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Follow-up On 1998 Shooting Incident

Hovenweep National Monument

National Park News

On May 29, 1998, three men – Jason McVean, 26, Robert Mason, 26, and Alan “Monte” Pilon, 30 – shot and killed a police officer in Cortez, Colorado, wounded two Montezuma County deputies, then fled into Utah. Shortly thereafter, a dispatcher at nearby Mesa Verde National Park notified Art Hutchinson, superintendent at Hovenweep, that the trio’s truck was headed west toward his area. Hutchinson informed his staff and headed out to close the entrance gate.  As he stopped to advise some visitors of the situation, he saw the pickup approaching him at a high rate of speed, so pulled his unmarked government sedan forward to avoid blocking the road, dove to the passenger seat, and laid low while steering the car toward a barrow pit.  One or more of the three men fired approximately 20 rounds at the car, but only two struck it. No shots were fired at the visitors' vehicle. Hutchinson radioed dispatch, checked on the visitors and advised them to leave the area. The three men bypassed the monument's closed gates in favor of a side road about a mile further on, then abandoned the vehicle in a nearby canyon. A massive search involving at least 500 officers from more than 50 agencies –including rangers from parks throughout the Four Corners area – ensued and continued for many weeks, focusing at one time on a section of Glen Canyon NRA.  Mason was found dead a week after the Cortez shootings, and Pilon's skeleton turned up 17 months later. But McVean was never found. Last week, though, a cowboy walking through rugged Cross Canyon east of Hovenweep came upon bones and a camouflage backpack. A closer look revealed the pack was laden with pipe bombs. Authorities inspecting the site turned up an AK-47 assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition along with survival gear. Authorities are all but certain the remains are those of McVean. The remains have been delivered to the FBI for positive identification, but it may prove impossible to determine the cause of death. Investigators remain uncertain as to why the three men, decked out in camouflage and armed with automatic weapons and pipe bombs, stole a 2 1/2 -ton water truck in Ignacio, Colorado, then drove it to a residential area the next morning in Cortez and shot and killed officer Dale Claxton after he pulled up behind them in his cruiser.


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