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How to waste a good keg

Ranger Rich


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This will sound funny, considering in 2005 our own village police took aim, more or less, and fired nearly 100 bullets at five bison in a residential neighborhood, hitting two houses, a garage and a 1987 Ford Escort (the car was struck in the rump, or taillight region), but here goes:

A couple of former Park County sheriff's deputies are really bad shots.

On Sept. 18, one of three ex-deputies — apparently the marksman in the group — pleaded no contest to a charge of official misconduct, in this case shooting a beer keg that was chained to a tree.

This, as you probably know, is considered unsportsmanlike — with the accepted practice being to give the beer keg a sporting chance to run away or climb a tree. (I was once mauled by an angry quart bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon when I accidentally got between it and two 12-ounce cans, but enough about that.)

Anyway, the ex-deputy, Richard Sonnenberg, hit the keg with the blast from the shotgun. At his September court appearance he was sentenced to 20 hours of community service for the nighttime shooting in the woods, which came after the break-up of a teen drinking party.

"I don't feel what I did was in violation of the law," Sonnenberg told county judge Brian Green, according to story in a newspaper called the Fairplay Flume (motto: "Bringing You the News Via An Open Artificial Water Channel Generally Made of Wood"). Sonnenberg's partners, Moe and Larry, I mean ex-deputies Glenn Hardey and Steve Materkowski, are scheduled for trial in February. They are charged with prohibited use of a weapon, reckless endangerment and official misconduct.

The three responded in April to reports of a beer party in the woods near the town of Lake George, 40 miles west of our village. When the deputies arrived, the teens ran, to use the old expression, "like vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan heading for a Giant Ears Contest."

The deputies found the keg and believed that if they left, the young people would return from the woods and resume drinking the beer — a belief that is, if you ask me, utter nonsense.

According to testimony, while Deputy Sonnenberg was wandering around in the woods looking for the kids, Deputies Hardey and Materkowski came up with the fine idea of opening fire on the keg of beer. First, they decided to shoot the lock off the chain holding the keg to the tree — then they would empty the keg. But I think we all know how a padlock can dart this way and that way, and prove quite elusive.

So when Materkowski (a Polish word meaning, literally, "blind man with a gun") fired three shots at the lock, all three bullets missed the target. Unless Materkowski was hoping to shoot himself in the leg, and then the whole thing went exactly as planned.

That's right, a bullet ricocheted and hit deputy Materkowski in the leg. He has recovered.

At the September sentencing, the judge asked Sonnenberg why the deputies didn't use bolt cutters instead of guns. He was told deputies didn't have bolt cutters. (Which is why you seldom hear an officer shout, "Halt or I'll snip!")

Before the shooting began, however, Materkowski and Hardey tried to cut the chain encircling the keg. For this job they selected an ax. (I do not know why deputies had an ax in the patrol car. Perhaps when people are in trouble in Park County, deputies give them firewood.)

Later, Sonnenberg returned from his search of the woods and decided the way to make sure the kiddies didn't get more beer was to shoot a big hole in the keg and let it drain.

So out came Mr. Shotgun and ka-boom — no more beer party.

"I felt my actions weren't reckless," Sonnenberg told the judge. "That's why I did what I did."

Anyway, as I mentioned, the other ex-deputies go on trial in February in Park County. If you chip in for gas, I'll drive.

And in case we come across any stranded motorists, we might want to throw a few logs in the trunk.

Rich Tosches ( also writes a Sunday column for the Denver Post.


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