Red flag petition granted for Larimer County man accused of threatening mass shooting


Here’s a step-by-step guide to the booking process at Larimer County Jail. Wochit

Larimer County’s first red flag petition has been granted against a man accused of threatening in text messages to commit mass shootings.

The red flag petition, also called an extreme risk protection order, was granted for David Gatton, 32, after the judge reviewed text messages Gatton allegedly sent to his father that threatened a mass shooting.

Gatton is currently in custody at the Larimer County Jail awaiting criminal proceedings for a pending case relating to these allegations, and he has a separate mental health case pending in Larimer County courts. The extreme risk protection order hearing has been delayed a few times due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Eighth Judicial District Judge Stephen Jouard approved a permanent extreme risk protection order for Gatton on Wednesday after approving a temporary order in January. Jouard said there is “clear and convincing evidence” that Gatton is a threat. 

“Mr. Gatton has made credible threats of violence that are well documented in text messages,” Jouard said. “… Mr. Gatton is a danger to at least himself, if not to others.”

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Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Stephen Pastecki briefly testified in Wednesday’s hearing about the text messages between Gatton and his adoptive father in January and March 2019. 

In the texts — which Gatton admitted to sending — he said he was struggling to find work and that if his adoptive parents didn’t stop asking him to pay back money he owed them, he would enact his “master plan” to “kill a lot of people.”

The plan included Gatton doing something to get arrested, purchase two handguns after he’s released from jail, then become a “serial campus shooter” by committing mass shootings at two campuses. His texts did not name any specific schools as part of his plan, according to arrest documents.

Jouard also said Gatton’s clear statement that he planned to purchase firearms also justified the issuance of an extreme risk protection order. 

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Larimer County attorney David Ayraud said, in addition to Gatton’s pending mental health case, he was also previously placed on a three-day mental health hold, in Michigan in 2017. Pastecki said when he interviewed Gatton on March 18, 2019, after his arrest, Pastecki had concerns that Gatton was suffering from a mental condition.

Gatton’s attorney Sarah Cure argued Gatton’s statements were not credible threats. He has no history of physical violence, does not currently own a firearm and completely cooperated with law enforcement, allowing them to search his house, Cure said.

During the search of Gatton’s house, investigators did not find a firearm, ammunition or any evidence of planning for a mass shooting, Pastecki said. 

Ayraud attempted to call Gatton as a witness in this civil case hearing, but Cure and Gatton’s criminal defense attorney, Kathryn Hay, objected. They both argued the details of this civil case intertwine too much with the criminal case for Gatton to be able to answer any questions.

“This is a civil proceeding now infringing on his rights in the criminal case,” Hay told Jouard. 

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Cure, after saying Gatton would “plead the Fifth” Amendment, allowing him to remain silent when asked questions that could be incriminating, also claimed Gatton may not be competent to testify in the civil case. 

After briefly closing the courtroom to the public to discuss Gatton’s mental health case, Jouard said he would take notice of Gatton’s mental health case file.

Cure said Gatton invoked his right to remain silent to any questions asked of him in the hearing. 

In his ruling, Jouard also ordered Gatton be sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institution in Pueblo for evaluation.

Ayraud said doctors who have conducted previous mental health evaluations on Gatton have diagnosed him with several mental conditions. One doctor’s report said Gatton has “lethal impulses” and is prone to violence. 

“We put all these together, and this is exactly why the extreme risk protection order was implemented,” Ayraud said.

All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. Arrests and charges are merely accusations by law enforcement until, and unless, a suspect is convicted of a crime.

Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at

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