Updated: June 5, 2013 at 8:40 am
Between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Monday morning residents on the southern edge of Garden of the Gods woke to sporadic, rapid gunfire. Some hit the floor. Others peered out windows at the constant muzzle flashes as they pleaded for the police to arrive.
Colorado Springs police swept in with body armor and assault rifles and emerged from the brush with Brandon Bougades, a 31-year-old decorated, two-tour Army sergeant who is in the last stages of medical retirement after being hit by multiple bomb blasts in Afghanistan. Police ticketed Bougades for reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct for firing approximately 150 pistol and shotgun rounds in the park, then released him.
Tuesday, Bougades told The Gazette he was diagnosed by the Army with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
He also said he thought he was allowed to shoot in what he called the undeveloped area, and said the whole thing was "a big mistake on my part."
But neighbors say they are troubled that a man they feel endangered the area was released with just a ticket.
"He freaked the crap out of us. We thought there was a mass shooting," said Theresa Brands, who lives on West Bijou Street just steps from where Bougades was apprehended. "I wrote to the mayor saying this is not normal behavior, maybe this guy should be held and evaluated."
Bougades joined the Army in 2006 and served 15 months in Iraq, then four in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Ky., and earned three Army commendation medals for heroism.
While patrolling the mountains of Khost province Afghanistan in 2010, he said, he was hit by three roadside bombs in three months. The second blew the front off a heavily armored vehicle he was riding in. Later that day he posted a photo of himself posing next to the mangled truck and crater with the comment "taliban- you cant kill me!!!!"
A week later he was hit by another blast. It was his 28th birthday and he had chosen that day to sign reenlistment papers. While on a mission, hours before he was scheduled to reenlist, his vehicle struck what he later estimated was a 300-pound homemade bomb. Shrapnel pierced the truck and tore through Bougades' legs, breaking two bones. He was airlifted to a hospital in Afghanistan where he signed his reenlistment papers from his recovery bed.
"I love this job," he told Army public affairs at the time. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I don't want to be doing anything else."
Originally from West Virginia, Bougades moved to Colorado Springs in mid May while in the final stages of being medically discharged from the Army, to attend Colorado Technical University. When a reporter knocked on the door of his small basement apartment Tuesday, Bougades was polite and welcoming. He has tattoos with "bad guy" spelled across his knuckles and demon faces emerging from his hands and merging into flames on his arms. He stepped out to smoke next to a pickup with a Purple Heart license plate and a "Wounded Warrior Project Alumni" sticker.
Asked about Afghanistan he said, "We went through a lot over there. They threw everything at us."
A close friend in his platoon was killed by Taliban gunfire two weeks after Bougades was wounded, and on Facebook he still marks the anniversary.
On Facebook he showed photos of pills he takes for pain, sleeplessness, nightmares and other issues related to PTSD and brain injury.
But he said his war injuries had nothing to do with the late-night gunfire in the park.
"I just thought I was going off into the woods to shoot a few rounds," he said. "Yeah, I have PTSD, I get depressed sometimes, but I have no history of violence. This was just a mistake."
Neighbors say they are torn between wanting to help the veteran and wanting to hold him accountable for recklessness.
Until Monday, neighbors said they knew Bougades only as a quiet, friendly man with a black knee brace who walked his two dogs in Garden of the Gods twice a day.
"It wasn't until all this happened that we learned he was a decorated veteran," said Audrey Jacobs, who stood in her yard Tuesday inspecting her house for bullet holes.
After waking to the gunfire, she watched as police entered the park and Bougades ran down a little-known trail in the opposite direction. A police officer blocked the veteran and yelled for him to stop, she said. Bougades dove under Jacobs' fence, she said, breaking one of the rails, before an officer tackled him, held him down, and led him away in cuffs.
Neighbors say they heard Bougades tell police he had been drinking. Bougades told The Gazette he had not. Neighbors were surprised to hear later that the hours of gunfire ended in only a ticket.
"We want to be supportive, but this can't go on," Jacobs said. "The consensus in the neighborhood is he did all that and just got a ticket?"
Colorado Springs police commander Pat Rigdon said in an email to a resident that Bougades was not jailed because he did not damage property or threaten anyone, but that police did take his weapons.
"I certainly don't want folks to think that this situation is taken lightly. As you can imagine it got our heart rates up pretty high. However, legally I believe that we did what we could."
Reporter Tom Roeder contributed to this report.
Contact Dave Philipps