GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — A man found dead inside Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Saturday morning was heavily armed and “could have implemented an attack of devastating proportions,” the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.
The man’s body was discovered prior to the opening of the park inside a lady's bathroom and was not related to any of the rides at the park, the sheriff’s office said in a news release Saturday.
The man was identified Monday as Diego Barajas Medina, 20, of Carbondale. The sheriff’s office believes he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The scene investigation and the forensic autopsy suggest that the decedent died by suicide and the coroner’s office is investigating the manner of death as a suicide.
"I can tell you that when I first saw this, it was definitely the realization that this type of danger has come to quiet Glenwood Springs, Colorado, rural Colorado, rural America," Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said during a virtual press conference Monday.
According to the sheriff’s office, Medina took a service road and drove a vehicle up to the area of the park, which is located on a mountain above Glenwood Springs, and illegally entered the park after hours sometime before his body was discovered Saturday morning.
Garfield County authorities said Medina was dressed in black-colored tactical clothing, bearing patches and emblems that gave the appearance of being associated with law enforcement. He was wearing body armor and what appeared to be a ballistic helmet.
Additionally, Medina was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic handgun and multiple, loaded magazines for both weapons. Investigators also discovered multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on the suspect and inside his vehicle.
“While this investigation is still ongoing and very active it is important to realize that given the amount of weaponry, ammunition, and explosive devices found, the suspect could have implemented an attack of devastating proportions upon our community and first responders,” a news release from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office read.
In the bathroom where Medina was found was a message apparently written by the 20-year-old that read, "I am not a killer." And another line states, "I just want to get into the caves," according to Vallario.
"Fortunately, for whatever reason we may never know, although he was very highly prepared, very highly weaponized, he chose not to take advantage of any of that ... he chose instead, as we believe at this point, to commit suicide," Vallario said.
The sheriff’s office said authorities have swept the park to ensure no other IEDs had been planted on rides or other areas of the park. They said its investigation has so far indicated that nobody in the public was at risk.
“The initial two days of the investigation have been carried out in a slow, methodical manner in order to search the property, as well as the suspect’s residence to ensure the safety of the public and to begin to determine the extent of his criminal activity,” the release read.
Vallario said Medina was a graduate of Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale and appeared to have no criminal record. Investigators, including help from the FBI, are currently searching his home and phone to get a better understanding of his possible motive.
In a statement, the school district said it was saddened to learn of the news and is "committed to providing support to our students, staff, families, and broader community."
"Roaring Fork Schools is saddened to learn of the recent incident and fatality at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. As always, Roaring Fork Schools is committed to providing support to our students, staff, families, and broader community during times of crisis.
We can confirm the person named by law enforcement as involved in this incident, Diego Barajas Medina, graduated from the Roaring Fork School District in 2021. The district is unable to provide any additional details about this former student, and are not privy to details of the ongoing investigation by law enforcement. We ask that members of the public and community respect the family’s privacy during this challenging time.
Acting Superintendent Anna Cole shared, “In our small communities, everyone is connected. This tragedy will impact our school community significantly. We are responding to the news of this incident by providing wrap around support services to students, staff and families in need. In the Roaring Fork Schools, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority. We are deeply committed to investing in and implementing best practices in school safety. This includes prevention education, community collaboration, crisis response drills, and secure schools and facilities.”
The Garfield County sheriff commented on how Medina's decision to not continue with whatever plan he may have had avoided a major catastrophe.
"He could have done a tremendous amount of damage, because for those of you that don't know, Glenwood Springs Adventure Park, as we said earlier, you have to take a gondola ride up there. And you're on the top of a mountain, there's a lot of people, it's hilly, its terrain," Vallario said. "If he had gone through with what, you know, the worst case scenario, it could have been devastating, if for no other reason, just trying to get aid and help and ... the number of first responders up there."
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park was closed Saturday and will remain closed for “time being” as the investigation continues, the sheriff’s office said. The park said it uses an extensive security program to keep guests safe.
"To keep our guests, team members and assets safe, multiple security programs are in place including an extensive network of security cameras, alarms, fencing, gates and posted signage. Lock-out protocols provide protection for engineering, ride operation and ride restricted areas, as well as sensitive buildings. The incident on October 28 did not take place in any of these areas and was not related to any rides or attractions," the park said in a statement.
In September of 2021, the park was the scene of a fatal accident involving a 6-year-old girl who died while riding the Haunted Mine Drop.