[Photo courtesy of Moab Charter School / Facebook]

A Colorado man is being detained in Grand County on felonious weapons charges following an incident at Moab Charter School on Feb. 13 in which his “erratic” behavior led staff to escort him from the premises and call police.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m., a Utah Highway Patrol trooper located 56-year-old Charles Gregory Gee of Denver “just around the corner” from the school, reports said, standing with a small dog in the rain in the vicinity of his white 1997 Dodge RAM.

The trooper said Gee allegedly admitted that he had been at the school moments ago. When the trooper asked him “if he has anything illegal or dangerous like weapons and the subject advised that he had two guns in the bag,” he replied by saying that he had two handguns, reports said.

Gee allegedly opened a case he had been carrying to show a silver pipe that contained marijuana, reports said.

A Moab City Police Department press release said the trooper detained Gee, allegedly finding a loaded Smith & Wesson .44 magnum in a pistol case during a subsequent search of the black messenger-style bag that Gee was carrying. The pistol case also contained “two additional five-round speed loaders fully loaded,” police said.

Though Gee allegedly said there were two handguns in his bag, the reporting officers said they found the second case contained “hundreds of rounds of .22 long rifle ammo and two flashlights,” but no handgun.

Police said in talking with Gee, that he delved into a conversation that “jumped” from the topics of religion to history, all of which, from “General McArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower” to “the Civil War,” appeared to have no relation to the incident. He mentioned “topics related to the Free Mason’s Society,” implying that the officer “had knowledge on that topic,” reports said. The officer reportedly said he did not have any information and was not a member of any such society.

“I could tell that the subject was under the influence of something because the subject thought he was at his vehicle, which he was not,” another responding police officer wrote in his report of the initial interactions with Gee.

Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder said law enforcement officers began the process of preparing and executing search warrants on Gee’s truck and a hotel room he was staying at.

Police said that at no time during the man’s presence on campus did he brandish or show any weapons.

All school staff, parents and students remained safe and unharmed, Moab Charter School principal Carrie Ann Marinelli confirmed.

Marinelli sent an email to parents of students soon after the incident. Including the press release from police in the email, Marinelli told parents the Moab City Police Department would be on campus the following day for the annual Valentine’s Tea event.

“Our school counselor, Ms. Natalie, will be on campus for student support,” Marinelli said. “In light of today’s events, the administration and staff will review our safety procedures and will make any needed improvements.”

Winder said the man does not have any clear connections to students or families at the local schools.

Winder said police confirmed that a second man who had been in Moab with Gee left town earlier in the day for Grand Junction, Colorado. Winder said law enforcement spoke with the second man, who did not appear to have any connection to the incident.

To gain access to the cafeteria, Marinelli told the Moab Sun News that Gee introduced himself to a staff member as an adult mentor volunteering with a local nonprofit mentoring program for students in the county. The mentoring program is consistently offered as a part of students’ education experience in the county, serving nearly 100 during the 2017-18 school year, and regularly trains new mentors to meet the growing needs of the student population. 

On Feb. 14, the director of the mentoring program said the suspect has no connection to its program and said that all mentors must sign in at school offices upon their arrival at the schools.

A police report describes Gee walking into the school’s main office area where several adults with the mentoring program were entering, and sitting on a bench near the entry with his dog and “bags” until he was asked by “someone” if he belonged to the mentor program and he allegedly said yes.

A school staff member then escorted Gee to the school cafeteria. At that time, Marinelli said that she and the other staff members were participating in a fire training outside, as parents, students and board members were in the cafeteria preparing for the Valentine’s Tea.

Both Marinelli and Winder said staff were alerted to the man “acting erratically” when people became aware that “a strange man with a dog ruining everything in the cafeteria” was “not acting like a mentor” in his initial interactions with people.

“When he was at the school he was engaged in some kind of — from what I understand — he constructed what can only be described as, I hate to use the term ‘fort,’ but he had placed some items around himself,” Winder said.

Winder said the man made a circular structure with exercise mats with fasteners. When the incident was reported to police, people said Gee had “trashed” and rearranged the cafeteria, pushing desks and tables to the outside of the room. This allegedly led to one person’s leaving the cafeteria upset and saying, “That’s it, I’m done.”

A staff member who had been at the fire training outside went into the cafeteria and asked Gee what he was doing, at which point he allegedly said he was “decorating.” The staff member told Gee to leave, but when he “reluctantly began gathering his belongings” and moving slowly, the staff member reportedly had to ask him to leave several times.

“My staff immediately reacted and acted swiftly and professionally,” Marinelli said.

Fewer than 100 students attend the Moab Charter School and Marinelli said very few people were on campus at the time.

On Feb. 14, the police department issued a press release and said another firearm and ammunition were found upon executing search warrants on Gee’s Dodge and a hotel room. 

Gee is held in the Grand County Jail on charges of carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence of drugs/alcohol; carrying a loaded firearm on school grounds without a permit; possession of marijuana in a drug-free zone; disrupting the operation of a school; restricted person in possession of a firearm; and possession of drug paraphernalia. He allegedly told police that he did not agree to be interviewed without an attorney present.

Police said Gee does not appear to have had a specific motive for his actions. Law enforcement is following up with Gee’s Colorado connections, including his family, Winder said on Feb. 14.

“My staff immediately reacted and acted swiftly and professionally.”

Colorado man detained after leaving school grounds had handgun, police say