Activists pushing for legislation after dispute between neighbors in El Paso County


DENVER — A two-year-old dispute between neighbors in eastern El Paso County has garnered national attention and led Colorado activists to call for legislation regulating the power of those who call the police.

At a rally Friday outside the Colorado State Capitol, Rocky Mountain NAACP leaders, representatives from the Martin Luther King Holiday Commission and other Black leaders in the community pushed for legislation they’re calling “The CAREN Act.”

The act stands for “caution against racially explosive non-emergencies.”

Proponents said it will criminalize racially-motivated calls to police, hopefully deincentivizing such calls. The legislation has not been introduced yet, but NAACP representatives said they’re working with legislators to get it on the table.

“Despite all the progress as a nation we’ve been striving for, it’s depressing and morally crushing how we’re witnessing old racist terror and tactics used today but through a new medium,” said Vernon Howard, chair of the Colorado Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission. 

Courtney and Nicole Mallery — two Black farmers who own Freedom Acres Ranch — about 33 miles from Colorado Springs, allege their white neighbor Teresa Clark — who owns land next to theirs, has subjected them to harassment and violence.

El Paso County court records show law enforcement has collected nearly two dozen complaints filed by both parties within the last two years. The Mallerys were granted temporary protection orders on multiple occasions since 2021, and Clark currently has a restraining order against them.

The Mallerys’ first complaint came in 2021, where they said Clark and others trespassed on their property, pointed guns at them, called them racial slurs, released dogs on them, harmed their animals, damaged their ranch gate and harassed them on social media. 

In 2022, Clark filed her own complaint, claiming the Mallerys would stalk her family, cross her easement and intimidate them sitting at their fence and watching them until they went inside, as well as constantly calling the police on them.

Courtney and Nicole Mallery were both arrested Monday morning on warrants stemming from stalking charges filed against them by neighbors.

According to a criminal affidavit, Courtney Mallery, 41, was charged with felony stalking, misdemeanor tampering with a utility meter, and a petty charge of theft under $50 on Dec. 9. His wife, Nicole, had also been charged with felony stalking last year.

At a press conference Tuesday, El Paso County officials said previous accounts in newspapers and on the Mallerys’ social media discussing racism in the sheriff’s office were misleading.

“Misinformation and the mischaracterization of my office and my employees had led to an uneasiness for residents of Yoder and some members of my staff and family members who've been specifically targeted,” said Sheriff Joseph Roybal. “We are charged with protecting the constitutional rights of all citizens, and I’m confident our actions in response to those calls and complaints have been objective and based on facts and law, not on race.”

The sheriff played a video from April 2021 of a legal process server entering the Mallerys’ property to deliver papers. The video depicts Nicole Mallery asking the man what he’s doing there and telling him to leave, followed by loud noises that sound like gunshots.

[Read the redacted report from April 2021 incident]

After the man contacted police, El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Michelle Reed drove to the property and asked Nicole about the incident. In her account to authorities, she said the man peered through her windows while she was not wearing pants, which led her to believe he was attempting to rape her. Nicole told the deputy she pointed a shotgun at the man but did not discharge it.

But after watching the man’s video, Reed determined the man did not look into her window, stated his only intent was to serve legal papers and left as Nicole asked him to. Reed also identified the loud noises as shotgun slides. 

Reed then arrested Nicole Mallery on suspicion of felony menacing, prohibited use of a weapon and criminal impersonation, which came after allegedly giving a false name and identification to Reed.

On Feb. 6, both Courtney and Nicole Mallery were arrested for accusations of felony stalking on their Clark’s farm. 

Court records show Clark told the sheriff’s office that Courtney Mallery would harass and intimidate Clark, as well as hurt her animals. During the press conference, Sheriff Roybal said his office received 46 complaint calls from Clark, 47 from Courtney Mallery and 11 from Nicole Mallery. All neighbors have been arrested for various issues, the sheriff added.

Roybal played nearly an hour of police body camera video, but at Friday’s rally, advocates and an attorney for the Mallerys said nearly 44 hours of footage exist, and the sheriff’s office is “cherry-picking,” which information it chooses to share.

“We have a police department that determines that what they want to do is take 44 hours of body camera footage and turn it into 20 minutes, trying to justify their lack of action,” said Howard, chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Holiday Commission.

The NAACP has also launched an investigation into the incident, and representatives said the Mallerys’ story exemplifies a larger issue: Black Americans being attacked when they try to achieve success.

“Having been out to their ranch, having seen how hard they’ve worked for our community, it hurts that someone can be manipulated, victimized, attacked relentlessly in hopes that they will run them off of their own land,” said Portia Prescott, the president of Rocky Mountain NAACP. “We have such an amazing couple, such an amazing family, having the audacity to do what we need them to do, and you have a neighbor wanting to persecute them and you have an entire county joining to persecute them.”

Rep. Naquetta Ricks, a Democrat representing parts of Arapahoe County in the state legislature, said elected officials are aware of the situation and determined to address any injustices.

“There’s a bunch of he said/she said, but what we do know is that this is a Black farmer who purchased land…they want to labor on that land and turn it into something that’s going to make them economically independent, but yet they’re going through these hardships and trauma and people are trying to terrorize them on their own land, and that is wrong,” Ricks said. “We’re going to do everything we can as a state legislature to get to the bottom of this and ensure that no one is living in terror on their land. It’s wrong.”

Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at