Colorado

Aug 27, 2010 2:18 AM by Zach Thaxton

Pueblo Co. Sheriff Candidate Explains His Own Criminal Past

Randy Wills says he has no regrets about anything in his life.  That's why he invited News First 5 to his Pueblo West home to discuss revelations about his criminal past in the midst of his campaign to become the sheriff of Pueblo County.

News First 5 was made aware by a viewer of an incident more than a decade ago in which Wills allegedly boarded a Pueblo District 70 school bus and threatened students who had bullied his son.  "His son was hit with a spit-ball on the school bus," according to an e-mail to News First 5 from a viewer named Dorothy who refused to go on-camera for an interview.  "The next day he boarded the bus with his firearm, then proceeded to threaten children ranging in age from 5 to 18," the e-mail continued.  Wills was a Pueblo police officer at the time.

It's an allegation Wills does not deny.  He says he was off-duty from his job at the Pueblo Police Department and was acting as a father, not as an officer.  "I got on the school bus and I told these kids that the bullying was going to stop, that I was not going to tolerate it and that they had nearly put my son's eye out," Wills told News First 5.  He also admits to having his firearm on him at the time.  "Police officers are armed.  That's part of our equipment and our gear.  It was concealed."

The next day, a confrontation between Wills and the father of one of the alleged bullies resulted in a restraining order being filed against Wills.  The father spoke with News First 5 by telephone Thursday morning, but refused to be interviewed on-camera for a story that aired Thursday evening on News First 5 at 10:00.  He said that he confronted Wills at the bus stop and that Wills hit him with a "karate move" in the chest and knocked him to the ground.  The man later filed a restraining order against Wills.  Wills does not deny the encounter.  "He stepped in my way, I physically moved him out of my way, at which time I pushed him and he fell down," Wills said.  "And I make no apologies for that.  He refused to get out of my way and he was very confrontational."  Wills also says he's unaware of any restraining orders ever being filed against him.  The father tells News First 5 that Wills never showed up before the judge at a restraining order hearing.

Wills pleaded guilty to assault charges in 2003 for an incident in his home involving his step-daughter.  He says he arrived home to find her and some of her friends partying and drunk from alcohol taken from his liquor cabinet.  "She told me to go 'F' myself and when she did, I gave her a little pop on the side of the mouth," Wills explained while demonstrating the back-handed, open-fisted technique he says he used to strike her.  The girl's father filed assault charges against Wills.  When asked if Wills regretted using physical discipline against his step-daughter, he replied, "Absolutely not.  I'd to the same thing again today.  If she did the same actions again today, boy, I'd smack her again."  He says physical discipline against children is sometimes necessary and that its relative lack of use in modern society is partly responsible for criminal behavior in teenagers and young adults.  "Society today is the way it is because parents are afraid to discipline their children," he says.

Wills says he believes his forthrightness about criminal charges in his past will cost him some votes in the November general election in which he's challenging incumbent Sheriff Kirk Taylor, but he also says his life is an "open book" and that he believes coming forward and openly discussing these issues will assure many voters that he will provide transparency and tough leadership if he's elected.  "I am not ashamed of anything I've done in my life," he said.  "I'd do everything the same way."

News First 5 contacted Sheriff Taylor, Pueblo Police Chief Jim Billings, Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut, Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, and the Pueblo County Republican and Democratic parties.  All declined requests for interviews for this story.

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