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Publish Date: 4/9/2005

Anonymous tip outs firefighter’s lie
Former Platteville volunteer convicted of sex assault


PLATTEVILLE — An anonymous letter circulating Friday revealed that fire department officials fired a volunteer firefighter after he lied about his criminal record.

Former volunteer firefighter Ryan Kinnison, 26, lost his job with the Platteville Gilcrest Fire Protection District on March 1, immediately after Chief Wes Scott learned Kinnison had been convicted in 1998 of third-degree sex assault on a child.

Scott said Kinnison lied about his past to the department and to Weld County officials.

Fire district officials first learned of Kinnison’s sex offender status in 2003, but he was allowed to keep his job because officials at the time believed the charge was minimal and more than five years in the past. A state background check on Kinnison didn’t turn up the sex assault, according to Scott.

At the time, Kinnison — who joined the department in November 2002 — told Scott and those who manage the sex offender registry for Weld County that his case stemmed from a relationship with a younger girlfriend.

But sheriff’s office records in Lancaster County, Neb., show that Kinnison pleaded guilty after two boys told investigators he molested them. Kinnison touched one boy inappropriately on more than 10 occasions and fondled another boy’s genitals, according to records obtained by the Daily Times-Call.

“We did not wait,” Scott said of the March 1 decision to fire Kinnison. “Once the inconsistencies were clarified, it was handled immediately.”

Weld County sheriff’s spokeswoman Margie Martinez confirmed that Kinnison lied to investigators about the charge, which is a misdemeanor in Nebraska but a felony in Colorado.

“He is a predator,” Martinez said. “He goes after young male victims.”

Kinnison could not be reached for comment.

Scott said one of the reasons Kinnison was terminated is that his background was “inconsistent with public safety work.”

As a firefighter, Kinnison had access to children. The district frequently sponsors programs geared toward children, such as Fire Prevention Week and an annual haunted house.

In addition, Scott said, Kinnison lied about the nature of the charges he faced when the issue first came to light.

The most recent inquiry into Kinnison’s past came after a retired Platteville firefighter discovered Kinnison’s picture on the Weld County sex offender registry and looked into the case on his own.

Scott said Friday that Kinnison’s record was a surprise and that he never “demonstrated behaviors that were inappropriate” with children in Platteville.

“The situation as a whole was very shocking to the department,” Scott said. “We’re very concerned for (children’s) safety and their well-being. We don’t want that to be tarnished. The guys have worked too hard to have that damaged.”

As a result of Kinnison’s actions, the fire department has revamped its hiring process, Scott said. It will now pay to have a national background check done on all applicants.

“We’ve learned,” he said.

Times-Call staff writer Amanda Arthur contributed to this report.

Jenn Ooton can be reached at 303-684-5295, or by e-mail at jooton@times-call.com.

 

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