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Killer on the road: Tracing the deadly path of Robert Ours, whose crash killed Ellicott teacher and himself

December 21, 2017 Updated: December 27, 2017 at 11:54 am
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Robert Ours' two days of terror on the streets of El Paso County ended at this spot on Bradley Road, east of Marksheffel Road Nov. 21, 2017, when he crashed head-on into Eillicott Middle School principal Diane Garduno while trying to pass another vehicle. Ours, 21, and Garduno, 48, died from the crash. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Dozens of frightened drivers across El Paso County called 911 over two consecutive days last month to report a driver whose behavior could only be described as maniacal - rocketing sharply between lanes, cutting drivers off or blasting up on their tails. When pinned in the lanes behind other cars, he slammed his gray Audi over to the shoulder to pass and then catapulted back onto the highway.

The calls were frantic and consistent: A major crash was about to happen. He was going to kill someone. His behavior was deadly.

"I just want him off the road 'cause somebody's going to get killed because of him," Jennifer Bray told 911 at about 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 20, after reporting the vehicle "hauling butt" and weaving across lanes on Interstate 25, near Mesa Ridge Parkway. By that time, a dozen other people already had reported similar complaints to Colorado Springs police and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Robert Ours, 21. 

In all, 33 people would report the driver on Nov. 20 and 21, tracing his "deadly" path up and down I-25, down Academy and Powers boulevards and out into the county before ending on Bradley Road, southeast of the Colorado Springs Airport, where Robert Ours crashed head-on into another vehicle, killing himself and Ellicott Middle School Principal Diane Garduno.

"Some guy came out to try and pass me and he (did) a head-on collision," said a man who called 911 shortly after the impact.

In his two-day reign of terror on county highways, Robert Ours sped right through the safety net designed to prevent such tragedy.

1 Use the navigation to explore the timeline of events

He did encounter a sheriff's deputy about four hours before the fatal crash, as he was pulled over on the side of the road with an overheated engine. But his Audi wasn't identified as the one connected to the 16 traffic complaints from the night before. The deputy learned that Ours, 21, had a revoked license. He cited Ours for the violation. Ours promised to call someone to pick him up, and the deputy departed. Soon after, so did Ours.

Thirty minutes later, complaints of an erratic gray Audi traveling at high speed started again. Four hours later, Ours would be dead. So would Diane Garduno.

"I just wish something could have been done," Bray would later tell The Gazette.

Day 1: 16 traffic complaints

Ours had always loved cars, his mother Susan Ours said, owning up to 14 in the six years he'd been driving. He liked to buy them cheap, fix them up - sometimes using YouTube videos for instruction - and sell them on Craigslist for profit, his mother said.

"He traded and bought, traded and bought, always trying for the greater deal," Susan Ours would write in her son's eulogy, which she shared with The Gazette.

His latest purchase, a 2004 gray Audi, was meant to get him back and forth from Pikes Peak Community College, where he planned to pursue an art degree. He'd already been accepted but deferred attending until he had a reliable vehicle, his mother said.

The Audi needed more repairs than they expected, Susan Ours said. They sent it to the mechanic four times and it sat in the garage for weeks before finally having the ignition coil and battery replaced. It was deemed road ready on Nov. 20.

They picked it up from the shop about 5:30 p.m. and Ours announced he was going to take it out for a test drive.

The first known complaint about Ours' driving would come in three hours later. (Though vehicle descriptions vary in some of the calls, the responding agencies believe the car reported is one and the same.)

Almost simultaneously, Jessica Thomas and Brenda Knott reported a "sporty" vehicle swerving and weaving in and out of traffic on I-25 at 8:51 p.m., according to county 911 recordings. Thomas reports the vehicle near mile marker 157. Knott reports it near mile marker 158.

Both describe the vehicle cutting them off and swerving from one side of the road to the other, at times driving on the shoulder.

"There hasn't been an accident yet, but I can almost guarantee there's going to be," Knott tells the dispatcher.

County dispatch would receive eight other calls about the vehicle throughout the evening, a Gazette examination of records shows. Colorado Springs police would receive six. Colorado State Patrol did not receive any citizen complaints on Nov. 20, but was contacted by other dispatch centers about the vehicle six times between 8:45 and 9:28 p.m., reports show.

A woman driving on I-25 near mile marker 160, outside of Monument, about 8:52 p.m. warns county dispatch about a vehicle "flying like crazy" and nearly hitting her. "He's going to cause a really, really bad accident," the woman says.

