In a shocking turn of events, nearly all copies of the Ouray County Plaindealer, a small-town Colorado newspaper, were stolen from racks on the same day it published a story on felony sexual assault charges filed against three men, including a relative of the police chief. The charges stemmed from alleged rapes occurring at an underage drinking party at the police chief’s house while he was asleep.
Publisher Vows to Overcome Intimidation Efforts and Maintain Transparency
Mike Wiggins, the owner and publisher of the Plaindealer, responded defiantly, promising to uncover the truth behind the theft and intimidation. He took to social media to declare, “If you hoped to silence or intimidate us, you failed miserably. We’ll find out who did this. And another press run is imminent.” Wiggins emphasized the importance of transparency by removing the paywall from the website to allow public access to the investigative report.
By the evening, a garbage bag filled with stolen newspapers was mysteriously returned to the Plaindealer, and supporters rallied, contributing about $2,000 to the newspaper. Wiggins expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support, deeming it “extremely heartening and humbling.”
Community Resilience Prevails as Stolen Newspapers Prompt Swift Response
Despite the theft of approximately 200 papers from racks across Ouray County, Wiggins, and his team acted swiftly to replenish the stock, ensuring that the community could access the vital information. The newspaper’s commitment to countering any attempts to silence the press was evident as the racks were filled with about 250 newspapers the following morning.
Wiggins suspected that a single individual, spending $12 to remove the newspapers, orchestrated the theft. Remarkably, the thief missed one rack at a local coffee shop. Although Wiggins refrained from revealing the identity of the person who returned the stolen newspapers, he reported the information to the police, who possessed surveillance footage capturing some of the thefts.
What Did the Authorities Say?
Ouray Police Chief Jeff Wood, implicated indirectly in the allegations, did not respond to requests for comment. The newspaper plans to feature a story in its next edition detailing the paper theft and may include a column explaining the gravity of the situation and the decision to reprint the issue.
In a peculiar twist, Wiggins recalled a similar incident from three years ago when the newspaper faced interference. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a report on a local campground violating lodging restrictions resulted in someone tampering with the newspaper rack. Despite these challenges, Wiggins and his wife, Erin McIntyre, are determined to maintain their journalistic integrity and keep the community informed.