A Black farming couple in El Paso County, Colorado, say they are the victims of extensive racist attacks from both their white neighbors in the community and police. They are now facing felony stalking criminal charges stemming from a dispute with one white neighbor.
Courtnee Mallery and Nicole Mallery own a 640 acres homestead named Freedom Acres Ranch, and the couple says that, over the past two years, their property has been vandalized, their animals have been murdered and they have received racist threats and intimidation both online and in person.
They also say that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has not been of any help and instead are targeting them.
“Farming while Black is not a crime. Being on your own land is not a crime,” Courtnee Mallery said in an Instagram post from the page Black Farmland Owners Matter where the couple has documented their ongoing situation.
“Officer Gerhart needs to be fired, needs to be removed. He needs to be sitting in a jail cell, him and all his goons that partake and allow for the mistreatment of people of color,” he continued.
In a press conference held last month, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office says that out of 170 calls for service involving the Mallerys, there were 24 case reports made. The sheriff’s office has released the case reports and affidavits involving the Mallerys with the exception of two. Those two have been reopened because the sheriff’s office found that more could have been done. One of those two has the Mallerys as the victims.
A Look At The Charges
The disputes between the Mallerys and their neighbor, Teresa Clarke, began in April 2021 when Nicole called the police alleging Clarke was grazing animals on her land.
An easement, or the land which belongs to the Mallery’s, separates their homestead from Clarke’s. Lieutenant Chris Gonzalez says it is “technically on the Mallery property however it is set aside by the county for access to all the landlocked properties. There are access gates for several property owners to include the Mallerys and Clarkes.”
The felony stalking charges came after officers found the Mallerys in violation by having surveillance cameras installed that directly faced the Clarke property. A warrant was issued by Sergeant Roy Gerhart in November of 2022 for Nicole Mallery who turned herself in the following month.
Gonzalez says that a warrant was issued for Courtnee Mallery on Dec. 14 after additional review he was implicated as well. He was arrested on Feb. 6 during a traffic stop. They were both soon released on bond.
The Mallerys have publicly said Gerhart has racially targeted and harassed them and called for his firing and arrest, even creating a GoFundMe page.
Deputies also seized the three cameras from the Mallerys. The couple says they were placed there for security and protection.
In the press conference, the county sheriff’s department called out misinformation in response to Mallerys’ claims of racism from their department.
“Misinformation and a mischaracterization of my office and my employees has led to a level of uneasiness for many residents of Yoder and some members of my staff, and family members who have been specifically targeted,” Sheriff Joseph Roybal said.
During the press conference, various pieces of surveillance video were shown from body cam footage during interactions with the Mallery’s beginning with one case from April 2021.
In the first video, body cam footage shows a process server going past the Mallery’s gate to serve the couple with documents. Nicole Mallery later is heard confronting the server with a rifle yelling for him to leave her property. Nicole Mallery says she was startled as she was home by herself and showering when he arrived, believing he would try to rape her.
Nicole Mallery was later arrested for the menacing of the process server as the officers had a warrant to confiscate the weapon. She was also charged with assaulting an officer during their interaction.
Other videos shown at the media event were accompanied by explanations by Lieutenant Chris Gonzalez, painting Nicole Mallery as combative and uncooperative.
In an interview with The Hilltop, Rashad Younger, the NAACP Membership Committee Chair, said the department’s release of the edited clip was an unfair attempt to shape the narrative that Nicole Mallery was the criminal, citing all of the trauma that the Mallerys have faced from racial attacks.
“What do you expect? You expect someone just to step on your land and you not to deal with the trauma and the PTSD, and not try to protect yourself?…. That’s what they always try to show, that we’re angry Black people, and we don’t know how to deal with our aggression,” Younger said.
Portia Prescott, the NAACP Rocky Mountain Branch president who is representing the Mallery’s, called out excessive actions taken against the couple by the department during interactions with Nicole Mallery.
“You put Swat out to serve her, predicated on what a crazy white woman said, who’s not even a landowner…That means El Paso County is the dumbest, most incapable Sheriff County Department of all departments,” Prescott told The Hilltop.
Roybal, who was sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 10, said at the end of the press conference that he was inviting the Mallerys to reach out to him with any concerns of racial discrimination with the Black and Latino Leadership Coalition.
Prescott says that they have not been able to speak with the new Sheriff. They also say for months they were not able to speak with anyone on the department side to deal with the issues the Mallerys were facing as a sheriff had not been appointed yet nor was there any division to work with for dealing with these kinds of racially sensitive concerns.
Despite calls for service, the Mallerys are now being criminalized by the Department, Younger says.
“At the end of the day when you look at what has happened, everything has been turned and flipped on this family as they are the criminal enterprise that is inflicting all of this when there are pictures, multiple calls to the sheriff’s department to ask for them to help,” he continued.
Both Prescott and Younger say they are prioritizing getting the felony charges dismissed. Attorney Tyrone Glover is representing Courtnee Mallery while Jeremy Holcomb represents Nicole Mallery.
Younger says the Department has contradicted itself throughout the press conference including details of the unrelated cases they referenced. He also points out that officers informed the Mallerys to install the cameras saying, “The Sheriff’s Department even told them to put the cameras up so that way they can have protection. But even that is used against them,” he said, also pointing out that the cameras
He also disputed claims the camera was pointing into a neighbor’s bedroom.
“This isn’t just across the street. This isn’t a ring camera or what have you where you have visual access to this person’s bedroom,” he said.
On Mar. 7, the Sheriff’s office announced they would release 96 videos totaling 38 hours of surveillance body camera footage of dealings with the Mallerys. Only some of that footage has been posted as they say the rest are still being uploaded.
The Mallery’s Story
The Mallery’s claims first made headlines following an article published by The Ark of Republic in January outlining claims that they faced multiple instances of racial terrorism including their animals such as goats, cows, dogs, pigs, etc being mutilated, beheaded, or poisoned.
Other cases of vandalism include their fence having been damaged over 10 times, and claims that while out in public, white neighbors attempted to ram Courtnee and Nicole with their cars.
The Mallerys reportedly began receiving threats and people targeting them after their personal information including their address and phone number was doxed and put on a Facebook community page for El Paso County residents.
Comments from the Facebook post include, “I was amazed at how much property was tagged Black Lives Matter, didn’t expect that kind of in-your-face crap way out here.”
Other comments showing threats against the couple and their property read, “Are there any restrictions on size of pitchforks and fire sticks in Colorado,” and “let’s all go have car issues on that road.”
Another related case was the murder of Donaciono Amaya, who worked as the Mallery’s ranch hand on their property. Prescott says there was no deep-dive investigation into the death of Amaya until national media coverage. An arrest of Chaparro-Macias was made on Wednesday in the murder of Amaya, and he is charged with first-degree murder. The office also released a statement stating that claims that it was a racially motivated killing targeting the Mallerys were false.
Passing the CAREN ACT in Colorado
Prescott and Younger emphasized the need for reparations for African Americans, talking about the history of Black farmers being denied land in places like Colorado and other states.
“The state intentionally denied us our generational wealth,” Prescott said.
Younger says, “they constantly are trying to figure out how to steal our economic wealth, still our land, still us from even having peace mentally.”
The Mallerys along with the NAACP and a crowd of supporters held a rally in front of the Denver Capitol in late February, calling for the passage of the CAREN Act in Colorado which stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies and makes it a crime to make emergency calls on someone for racially motivated and frivolous reasons.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew