In recent weeks, two men, Spencer Siroky and David Tatum, were sentenced for a violent marijuana heist in Westminster circa July 2015, and a third, Fredy Castillo, is still wanted for the crime after jumping bail.
But even if Castillo were in custody, the story wouldn't be over for a victim of the crime: LeMarcus Gaskins, a licensed medical marijuana patient and grower.
Gaskins and another man were tied up, pistol-whipped and robbed at gunpoint — extremely traumatizing experiences in and of themselves. But now, more than a year later, Gaskins is still trying to get back items stolen during the incident, including marijuana and cannabis seeds he collected over a period of years.
Complicating the situation: His belongings were seized in Nebraska, which, in stark contrast to Colorado, has some of the strictest anti-marijuana laws in the country.
"This is a big loss we're looking at," Gaskins says.
According to the First Judicial District DA's office, which prosecuted the case, Siroky first visited Gaskins's Westminster home, on 100th Court, prior to the robbery. In the company of a friend, Siroky asked if he could buy some marijuana, presumably to distribute upon his return to Nebraska. But Gaskins said no.
"We're very legal," he emphasizes. "So I told the guys, 'If you want to smoke a little bit here, fine. But I'm not going to sell you a pound or two.'"
Cut to the wee hours of July 19, 2015 — Gaskins's birthday, as it turns out. That's when Westminster police were called to the home, located on 100th Court. There, they learned that Gaskins and his partner had been attacked and held hostage, and their place ransacked.
A lot more was taken than has been previously reported, Gaskins says. Included were several weapons — "a few of my rifles, a shotgun, a couple of .22s and my Glock semi-automatic pistol, which were registered in Nebraska, where I was born." And that's not to mention "things they took for no reason, like family photos and half my wardrobe. They took half my partner's wardrobe, too."
As for cannabis, the thieves grabbed "all of our harvest that was already dried and prepared — two and a half to three pounds," Gaskins notes. "And if I remember correctly, they also took about twenty full-grown plants that they cut down. They were within a week or so of harvest, and they took those in trash bags. They also destroyed the rest of the garden, the vegetation. I'm a geneticist; I've been breeding genetics, and a lot of the plants they destroyed were literally one of a kind. And they also stole my seed bank — thousands of genetics I've been saving for years and years. There were things in there from all over the world. They were priceless."
Siroky, Tatum and Castillo didn't get far. Later on the 19th, the account from the DA's office continues, a vacationing Boulder County Drug Task Force detective saw the suspects' vehicle at a Nebraska rest stop, near the Colorado state line — and after smelling marijuana, he took a photo of the ride's license plate and forwarded the information to authorities in Nebraska. Half an hour later, a Nebraska state trooper pulled over the car and found it contained the stuff swiped from Gaskins's place.
The men were extradited to Colorado, where Siroky pleaded guilty to kidnapping, aggravated robbery and two counts of burglary; Tatum did likewise in relation to a pair of aggravated-robbery charges the following month. They were sentenced to 27 and 20 years behind bars, respectively. Meanwhile, authorities are still hunting for Castillo.
For their part, Gaskins and his partner had to find a new place to live, since their place in Westminster was left uninhabitable after the robbery. They moved into another residence within the same complex for a while, but when Gaskins wanted to start growing marijuana again, his partner balked. Even though the man's a professional budtender in the cannabis industry, the heist made him fear that the presence of a harvest would make them a target again. So they moved into separate places, with Gaskins initially staying in Broomfield before putting down roots in Aurora, where his current roommate has allowed him to create what he calls "a small setup" in the basement of a home there.
Right now, Gaskins is only growing for himself and his new roommate, who's also a medical marijuana patient. He had to let go of his four other patients (excluding himself and his previous partner) after the robbery, and he's hoping to line up more because "I need to have a higher number of patients to legally be able to grow enough to do genetic research, which is my passion."
Thus far, he's gotten no monetary help from either the states of Colorado or Nebraska, including moving expenses or any restitution. "Police are throwing their hands in the air, saying, 'We don't know how we can compensate you for anything," Gaskins maintains. "They asked us for receipts, but since we were the manufacturer, it's hard to show you receipts. I guess I could show them my electricity bill...."
In regard to the marijuana, he continues, "I haven't gotten word back from Nebraska state police, who arrested them. I don't know if they destroyed it or sent it back to Colorado. They did contact me about the weapons, but they said they couldn't release them and would contact me when they could. That was nearly a year ago."
Police representatives in Colorado have been "receptive but not helpful," he goes on. "No one's said, 'No, they won't return anything,' and they understand it's my property. But they say they need receipts for restitution, and it's hard to calculate the loss of time or the genetics — and a lot of the harvest was for personal use."
By speaking about his situation publicly, Gaskins says, "I really hope this sheds some light on what the government has done to try and curb what they thought was a black market. They've created a gray market that, in my opinion, is more dangerous than the market they've tried to wipe out."
He also chafes at the restrictions placed on him as a legal caregiver in Colorado. "A lot of people will bend the rules, and I refuse to do that. I want to keep my practice and be legitimate, on the up-and-up. Because of that — because I refused to sell to those guys — I was robbed."
Look below to see booking photos for Castillo, Siroky and Tatum.