A man reports a gray Audi with license plate OXU-001 or QXU-001 "swerving all over the place" on I-25 before exiting onto North Academy Boulevard at 8:57 p.m.

Nine minutes later, a woman described the same Audi driving "deadly" down North Academy Boulevard, from Vickers Drive to Austin Bluffs Parkway. "This car is just really dangerous, like, they're swerving between cars, deadly. Like they're going to kill someone," the woman says. "Everybody is honking their horns. This is deadly."

Three other callers would encounter the Audi on various parts of North Academy until 9:18 p.m. The next sighting would come six minutes later, back on I-25, when Bray warned "somebody's going to get killed because of him."

Contacted by phone, Bray recalled first encountering the Audi stopped at a light on Academy, waiting to turn onto the interstate. Nothing seemed unusual until the light turned green and the driver "floored it," Bray said. She noticed him weaving immediately, but said by the time she connected to 911, he was out of sight.

In her 911 call, Bray tells the dispatcher she passed a state trooper parked on the side of southbound I-25. It appeared the Audi already had passed that area undetected.

"How that cop did not see that car driving like that, I don't know," Bray later criticized. "Unless it got off somewhere that I didn't see. I didn't see it for that long."

From there, callers report the Audi nearly hitting a truck then heading back north where it almost rear-ends a semi-trailer about 9:30 p.m. The calls stop until the final complaint at 10:15 p.m. when Chris Larson reports an Audi swerving "from lane to lane" and "all over the place" driving down Powers Boulevard and turning onto Grinnell Boulevard, outside of Security-Widefield.

"Looks like he's drunk," Larson tells the dispatcher. "It's like he's probably going to kill himself."

Numerous times dispatchers assure drivers they're airing all complaints to their respective road officers and working with other local agencies. As early as 8:54 p.m., a county dispatcher told one caller, "I've got this in here and we actually have two units in that area that are going to be on the lookout for that vehicle."

But Ours apparently drove home for the night unhindered by law enforcement. He lived with his mother on Hubbell Drive, less than two miles from where Larson last saw him. No other complaints are reported until the next morning.

Susan Ours said she woke up between midnight and 1 a.m. and peeked out the window to see the Audi in the driveway.

Day 2: 14 traffic complaints

About 6:30 the next morning Susan Ours said she found her son warming up his car. He told her he was heading to work. She assumed he was going to Labor Finders, an employment service on North Nevada Avenue.

"I said, 'I love you,' and he said, 'I love you' back," she said.

Seventeen minutes later, Ours would be talking to an El Paso County sheriff's deputy while pulled over on U.S. 85-87, just south of South Academy Boulevard and less than three miles from his home. The car is overheating, he tells the deputy, while pouring antifreeze into the reservoir. Ours told the deputy he was heading to work at Labor Finders.

Though Ours "seemed normal" and "cooperative," and the deputy "did not detect any impairment of his coordination," the deputy asked for his license and called it in to dispatch. It came back as revoked "for a renewed citation" but "the revocation period did not seem to make sense," the deputy wrote in his report.

The revocation period started on Oct. 9 and ended on Aug. 18 of the same year, the deputy noted. He asks dispatch for clarification before writing Ours a citation and then having him sign a "proof of service," with Ours acknowledging by his signature that it was unlawful for him to drive. Ours assured the officer that his mother would pick him up. The deputy drove away.

Both the ticket and proof of service would be found later in the demolished Audi.

Ours' mother did not return requests for clarification about whether Ours had called her, but said during an earlier interview at the family home that the first she heard about him that day was the call from authorities about his crash.

If Ours was heading to work at Labor Finders, he never made it.

Assistant Manager Erika Erickson said he hadn't signed in for a job since Nov. 19. The company allows anyone to sign up: "If we have a job we send them out. If not, we send them home," she explained.

Ours routinely signed up. He was very reliable, Erickson said, calling him "an amazing employee" and "a kind-hearted soul." She referred questions about Ours to the corporate office, which did not return calls.

"It was really odd for him not to show up," Erickson said. "He's usually here Monday through Friday, and sometimes Saturdays."

Wherever he was going, Ours' bizarrely aggressive driving again quickly caught the attention of other motorists.

About 30 minutes after the deputy left Ours on the side of the road, drivers started calling 911 to report the Audi "passing people on the right, driving erratically, and nearly impacting other motorists and the guardrails" up I-25, across Fillmore Street, down Nevada Avenue, up I-25 again, down Nevada Avenue a second time, then back up I-25 all the way to Baptist Road, then down to South Santa Fe Avenue, near Fountain.

