A dispute over the right to use a dirt road in rural Colorado has morphed into an emerging racial justice issue as sheriff deputies attempt to tamp down accusations they are allowing a Black farm couple to be racially terrorized by their white neighbors.
Courtney and Nicole Mallery own a thousand-acre farm ranch in Yoder, Colorado. A rural community that has a population of around 1,400 people roughly 30 miles east of Colorado Springs, the area has a Black population of just 1 percent, and that’s where the Mallerys moved from Texas to establish their “Freedom Acres Ranch.”
The Mallerys claim their white neighbors have been unwelcoming and have terrorized them since 2021. The Black farmers go on to claim the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is enabling the racialized terrorism.
“Local police enable what is happening here,” Nicole Mallery told Ark Republic.
The Mallerys claim their problems began with some of their livestock being stolen, physically harmed, poisoned and burned to death. They also claimed their fence was damaged, the electrical lines were cut and their well water was stolen. The farmers accuse their neighbors of the alleged acts.
On Apr. 27, 2021, Nicole Mallery complained to deputies her neighbor was grazing animals on her property which furthered a series of complaints between the Mallerys and their neighbor. The property in question is a 60-foot-wide dirt road easement dividing the Mallery’s ranch from that of their neighbor Teresa Clark.
Courtney Mallery said he believes his ranch was targeted because his neighbors want to “steal his land” he said.
While the Mallerys claimed they lived in fear for two years, their relationship with Clark continued to deteriorate to the point restraining orders were filed against each other. Deputies said they responded to numerous calls from the Mallerys and other residents for issues related to restraining order violations, criminal mischief and trespassing.
The Mallerys have alleged a sergeant with the sheriff’s office has enabled the ongoing harassment against them.
“This is not harassment, this is domestic terrorism, racial terrorism, and deputy Emroy Gerhart is leading a modern-day KKK assault with locals to steal my land,” the Mallerys told Atlanta Black Star.
The sheriff’s office denies any enabling and further says they have taken all complaints seriously.
During a Feb. 14 news conference, Sheriff Joseph Roybal said, “No one would be more eager than I to rid my office of a deputy sheriff who’s racist and is treating members of the community unfairly based on race.”
Roybal said the sheriff’s office responded to more than 170 calls between 2021 and 2022 because of the easement disputes. Twenty-four case reports were created because of the numerous calls for service and four custodial arrests were made.
He went on to say the Mallerys have been reluctant to meet with deputies about their ongoing issues.
El Paso County deputies then began to paint the Mallerys as “confrontational,” with emphasis on Nicole.
Deputies showed bodycam video of a process server delivering a legal document on April 7, 2021. The video depicts the process server walking on the property knocking on doors to deliver the document. Nicole is heard yelling at the process server, “What the f—k are you doing on my property? Get the f—k off of my property!”
Deputies did not indicate what the document being served was.
Nicole Mallery reportedly brandished a shotgun and, according to the process server, fired a shot although it’s unclear if a shot was fired on the shaky video amid his running off of the Mallerys’ property.
Minutes later, deputies arrived and confronted Nicole Mallery about firing a gunshot at the process server. Nicole tells deputies she asked the man for his ID. She went on to say she was concerned for her property and animals noting they possessed cows, chickens, pigs, goats and dogs.
After the incident, deputies returned with a search warrant and an arrest warrant. It’s unclear the date of the arrest as no timestamp was present, but video shown by deputies shows a frantic Nicole being arrested along with two other men.
Nicole is heard repeatedly claiming her arm was broken because of the tightened handcuffs and demanding medical attention. Bodycam continues to show her being placed on a gurney and the beginnings of being processed into the jail as she continued to yell and be confrontational with mostly female deputies.
The neighbor dispute continued throughout 2022 and into early 2023. Teresa Clark was arrested in September 2022 for violating a protection order by venturing onto the disputed easement. Courtney Mallery was arrested this month on felony stalking charges in connection with a camera the couple had set up to monitor Clark’s property.
Deputies said a school bus stop had to be moved because Nicole Mallery would park her car at the bus stop location Teresa needed to be to pick up a child. An existing restraining order was in effect at the time.
In September 2022, the Mallerys complained about their dog being poisoned. Later that month, Teresa Clark filed a complaint against the Mallerys accusing them of stalking her by setting up surveillance cameras to watch her property. Nicole and Courtney were later arrested for the surveillance after deputies confirmed it was happening with their search warrant.
The Sheriff’s Office claimed Colorado law prohibits “recording an individual for a lengthy basis.” The Sheriff’s Office went on to say a judge agreed to issue an arrest warrant for the Mallerys because of the constant surveillance and taunting Teresa Clark at the disputed easement.
The sheriff’s office confirmed two active investigations are ongoing stemming from the Mallerys and Clark’s property dispute.
As the years-long dispute over property and race played out, the Mallerys’ case has drawn the attention of civil rights groups across the country.
Portia Prescott, president of the Rocky Mountain NAACP, told KOAA the civil rights organization is helping the Mallerys find a defense attorney to help fight their criminal charges citing their racial harassment.
“They’ve had their animals mutilated, poisoned, the ‘N-word’ spray painted on their property,” Prescott said.
“We are now in a situation where their neighbor has been able to manipulate the system to weaponize the police against them,” Prescott added.
The Mallerys have since launched a GoFundMe page to help enhance their property security and cover legal fees. The couple has raised in excess of $195,000 so far.