Scammer breaks into animal rescue van and pulls gun on founder

DENVER (KDVR) — A scammer attempted to take off with a Denver animal transport van, holding the nonprofit’s founder at gunpoint.

Last Friday, Red Fern Animal Rescue co-founder Gregg Bartlett turned the key and opened the passenger side of this locked transport van to find a thief playing with the ignition in the front seat.

“The guy was sitting in the seat and as soon as I opened the door it was like he jumped up and had a handgun in his hand,” Bartlett said. “Your heart, I can’t even explain it, it could have been the end of my life there.”

Barlett did what police suggest, he didn’t engage and ducked for his life in that split second.

The scammer took off, but not before ripping the ignition off the emergency transport van, removing parts and leaving it unusable to take the dogs to treatments.

“We still use almost all of our own money, so it’s been a huge inconvenience for us, all of these animals are in limbo now, maybe for a week or two,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett and his wife, Melissa, a teacher in Denver, are co-founders of Red Fern Animal Rescue. The nonprofit’s mission is to rescue South Texas animals that have been in cases of hoarding, allegedly euthanized in killing shelters, or left for dead on the streets.

“We’re all volunteers and there’s no one on the payroll,” Bartlett said. “We spend thousands of dollars a year of our own money just to do this for animals and it’s a labor of love. There’s also a lot of sadness and tears in doing this work, but we do everything to these animals because they can’t speak for themselves at all.

Bartlett found a friend in the salvage community who said he would help with the repair work on the van. However, there are a lot of parts to replace.

There’s a GoFundMe to help with the cost of repairing the van here.

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