A husband and wife from Arizona are speaking out about racial injustice in Colorado Springs after they say they were attacked at a VRBO property they rented. Devin Turrell and Monique Morris say the owner of the property shouted racial slurs at them and that Devin was struck in the head with a wooden carving causing him serious injuries.
The Colorado Springs Police Department investigated the case as an assault but the District Attorney’s office did not bring charges stating that it was a matter of self-defense.
Turrell and Morris say they were visiting Colorado for a business meeting and planned to stay in Colorado Springs for a few days to catch up with friends. They booked a property from Joseph Korte through the vacation rental website VRBO. The advertisement called the rental Elsford Contemporary and showed a one bedroom building with an address on Manitou Boulevard.
Turrell said they called Korte after they landed in Denver.
"He told us that the door was unlocked, the light was on, the heater was on. Everything was situated and we could just come when we finished visiting with our family," he said.
The couple went out to dinner and later to a nightclub before going to the property. The arrived at around 2:00 a.m. to find a two story home with the front door unlocked and a light on in the kitchen. They entered with their luggage not realizing that Korte and his family lived in the house. The VRBO advertisement didn’t mention the rental as being separate from the main home.
They say a barking dog charged at them followed by a naked man, later identified as Korte, who came down a staircase yelling at them.
"I’m like, wait a minute man. First of all, we rented this house this house on VRBO, and you know, we have reasons to be here. And he was like you f***ing n***er you need to get out of my house and he started coming at me buck naked," Turrell said.
Korte’s son Cameron Smart also showed up and yelled and cursed at the couple telling them to leave.
Morris said that Smart started shoving her and then charged Turrell knocking him to the ground. After Turrell got up he confronted Korte and punched him in the jaw. Morris told officers she thought Korte swung first.
Sometime during that altercation, Smart hit Turrell him in the head from behind with the wooden carving. Morris was afraid that they might try and kill her husband.
"I didn’t try to do anything to anybody, all I tried to do was get him up off the floor and out of the house, somewhere that was safer than being in there because the way that I felt in that moment was that Mr. Korte and his son were trying to kill him," she said.
Smart called the police and told dispatchers that Turrell was actually chasing his father around the kitchen. He told the responding officers that he didn’t intend to severely injure Turrell but that he wanted to protect his father.
Korte and Smart told investigators during a follow-up interview that never used the racial slurs. They also told the investigators that Korte gave explicit instructions over the phone on how to find the smaller rental home which is located about 60 feet west of the main house.
Morris and Turrell both said they definitely heard the racial slurs and are baffled by the police response to their case.
"At this point in time, I don’t want nothing else to do with Colorado, I feel like those people are completely racist. The man told her, you can call the police, they’re not going to do anything, they know who I am and that’s exactly what happened."
Turrell suffered a fractured skull, a concussion and had a blood clot in his brain. He said he was kept in the Intensive Care Unit for a week and a half and still suffers from blurry vision and sensitivity to light.
The NAACP and local ministers staged a rally outside of the District Attorney’s Office Wednesday outraged that Dan May wouldn’t even present the case to a grand jury.
"Without it moving forward to a jury of your peers there’s no hope that the community can ever speak towards a person’s guilt or innocence," said Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the State Conference of the NAACP.
She and the other demonstrators believe this case and the decision not to file charges in the 2016 shooting death of Jesse Garcia show racial bias by the District Attorney.
"I do think that there are other cases that we haven’t even heard about that people don’t even feel comfortable bringing it to the department of justice because they don’t have the confidence that the district attorney will do its job."