COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Allegations of racism and assault are at the center of the most recent divide in the El Paso County Republican Party.
13 Investigates learned that an altercation between State Sen. Larry Liston and El Paso County GOP Bonus member Rex Tonkins on Monday evening led to a police investigation.
The incident happened at the contentious El Paso County Republican Executive Committee meeting at Fervent Church.
"I have never had anybody say that to me in my entire lifetime," Rex Tonkins said. "It's racism to the Nth degree."
Rex Tonkins, who is also the husband of El Paso County Republican Party Chair Vickie Tonkins, is raising concerns about the language used by state Senator Larry Liston of Colorado Springs on Monday night. Rex Tonkins says Liston and others told him multiple times to sit down after trying to speak in the meeting.
"First, I couldn't believe he said it. I went to him, and I said, listen, you don't have the right to tell me to sit down, I'm a bonus member, and that's when he called me a thug three times, and people around heard him say it," Tonkins said. "And for him to represent, he's a senator in my district, in our district. For him to say that to a person, to me, that is not acceptable."
Liston doesn't dispute what he said, but he contended that those words came after what he describes as multiple aggressive encounters with Rex at the meeting.
"I went over to get my jacket, and as I picked up my jacket ... he came up to me and was literally in my face ranting and raving, and then he did a chest bump on purpose. And he is a very muscular, stout individual, and I certainly did not want to get into an altercation with him, but he was looking for an altercation, and I was not," Liston said.
Liston says there was no racist intent behind his words.
"It had nothing to do with his race whatsoever. It had to do with what he did and what he said," Liston said. "He acted like a thug."
Liston sent an email to Chairwoman Tonkins outlining his account of the events. He also said it was "not the first time that Mr. Tonkins has said or made aggressive moves" toward him or others during meetings.
The Colorado Springs Police Department confirms it is currently investigating the altercation between Liston and Tonkins. It's unclear how long the investigation will take.
If you have a tip or lead you want our team to investigate, email us at 13Investigates@krdo.com.