The Inertia

Two years ago, professional skier Dean Cummings called 911 to report that he’d shot and killed a man in self-defense.

This week, Cummings stood trial for the murder of 47-year-old Guillermo Arriola, who ended up dead on the floor of Cummings’ trailer. And just a few hours ago, a jury found Cummings not guilty of second-degree murder.

Cummings pled not guilty to the charges against him and faced three felonies brought by New Mexico prosecutors, including tampering with evidence, concealing his identity, and second-degree murder, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

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On Monday, he got the chance to explain in detail what happened the night of Feb. 29, 2020.

The two men had been negotiating the sale of Arriola’s ranch, located north of Cabezon Peak in rural Sandoval County. Cummings had decided to spend some time alone on the ranch while pursuing the property, according to Real Vail, which interviewed the skier in 2020.

In late February 2020, Cummings was living in an RV he’d brought to the property. Feeling suspicious of Arriola, Cummings confronted him on Feb. 29. The two men argued, Arriola attacked, and Cummings killed him in self-defense, the skier said.

The jury agreed yesterday. But despite the not-guilty verdict, Cummings recent past certainly deserves examination.

Cummings Believed in ‘Vast Conspiracy’ Against Him

Many skiers know the name Dean Cummings.

He became well-known in the 1990s for his aggressive skiing style in impossibly steep terrain, ultimately winning the World Extreme Skiing Championship in 1995. The same year, he founded H20 Guides, a helicopter-skiing company based in Valdez, Alaska.

And Cummings hasn’t faded into obscurity.

He continued to make headlines and big descents, frequently receiving the “legend” moniker from journalists. Yet there were signs not everything in Cummings’ life was as picture-perfect as his skiing legacy.

His company, H20 Guides, eventually went out of business. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but in 2019, Cummings took to the internet to vent his anger. In a series of YouTube videos, he claimed that a “criminal syndicate” had sabotaged his business and was trying to kill him. Even his wife was involved in the “vast conspiracy” against him, he said.

According to the Real Vail interview, Cummings accused Arriola of being involved in the conspiracy, which Cummings said involved “nanobacteria made from pumice silica in people’s bloodstream as a magnetic means of tracking digital signatures.”

Cummings demanded of Arriola, “Are you involved with this [expletive]? Are these nano-pawns on your property?”

That’s when he said Arriola attacked him, Real Vail reported.

‘I Just Started Pulling the Trigger’

During his testimony on Monday (above), Cummings delivered a step-by-step account of exactly what he said he remembered from the night of Feb. 29.

Cummings attempted to discuss his pending real estate deal with Arriola, who “definitely seemed intoxicated” and uninterested in talking, Cummings said.

They began to argue, and that’s when Cummings called Arriola a “scammer.” That was “one step too far,” Cummings said at trial, because then Arriola attacked him and said, “I’m gonna kill you.”

“He was all over me,” Cummings told the court. “He’s totally in a rage.”

Cummings recalled that during the fight, he reached for his 556 Sig Sauer, a firearm similar to an AR-15. He later said he had bought the weapon for Barbary sheep hunting.

Arriola tried to wrestle away the rifle, and Cummings “was holding onto it for dear life,” he said. The skier also said that Arriola sprayed him in the face with some kind of mace during the fight.

“I knew it would be the end of me if he got that gun,” Cummings said.

Reflecting on the moment before shooting Arriola, Cummings said he thought, “Dean, you’ve got to get serious about this if you’re going to be a father any longer.”

With the not-guilty verdict, Cummings’ trial ends a tumultuous period in the iconic skier’s life.

Editor’s Note: Andrew McLemore covers news for The Inertia and Gear Junkie. 

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