At 7:26 a.m. a man tells dispatchers a dark gray Audi with a license plate starting with OXU is "weaving all over the road" on Fillmore Street before turning south on Nevada Avenue. "He's going to kill somebody," the man warns. "I don't know what the hell this guy is doing. I'm afraid to get close to him."

Two minutes later a woman reports a car "driving so erratic it's not even funny" on northbound I-25 near the Fillmore Street exit. "He is just scaring me," she tells dispatch. "I think (he's swerving) intentionally, but it's really dramatic."

At 8:53 a.m. a driver reports an Audi "driving on the shoulder to pass everybody" on I-25 near Baptist Road. She'd been following the vehicle for about 18 miles, after entering the interstate behind the Audi from South Nevada Avenue. At the time, "he had to slow down because there was a sheriff in front of him," she says.

"He's crazy; he's going to crash," she says.

The pattern would continue for three hours, with at times hour-long gaps between 911 calls. By 10:25 a.m., a patrol dispatcher called the county to warn about a gray Audi with license plate OXU-001 that has been "going crazy from 7:30 this morning." They say they're sending a trooper to check Ours' home address on Hubbell Drive.

It appears troopers were "attempting to close with the vehicle in the area of Interstate 25 and the city of Fountain," at some point that morning, according to a sheriff's deputy report, which did not include exact times. "Shortly after that, the head-on crash was reported," the deputy's next sentence reads.

The crash

Diane Garduno, 48. 

The crash was first reported to El Paso County 911 at 11:08 a.m. on Nov. 21, records show.

A man reported an Audi trying to pass him on Bradley Road collided head-on with another car. Both of the drivers are unconscious, though there are no obvious signs of injuries on the Audi driver, the caller said. The caller is instructed to watch the Audi, which catches fire. The driver is "definitely pinned (in the car)," he reports.

He repeats the license plate - OXU-001.

"It's our gray Audi from the interstate," the dispatcher is heard saying to someone in the background.

"This looks bad. I think this is probably fatal," a second caller tells dispatch. "If you guys have a helicopter, I would go ahead and launch it," a third says.

Garduno died quickly of blunt force trauma, her autopsy report indicates. Ours died at the hospital.

Drug and alcohol use were not considered factors in the crash, according to State Patrol's initial report. Ours' autopsy report, which will include toxicology, had not been completed by publication. The county coroner's report stated that Garduno's had Oxycodone in her system, but characterized the amount as "low" and within therapeutic levels.

Aside from 911 callers who reported Ours as a potential DUI driver, two people specifically argued he was acting impaired.

Brenda Knott, a former police officer in the Air Force, has seen numerous drunk drivers over the years. Not all of them are so out of control that they're crashing into things, she said.

"He didn't hit any of the things he was coming close to, but I thought it was by luck, not skill," Knott said.

Chris Larson also stood by his initial characterization: It "looks like he's drunk."

"He was all over in our lane," Larson later clarified to The Gazette. "It wasn't like he was just a little swaying back and forth."

Other drivers weren't as convinced, describing Ours' behavior as "intentional."

Jessica Thomas recalled the Audi coming "right up on my tail" and cutting in front of her and other vehicles on I-25 on Nov. 20, even driving off the road onto the shoulder. But it never appeared like the driver did not have control of the vehicle, she said.

"He was taking chances a normal person wouldn't take," Thomas said. "A couple times I watched him swerve and it's not like somebody who's sleepy and jerks back, it was smooth. It almost seemed like he was doing it on purpose."

Jennifer Bray supported Thomas' conclusion.

"He was driving on the shoulder but never went into the dirt," Bray said. "It was like he was mad or something. Like get out of my way, I need to get through."

Susan Ours could not speak to her son's mindset that morning but said he had never shown signs of being suicidal.

According to information shared by the patrol, Ours' neighbors described him as "the type of person who would being (sic) 'up to no good'" and seldom had a running vehicle.

Susan Ours said her son "went crazy" and struggled after his father died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Feb. 4, 2014. Ours' first conviction would come later that year, though court records show he was suspected of possession of marijuana in 2013, but charges were dismissed.

After Robert Ours' death, his mother, Susan ours, said she noticed "ALLin4Life" scribbled on the panel under his window. During a tour of his room she called it his mantra. 

