Garfield County law enforcement officials on Monday described an averted disaster after the body of a 20-year-old man was found alongside guns, ammunition and bombs in a bathroom at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park over the weekend.
Maintenance crews discovered the man’s body in a women’s bathroom Saturday morning while getting ready to open the park, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said during a virtual news conference.
The Garfield County Coroner’s Office on Monday identified the man as Diego Barajas Medina, of Carbondale, and confirmed his manner of death was suicide, caused by a single gunshot wound to the head.
“We had the potential for something heinous and gruesome to happen in this community and we were fortunate that it did not occur, but it certainly, for lack of a better term, took away the innocence of our community,” Vallario said on a Zoom call with reporters.
Vallario did not say whether the investigation had yet uncovered any specific plans the man might have made.
“We are extremely lucky he did not fulfill whatever plan he had intended,” Vallario said. “It could have caused a devastating impact on this community and could have killed and injured many people.”
Medina was dressed in black tactical clothing and had a rifle, pistol, ammunition, pipe bombs and fake grenades with him, Vallario said.
He likely broke into the park by driving up an access road, Vallario said. Glenwood Caverns is only accessible to the public by gondola.
According to a Monday news release, investigators discovered multiple improvised explosive devices with Medina and in his vehicle.
Both guns found at the scene appear to be “ghost guns,” which do not have serial numbers, Vallario said.
Investigators also found the phrase “I am not a killer. I just wanted to get into the caves” written on the bathroom wall where Medina was found, Vallario said.
The number of weapons and ammunition combined with the isolated location of the park could have caused a tremendous amount of damage, Vallario said.
“We dodged a bullet this time,” Vallario said. “We got lucky.”
The adventure park closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday as the property was swept by members of the bomb squad and operators from the Garfield County All Hazard Response Team to ensure no other explosives had been planted around the park or rides.
Investigators believe the man’s actions were limited to the property of Glenwood Caverns, Vallario said.
The initial investigation has not revealed any warning signs, criminal history, motive or reason for Medina’s actions, Vallario said.
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Investigators also searched Medina’s residence to ensure the safety of the public and to determine the extent of his criminal activity, Vallario said.
Medina graduated from Roaring Fork High School in 2021 and planned to take a gap year to work before attending Colorado Mountain College, according to a graduation supplement published by the Sopris Sun.
In a statement, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park General Manager Nancy Heard said the tragic incident is a reminder of how much the Glenwood Springs community means.
“We appreciate the swift action and thorough work of the Garfield County Sherriff’s Department and Coroner’s Office, as well as the Garfield County All Hazard Response Team and other authorities assisting in the investigation, working together to ensure the park is safe to reopen,” Heard said.
The park typically closes for the summer at the end of October and will reopen for the winter season on Nov. 10, according to the statement.
In September 2021, the park closed for several days after a 6-year-old girl died on the park’s Haunted Mine Drop attraction.
Editor’s note: Initial information from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office stated the deceased man was 22 years old. The sheriff’s office later clarified that the man was 20 years old.