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Affidavit: Rock-throwing suspects took photo at site of fatal crash

The 18-year-old who allegedly took the photo reportedly told authorities he thought one of the other teens would have wanted it as a "memento."
Vehicle struck by rock
Posted at 3:13 PM, Apr 27, 2023

Three Colorado teens accused of throwing a rock at a car, killing the driver, drove by the crashed vehicle to take a photo as “a memento,” according to an affidavit.

The affidavits for the three 18-year-olds, Joseph Koenig, Nicholas “Mitch” Karol-Chik and Zachary Kwak, were released on Thursday.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies investigated the fatal case on April 19. They determined that Alexa Bartell, 20, had been on the phone with her friend around 10:45 p.m. when Bartell “abruptly stopped talking.”

When the friend was able to leave work, around 11:05 p.m., she used the Find My iPhone app to find Bartell. Through the app, she saw her friend’s phone was stationary in a field, according to the affidavit.

The friend drove to that location and found Bartell with a serious head injury in the driver’s seat of her Chevrolet Spark. The friend called Bartell’s mother and then 911.

Officers with the Broomfield Police Department were the first ones to arrive at the scene. Bartell was unresponsive and the officer was unable to find a pulse.

The North Metro Fire Department also responded to the scene and medical personnel pronounced Bartell dead. When Colorado State Patrol arrived, they determined the car’s damage was not consistent with a crash and appeared to “be the result of an object penetrating the windshield and striking Alexa in the head,” the affidavit reads.

The windshield had a hole in front of the driver’s seat.

When looking at the area around the car, crime scene analysts with the sheriff’s office found tire tracks in the grass where the car ran off the road. Further south, they found a landscaping rock on the side of the road. The rock had a red stain on it, which later tested presumptively positive for blood, according to the affidavit.

The Investigation

The sheriff’s office later learned about two separate incidents in which vehicles were struck by rocks that were thrown by a person in an oncoming vehicle. Both of these cases happened on the same night Bartell was killed.

During the investigation into thee two cases, as well as the fatal one, officials uncovered four additional rock-throwing attacks that all allegedly also occurred on the night of April 19.

On April 20, an investigator with the sheriff’s office requested a data dump from a cell tower and was provided information from all phone carriers, according to the affidavit. This included several files from Verizon RTT data, which is a collection of all of the phones that connect with a tower to make calls or send texts. This includes location data.

Using repeated RTT data, investigators can create a trail to show how a phone moves.

The investigator sent the records to a company for analysis and asked for information on any phones that hit four specific locations.

On April 24, the company finished processing the data and found 11 phone numbers that had connected to the four towers. The investigator noticed that one cell phone, in particular, was moving in the area at the same time as the rock-throwing incidents. That phone also passed by the area where Bartell was killed, according to the affidavit.

The investigator determined that the phone number may belong to Koenig. Using a law enforcement database, the investigator found that it was listed to a woman who appeared to be Koenig’s mother.

Using this information and additional RTT data, the investigator mapped Koenig’s cell phone movements between 9:50 p.m. and 11:07 p.m., according to the affidavit.

On April 25 around noon, an investigator received a phone call from the Westminster Police Department about a man who said he had information about the incident, according to the affidavit. The person said his coworker started discussing the rock-throwing incidents on April 25 while they were both at work.

The tipster said the person told him on April 19 he was with three people, “Joe" and “Mitch” and another person, who were loading rocks into their vehicle from a Walmart parking lot. The person told the trio to “take him home because he did not want anything to do with what they were up to,” according to the affidavit.

Deputies eventually went to to Karol-Chik’s home, where they saw a black Chevrolet truck, with no front plate, parked in the driveway. 

A search warrant was obtained and the Chevrolet was seized.

The Arrests

Later that same day — April 25 — deputies took Karol-Chik into custody. They also learned his preferred name was Mitch. Around 12:40 a.m. the following day, investigators interviewed him after he agreed to speak.

Karol-Chik described the route the teens drove on the evening of April 19, which matched cell phone tower data and surveillance camera footage timelines. He said prior to any incidents, he drove his truck to pick up Kwak and Koenig.

Karol-Chik originally said that only Kwak collected and threw the rocks. But he said later in the interview that both he and Kwak collected rocks and all three of them threw them at moving cars. Karol-Chik said Kwak was the one who threw the rock that hit Bartell’s vehicle, the affidavit reads. He told investigators that Koenig slowed the car afterward, turned around to go southbound and let Kwak take a photo of the car. 

Around the time of the interview, both Koenig and Kwak were also taken into custody.

Koenig declined to be interviewed. However, Kwak agreed to talk.

He admitted to stopping and collecting rocks, and then throwing them at cars. He said Koenig was driving at the time and Karol-Chik was in the front passenger seat. He said Karol-Chik would help guide Koenig on when to throw the rocks, according to the affidavit.

When they threw a rock at Bartell’s vehicle, Kwak said “the impact made a very loud noise” and when he looked back, he saw the car had gone off the road, the document reads. When they turned around to pass the car, Kwak said he used his phone to take a picture, adding “he thought (Koenig) or (Karol-Chik) would want it as a memento,” the affidavit reads.

The group then headed back home, and Koenig and Karol-Chik swore they would never speak of the incident. Kwak said the following day, Koenig met with him to “get their stories straight… specifically denying involvement,” the document reads.

All three suspects were in court Thursday morning for their advisement hearings.

This story was originally published by Katie Parkins, Stephanie Butzer and Jeff Anastasio on denver7.com.

Photo of Alexa Bartell

3 teens arrested in connection to fatal rock-throwing incident

The 18-year-olds are charged with first-degree murder after a Colorado woman died when a rock was thrown through her windshield.