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Police looking into altercation at El Paso County GOP meeting

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

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.



  1. thug
    Learn to pronounce
    a violent person, especially a criminal.
    “he was attacked by a gang of thugs”

    1. What… you mean you couldn’t find a definition that included anything about race either? Nope, nothing out there.

  2. This is so funny Vickie is a nut case and is the chair of a bunch of bigots, and circus clowns.

    1. You gotta wonder why they are surprised to face racism when they join the party of bigots. Gotta wonder what the party of bigots is thinking when they put POC in leadership roles, knowing they secretly (or openly) think they are thugs.

      1. It’s amazing how ignorant some of you are. You guys really believe republicans are the only party that have a bunch of racists mixed in with them? Stupid some of you are.

      1. Larry Liston is not a racist and the word “thug” is not a racist term. The word “thug” was used for centuries before Tupac popularized it.

  3. The word thug is racism to the Nth degree? Until now I didn’t even know thug was a racist term.

      1. I too would agree that it is not racist in my view. I would add though that I would find it slanderous and damaging to ones character, unless he is a violent person, especially a criminal, which I highly doubt.

        1. Colorado law defines defamation as a false or derogatory statement of fact about another person that is communicated to a third party. A defamatory statement is considered libel if it is in written form and slander if it is made in spoken form.
          n. oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another, which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages unless there is malicious intent, since such damages are usually difficult to specify and harder to prove. Some statements, such as an untrue accusation of having committed a crime, having a loathsome disease or being unable to perform one’s occupation, are treated as slander per se since the harm and malice are obvious and therefore usually result in general and even punitive damage recovery by the person harmed. Words spoken over the air on television or radio are treated as libel (written defamation) and not slander on the theory that broadcasting reaches a large audience as much as if not more than printed publications.

          1. “Colorado law defines defamation as a false or derogatory statement of fact about another person…”
            Just a side note that a false statement is not a fact, by definition . . .
            But your point is well made.

      2. No, you’re both wrong. And clearly you’re both white.
        “The word thug has had racial and cultural overtones since its adoption into the English language. It entered English during the British colonial period to describe a particular gang of criminals in India, but from the beginning, the otherness of the Indian robbers was intrinsic to the narrative about British colonial victims.
        In American English, the word is disproportionately applied to nonwhite perpetrators of violence or crime. White teens disturbing the peace at a party with loud music are more likely to be called troublemakers or hooligans. Their Black peers are more likely to be labeled thugs for the same offense. And following this common racialized usage, thug is used by some and interpreted by many as a code word for Black. In extreme cases, thug is chosen as a dog whistle to imply that Black people are generally prone to violence or criminality.” from

        1. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, although it may have been true in 16th to 18th century England.

          1. Lol. Try asking any Black or Hispanic person you know if it’s a racist term. If you know any. Even the Black republicans know what it means.

  4. And sadly, this is one half of what is leading our nation, not that the other half is any better. Thanks two-party system these politicians are ruining our nation because of greed, sloth, and gluttony.

    1. One half cares about the people. You and me, WE. One half cares about ME ME ME, and to heck with we. It’s pretty basic.

        1. You got it the wrong way around. It’s Republicans who only look after their own — those who contribute the most to political campaigns, and to hell with the workers of our country.

          1. Neither party cares about “We the People”, they only care about how much money they can get from the lobbyists and their corporate benefactors. Followers of either party believing either of their parties care about them are only being sold ocean front property in Arizona. Only stepping back and objectively looking at both parties can one see this truth.

  5. So the guy is just supposed to sit there and shut up; not be allowed to speak; and Republican?
    Yeah; “Thug” really goes over well in the “shut up” context.
    Liston should be working on an apology; and working on moving his brain into the 21st century.

    1. Republicans on the whole don’t appear to be familiar with the concept of an apology.

      1. What should he apologize for? Being attacked? Or using a word that has been around for hundreds of years and used to describe scoundrels of every race?

        1. My comment applies to all those who were at the meeting. They’re all Republicans, aren’t they?

  6. This is not real news just throw those two in a ring somewhere. Rock ‘em sock ‘em robots, a verzus battle… idc just show me some real news. This site has had the same stories up for weeks on end. Same people having arguments over something this simple that literally effected none of us and continually pointing the finger at each other over race and political parties… Can we say Merry Christmas/ Happy Holidays and just coexist. I mean really look at the energy we’re putting into these lame articles with comments alone. Use your energy for something better especially at a time like this when we’re so divided. Blessings friends…

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