DENVER (AP) — A heavily armed man killed himself rather than carry out an apparent plan to shoot up a mountaintop amusement park in Colorado, his body discovered in a bathroom next to words scrawled on the wall, “I am not a killer,” authorities said Monday.
Diego Barajas Medina, 20, was found dead in a women’s bathroom at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park by a maintenance crew on Saturday morning, before the park opened to the public. He died of a self-inflected gunshot wound to the head, Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire said.
Medina apparently entered the park while it was closed, armed with an AR-style rifle, a semi-automatic handgun and explosives and was wearing body armor and tactical clothing, similar to what a police SWAT team member might wear, authorities said.
A message saying, “I am not a killer, I just wanted to get into the caves,” was written on a wall of the bathroom where Medina’s body was found lying on the floor, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said. Nearby was a handgun and explosive devices, some real and some fake, he said. The AR-style rifle was on a counter nearby along with a duty belt holding several ammunition magazines.
Vallario could not say for certain that Medina wrote the message.
There were no prior indications, either at home or school, suggesting he was planning an attack, Vallario said. But the sheriff noted that investigators have not conducted any in-depth interviews yet. The FBI will help review Medina’s phone records and social media postings as part of the investigation, he said.
“Given the preparation, given the amount of weapons and ordinance he had it almost seemed very highly likely he intended to use those against the community. He chose not to,” Vallario said.
Multiple improvised explosive devices were found in the vehicle used by Medina, police said. Authorities searched the rest of the park for other explosives but suggested no others were found.
Medina’s body was removed Sunday after the scene was deemed safe, according to the coroner.
The park likely would have been crowded on a fall weekend during hunting season when people go to the mountains to see the changing autumn colors, Vallario said. Given the park’s isolated location, which visitors take a gondola to normally, it would have been difficult to get any wounded to the hospital, he said.
Medina was from the nearby town of Carbondale, where he lived with his mother and brother, Vallario said. In a list of high school graduates published in a local newspaper in 2021, Medina said he planned to work for a year after graduation before attending Colorado Mountain College, a community college with several locations in western Colorado.
A search of his room by law enforcement found nothing to indicate explosives or bomb-making, and he had no known criminal history or prior encounters with police, the sheriff said.
The weapons found on Medina were ghost guns, which do not have serial numbers and therefore cannot be traced. His clothing had patches and emblems that gave the appearance of Medina being associated with law enforcement.
Some of the suspected explosives turned out to be fakes — including several that looked like hand grenades — but others were real, the sheriff said. However, there was no evidence to suggest that explosive devices had been placed elsewhere inside the park, he said.
Investigators believe Medina drove up to the park on a service road.
The park, which is surrounded by state-owned public land, is on a mountain above the Colorado River in western Colorado. Its attractions include cave tours, an alpine coaster and a pendulum swing ride perched on the edge of a cliff that sends riders over the river canyon.
No employees or visitors were on scene when Medina entered the park, according to a statement issued Monday by Glenwood Caverns, and his body was found outside of restricted areas where rides are located.
“This very sad and tragic incident reminds us how much our Glenwood Springs community means to us,” Glenwood Caverns General Manager Nancy Heard said in the statement.
Brown reported from Billings, Montana.
If you or someone you know needs help, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org for mental health support. Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at dontcallthepolice.com. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.