‘They Chose To Go A Dark Way,’ Colorado Brothers Go On Bloody Ramage

A minor dispute between police and the Stovall brothers escalated to a night of bloody terror that gripped a whole region in a 24-hour chase and gun battle.

By Erik Hawkins
Preview
Deputy Jason Schwartz Was Dead, And The Stovalls Were Free

After years of being bullied, Joel and Michael Stovall finally came into their own in high school. Donning black trench coats and developing a serious affinity for firearms, the two outcasts appeared to be preparing for a war in their hometown of Florence, Colorado. 

On Sept. 28, 2001, the 24-year-old Stovall brothers faced off against police who were called in after Joel shot his neighbor’s dog.  The twins did not have a good relationship with local law enforcement — or authority in general — survivors recalled on “Killer Siblings.” Still, nothing could have prepared law enforcement for the violence that would follow the call. 

“They would have been capable of inflicting anything on anyone,” Fremont County Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Derek Irvine told “Killer Siblings” on Oxygen. “This was probably the worst night I was ever going to see in my career.” 

The specifics of what happened during the confrontation are unclear, but Joel was placed under arrest on suspicion of reckless endangerment and Michael for allegedly threatening Deputy Jason Schwartz, according to the Canon City Daily Record

Both brothers were placed in a sheriff’s car, but Michael was able to loosen his handcuffs as they rode along. He also had a 9mm handgun hidden in his pants, according to “Killer Siblings.” When Schwartz noticed and called the situation in, Michael fired, hitting the deputy in the head. 

“I’m pretty sure it took him out immediately,” Joel later told authorities. 

The sheriff’s car went off the road, and the brothers freed themselves and dragged Schwartz from the vehicle. Even though the deputy had been shot in the head, the Stovalls dragged him from the car and unloaded their weapons into him, according to “Killer Siblings.” 

“Jason’s (murder) was brutal,” Sheriff Jim Beicker told the Daily Record. “They dragged him out in front of his car and filled him with holes.” 

Then, the Stovalls walked about five miles to a mobile home, where they had a virtual armory stashed. Retrieving an AK-47 and SKS rifle, as well as bulletproof vests and ballistic helmets, they readied themselves for the impending fight, according to “Killer Siblings.” 

After stealing a neighbor’s pick-up truck, the brothers were approached by Cpl. Toby Bethel, in his vehicle. They opened fire on him, landing four AK-47 rounds — two near his spine, one in his shoulder and one in his bicep, according to “Killer Siblings.” 

Bethel heard a “pop,” then felt a “sharp burn,” he told “Killer Siblings.” 

“Oh no — they got us, didn’t they?” he recalled thinking.  

Cycling in and out of consciousness, he was trapped in his vehicle as the Stovall brothers approached to check if he was still alive. Luckily, they moved on, although Bethel would be paralyzed for life. 

The brothers “chose to go a dark way and hurt other people to satisfy their needs,” Bethel told “Killer Siblings.” 

Joel And Michael Stovall

Over the course of the night, the brothers would drive on Highway 50, a winding mountain road tracking the Arkansas River, shooting at any law enforcement that came their way. Seventeen officers would be shot at as the Stovalls exchanged gunfire with everyone on their tail. 

At one point, during a close pursuit, they threw a typewriter from the back of their pickup truck, striking and disabling Sheriff Ivan Middlemiss’s vehicle, according to the Daily Record.  

Eventually, the Stovalls headed up Methodist Mountain, an area authorities described to “Killer Siblings” as rugged and heavily forested. Meanwhile, multiple law enforcement agencies gathered their resources. A SWAT team prepared to go after them while a helicopter swept the area.  

Virtually every law enforcement officer with a gun was on the hunt for the killer siblings, according to Canon City Police Capt. Allen Cooper. 

“When you have an event like this, nobody has enough people to deal with this,” Cooper told the Daily Record. 

Miraculously, about 24 hours into the horrific ordeal, the brothers were spotted returning to the location where they had ditched their truck. They were ordered to surrender, and they did, according to “Killer Siblings.”  

The next phase for law enforcement would be questioning the Stovall brothers. 

“When I heard, I was relieved it was over,” Irvine told “Killer Siblings.” “But at the same time, we needed to find out why this had happened.” 

For the whole story of the Stovall brothers’ bloody rampage, including interrogation room footage of Joel Stovall breaking down and pleading for law enforcement to have mercy on his brother, don’t miss “Killer Siblings,” Sunday at 8/7c on Oxygen

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