencing man to five years in prison
Durango Police arrest Matthew Kiesel on April 26 near Home Depot after he flashed what store employees believed was a sawed-off shotgun after they approached him about shoplifting. The gun was actually a sawed-off BB gun. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The wheels of justice finally caught up with Matthew Kiesel, 31, who made headlines in April for flashing a gun at Home Depot when employees confronted him about shoplifting.

The gun turned out to be a sawed-off BB gun, but initial reports indicated a robbery suspect with a sawed-off shotgun, according to the Durango Police Department. Kiesel never pointed the weapon or threatened anyone directly during the incident, which occurred April 26. He left the Home Depot and was arrested without incident shortly thereafter near Ska Fabrication, west of Home Depot.

Durango Police inspect the sawed-off BB gun taken from Matthew Kiesel after he was arrested for flashing the gun in Home Depot. The charges were dismissed after Kiesel was found guilty for a previous assault charge in court on Dec. 9 at the La Plata County Courthouse. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Kiesel had three outstanding warrants when he was arrested for the incident at Home Depot, including one for assaulting a man by hitting him in the head with a rock north of Rank Park on Feb. 13.

A guilty plea to the assault charge in La Plata County District Court on Dec. 9 resulted in Kiesel receiving a five-year prison sentence, and the “remaining counts” against him being dismissed.

The February assault near the park occurred when a man walking his dogs along the train tracks approached Kiesel, who was in the bushes changing out tires from a blue spray-painted bike to a red bike. The man confronted Kiesel, telling him he believed the blue bike was stolen and asked for Kiesel’s name. The man claimed Kiesel responded “None of your (expletive) business” and then threatened to beat him up.

The confrontation escalated and Kiesel picked up a palm-sized rock and struck the man in the side of the head, knocking him to the ground. The man, who suffered a bloody head wound, called police and was taken to the hospital.

Kiesel was spotted and stopped by police on the river trail near the fish hatchery but refused to give his name, and because he only “partially” matched the description given to police by the victim, was allowed to continue along his way. Officers later showed the victim a photo from the officer’s body camera of the man on the river trail. The victim confirmed it was the attacker.

Another officer saw the picture and recognized that it was Kiesel, who police had dealt with in the past for bike theft.

“Mr. Kiesel has persistently exhibited his willingness to victimize others,” said Assistant District Attorney Sean Murray, who prosecuted the case. “His decision to strike a citizen in the head with a rock, because he was caught with a stolen bicycle, is the kind of conduct that prompts the District Attorney’s office to argue for a prison sentence.”

The two other active warrants, in addition to the one for assault, were an “obstruction and theft charge dated Jan. 19, 2022, and “theft and trespass“ at Walmart on March 31, 2022. Kiesel is a registered sex-offender from charges in La Plata County dating back to 2020.


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