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Bents Fort Inn Shut Down Amidst Drug Activity: Health Hazard Displaces Many

By Raina Lucero

April 26, 2024

The Bent Fort Inn, a prominently historical establishment just north of Las Animas near Highway 50, has been ordered to close its doors indefinitely by Bent County Public Health. The closure comes in the wake of a distressing revelation: the inn was not merely a resting place for weary travelers but a clandestine hub for illegal drug activities.

On February 19, deputies from the Bent County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at the inn, unraveling a web of illicit operations. A statement from the Bent County Sheriff’s Office states, "During the operation, deputies apprehended two individuals who were wanted on outstanding warrants." This initial crackdown hinted at deeper issues festering within the inn's walls.

Months later, on April 24, the Bent County Health Department delivered a devastating blow with an immediate shutdown order, citing severe contamination. Air quality samples revealed alarming levels of methamphetamine and fentanyl, substances indicative of illicit drug manufacturing, processing, and storage within the inn's premises.

Joni Wilk, RN, Executive Director of the Bent County Public Health Department, expressed grave concern over the contamination's pervasive nature. "The results document an immediate threat to the health and safety of any individual who would step foot into the building," stated Wilk in the notice of contamination.

Locals, long aware of the inn's dubious activities, expressed relief mixed with apprehension. "The motel had been a known nuisance and trap house for many years," disclosed a resident. Recent raids and arrests had stirred up community discourse, with many voicing concerns about the inn's impact on public safety.

The inn's troubled history extends beyond drug-related incidents. Last year, it became entangled in a high-profile case involving escaped inmates from the Bent County jail. "This is also the hotel where two of the four escaped inmates were found last year," revealed a source close to the matter. The incident underscored the inn's entanglement with criminal elements.

In a cruel twist of fate, under Public Health's orders, occupants were initially granted a 30-day window to vacate the premises. However, the Sheriff's intervention abruptly changed the trajectory, compelling an immediate evacuation, leaving many stranded with nowhere to turn.

The plight of individuals from programs like Fort Lyon adds another layer of complexity to the situation. Residents who leave or are expelled from Fort Lyon often find themselves adrift on the streets of towns in the Arkansas Valley. With no homeless shelters in the region, they seek refuge in places like the Bent's Fort Inn, perpetuating a cycle of instability and vulnerability.

Adding to the complexity is the inn's ownership structure. Rumored to be owned by a Korean holding company using the property as a tax write-off, the inn likely operates with minimal oversight or interest in its day-to-day operations. This detachment from local concerns has exacerbated the inn's decline, allowing illicit activities to thrive unchecked.

Local residents recall ominous warnings from years past, echoed in Google reviews that foretold the inn's fall from grace. Allegations pointed fingers at the Seed and Supply church, accusing it of unwittingly contributing to the inn's transformation into a trap house by providing funds to house homeless individuals displaced from programs like Fort Lyon.

As authorities grapple with the fallout from the inn's closure, the immediate concern rests with those displaced by the shutdown. Reports indicate a mother and her four children, among others, sought refuge with the Catholic Church following their displacement.

Driving past the once-bustling inn, the scene is a stark reminder of the upheaval caused by its closure. "There are people sitting outside and a lot of items sitting in the parking lot," observed a passerby. The fate of those displaced remains uncertain, leaving the community grappling with questions of support and assistance.

Numerous public Facebook posts can be seen from people who are destitute with no means to find other shelter and no county assistance, one person stated, “I am innocent of any and all drug related activity. But yet here I am in a wheelchair, oxygen and insulin dependent with nowhere to go and no money and no help.”

In the wake of this tumultuous event, the closure of the Bent Fort Inn serves as a sobering reminder of the pervasive impact of illicit drug activities on communities, leaving behind a trail of destruction and displacement. As authorities work to contain the fallout, the road to recovery for those affected by the inn's closure remains fraught with uncertainty.