From 2014 through 2016, Ours would accumulate 17 criminal complaints, most of which would be dismissed, court records show. In 2014, he received two misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia. He also admitted to allegations of careless driving and burglary that year but received deferred sentences, meaning charges against him were dismissed following the successful completion of court requirements.

In 2015, he was convicted of possession of alcohol by a minor, a misdemeanor. Allegations of driving under restraint and ID theft were deferred. In 2016, he had a lone conviction of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

Law enforcement: Chasing dangerous drivers difficult

Catching dangerous drivers is challenging, law enforcement agencies said.

Moving vehicles change locations so quickly it's difficult to track them; they weave in and out of jurisdictions; and sometimes, they straighten out before being caught, spokesmen for police, sheriff and patrol agencies said.

"When you're driving, you can go from county jurisdiction to city jurisdiction in one street," sheriff's spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby said. The calls are automatically routed to the appropriate agency, meaning they may start with county 911 but finish with city. Though the agencies share information, it does create a delay.

Dangerous driving calls also are prioritized against other incoming and ongoing investigations, agencies explained. The complaint is always aired across the radio, but that doesn't mean there will be an officer assigned to respond - it depends on the degree of the threat, whether there are units in the area, whether units are tied up on higher priority calls, and the safety and likelihood of catching a moving target, they said.

"At a minimum, it simply comes down to manpower," CSP spokesman Trooper Josh Lewis said. "We certainly appreciate when we get information. We encourage people to call whenever they see something."

The morning of the crash, as complaints about Ours were funneling in, city police were investigating a string of apparent arson car fires set north of downtown. Nine cars were targeted, three of them totaled. An arson also was reported at a gas station.

Twelve sheriff's deputies were assisting on a robbery investigation in the county between 10 a.m. and 10:25 a.m., Kirby said. Details about the robbery were not provided, but Kirby said it did not involve injury or serious harm to life.

Authorities investigate a head-on crash on Bradley Road just after 11 a.m. on Nov. 21. Robert Ours was improperly passing a vehicle in his 2004 Audi when he hit another vehicle head-on, killing himself and Ellicott Middle School Principal Diane Garduno. 

Though a deputy contacted Ours earlier on Nov. 21, it's uncertain he would have been aware of the complaints made about the vehicle the previous day. With a new shift on duty, it's unknown if the erratic driving complaints rose to the level of a "significant event or pattern" to be passed on to day shift during the regular shift briefing, Kirby said.

The deputy did not violate policy by leaving after writing Ours a citation, Kirby said. Driving with a revoked license is a misdemeanor offense in Colorado, permitting deputies to issue a citation or summons "in lieu of taking a person into custody." Officers aren't expected to wait, or "babysit", to make sure the summons is upheld, she said.

"The responsibility falls on the driver to find alternate modes of transportation," Kirby said. "We can't waste our manpower on that."

That policy is nearly identical to Denver's and also to most other agencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In an effort to limit incarcerations in already overpopulated jails, nearly all law enforcement agencies issue a "citation in lieu of arrest" for misdemeanor traffic charges, including DUIs, unless the offender refuses to identify themselves, demonstrates combative behavior, is wanted on an outstanding warrant, or poses some other risk to public safety.

Who was Robert Ours?

Ours' terrifying driving and fatal crash do not accurately reflect who he was, his mother argued from her home.

She frequently referenced the obituary and eulogy she wrote, which described Ours as "creative, artistic, sensitive, and goal driven." She stressed he was a nonconformist.

"To say he marched to the beat of a different drum would be a complete understatement," his obituary read. For Confirmation - a Catholic tradition in which congregates are formerly initiated into the church and adopt a new name, generally the name of a biblical character or saint - Ours chose Saint Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. He wore a bracelet that said, "God made me special," Susan Ours wrote in the eulogy.

She declined to comment on Garduno's death, but wrote that it was "so unfortunate that another life was lost in his accident." At his funeral, she called for a moment of silence to honor Garduno and her family.

Garduno, 48, was the Ellicott Middle School principal and a mother of five. Her husband, Leeandro Garduno Sr., declined to talk about her, referring instead to previous coverage of her achievements and personality.

Garduno "truly lived life to the fullest," and encouraged her children to set and pursue their goals, according to her obituary. She enjoyed gardening, baking, pickling and "investing in the people of the Ellicott community," it said.

After her death, Ellicott's Superintendent Chris Smith told the Gazette "it is hard to imagine Ellicott without her."

"Diane had an uncanny ability to reach people in a deep and positive way," her obituary said. "Her family and friends will always be thankful for the gift that was her life."

-

Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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