Bad Company

They had guns. They were after drugs and cash. What they got was trouble.

Rutherford's recollection differs slightly. "As a matter of fact, it was Baxendale who initiated the conversation," he says. "The questions stopped because I didn't have the answers."

Rutherford has always denied directing Baxendale to drive to the apartment complex on Wolff Street, just a few blocks from the Sheridan Saloon. If that's the case, then his companions must have been psychic or exceedingly well-informed about the drug trade in west Denver, because they pulled into a parking lot a stone's throw from an apartment where Rutherford says he had previously purchased cocaine from a woman named Mary.

"My attitude was, 'Oh, no, here we go again,'" says Baxendale. "I was scared and not wanting to do it, but at the same time, I was fearful of Hoffman's reaction. Kevin may have been scared inside, but he was acting like he wanted to do it. He was saying, 'Come on, guys, you've got to let me have a gun. I need to have one, too.' He knew full well what was going on."

Baxendale spotted two young men sitting in a truck and figured they were waiting to score. He got out of the car and walked up to them with his .357 in hand, demanding to know where to find the dealer. From the back seat, Hoffman motioned Rutherford out of the car, too. One of the youths nodded in the general direction of an apartment behind them. Baxendale knocked, but no one would let them in. Someone--Baxendale says Rutherford, Rutherford says Baxendale--kicked in the door.

Baxendale flashed the toy sheriff's badge he'd picked up in Las Vegas. Bewildered, the three men in the apartment hit the floor. There was a paucity of furniture: a chair, a mattress, a TV set. "It was obvious to me that we'd hit the wrong place, that these were just poor Mexicans trying to get a job," Baxendale says.

Hoffman took the TV and put it in the car. Rutherford apologized for the intrusion and shook one man's hand. Back outside, the three desperadoes argued over their next move.

According to Rutherford, he agreed to go to Mary's apartment to purchase some crack for Hoffman, but not to rob her. While Baxendale and Hoffman waited in the car, he knocked on her door. She told him that her dealer would be there shortly and that he should come back in half an hour.

They killed the time by going back to the Sheridan Saloon, where they were observed arguing about money. Rutherford says the others accused him of taking a hundred dollars from the kids in the truck and not sharing it; he denied it. After a quick trip to the liquor store, they headed back to the apartments on Wolff Street--to pick up Hoffman's rock, Rutherford thought.

He knocked on the door a second time, he says, and was told the dealer hadn't copped anything. "I go back outside, and there are Baxendale and Hoffman, getting out of the car with their weapons," he says. "I tell them, 'I didn't get anything. Let's go. This is ridiculous.' But Hoffman tells me to go knock again. He says this three times. On the third time is when he started to raise the shotgun."

"I'm saying, 'Let's get the fuck out of here,'" Baxendale recalls. "And Hoffman says, 'Fuck, no, we're not going anywhere'--and then, boom! He fires right into the pavement. Every other shell in that gun was birdshot, then double-aught buck. It was just pure chance it wasn't double-aught buck in the chamber. That would have killed us both.

"I was covered from my chest to my legs with shot. I looked like I had the chicken pox. Kevin got one just under the eye. His face was bleeding, and I was bleeding down my arm."

The apartment door opened. Rutherford was through arguing. He decided he might as well go in.

After it was over, Baxendale and Hoffman went back to Sandy's place. Baxendale spent the night digging shotgun pellets out of his flesh with a pocket knife while Hoffman furiously tried to get the television he stole from the first apartment to work with the remote control he took from Mary's apartment. They smoked the small amount of crack they'd scored from the second robbery and crashed.

Rutherford did not return to Sandy's house. He says he never wanted to see Baxendale or Hoffman again, so he went to a friend's house. As he saw it, he'd been caught up in something that wasn't his fault. He'd tried to resist and been shot in the face for his trouble. He wasn't part of it. The fact that the other two had left him stranded after the second robbery proved it.

"I didn't rob anybody," he says. "I didn't agree to go with these guys with the idea it was going to be a robbery. I agreed to go with them to get beer. It was an innocent run that turned ugly."

Baxendale says he isn't sure why Rutherford went with them in the first place. "As much as Kevin was playing this act, like he wanted to rob these dope dealers with us, maybe he really was scared shitless and trying to misdirect us," he says. "If it wasn't for Hoffman, I don't think either one of us would have participated in any of these crimes."

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