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Kings of the Hill

Officers O'Bannon and Duncan have racked up an amazing number of Capitol Hill drug busts. And citizen complaints.

Buying crack on East Colfax Avenue is easy.
All a person has to do is walk the littered street, preferably at night, and pace the sidewalk between Logan and York streets. The thick of the strip is at Ogden Street in front of the 7-Eleven store and beneath the shadows of the Royal Motel, a shoddy barrack three blocks from the Capitol Hill police station on Washington Street.

Walk with determination and, when you pass a doper wearing soiled jeans, weathered tennis shoes and a stretched T-shirt announcing a Denver Broncos championship, attempt eye contact and ask, "You holdin'?"

The person will either ignore you, believing you to be a cop, or stop and say, "Yeah, I know where we can score." That involves finding "this one guy," and "this one guy" usually needs to find a car, and that means getting the car and driving to a run-down house in Five Points or on the edge of north Capitol Hill, and by that time, that means buying crack is difficult.

Stay out of the car and stick with the man who holds the drugs--a hit goes for $5, a small rock for $10 and a party for $20. That is, if your dealer hasn't sold you a nugget of yellow wax, which can be determined by softly scratching the lumpy rock with your front tooth. If it's gummy like wax, it is. If it's chalky and bitter, it's crack.

Be patient. Hundreds of opportunities exist on East Colfax.
But if Denver police officers Daniel O'Bannon and Joseph Duncan are on the Hill, be careful: They make scoring rock troublesome.

The partners dominate the neighborhood and own a hard reputation among the whores, pushers and junkies in Capitol Hill. O'Bannon and Duncan don't fuck around, they say.

For instance, on July 14, 1998, at 10:30 p.m., the two received a call that a man named Harvey Lynch, dressed in shorts and a red tank top (Chicago Bulls championship), had been seen strutting outside his apartment and jabbing a butcher knife in the faces of three small children and their parents.

When O'Bannon and Duncan arrived at the red-brick Hilltop Apartments at 1554 Logan Street, resident Shirley Bueno pointed downstairs and said Lynch was hiding out in his apartment.

O'Bannon and Duncan knew Lynch was deranged and possibly violent, but the two decided they could handle it themselves.

They knocked on Lynch's door, apartment number 105.
The two officers, dressed in their dark-blues, didn't say a word. Lynch looked through the peephole. It was obvious to O'Bannon that Lynch knew who they were.

Still, Lynch opened the door.
"You're under arrest," O'Bannon told him.
Lynch tried to run back into his tiny, one-bedroom apartment; he didn't get far. O'Bannon and Duncan caught him by his shirttail within ten feet of the doorway. Lynch refused to put his hands behind his back, forcing O'Bannon to take him to the floor. Duncan helped his partner with the cuffing, and the scrap in the doorway lasted one minute.

Three women sitting on a sofa in the living room watched the arrest unfold at their feet. Once Lynch was cuffed and plopped on the living room floor, Duncan kept an eye on the ladies while O'Bannon searched the rest of the apartment.

At that point, O'Bannon didn't know how many people were in the apartment. He walked a few feet down the hallway and looked into the bedroom--the door was open--and saw three men sitting in a row on the edge of the bed, one of whom was puffing crack.

Sitting in the middle was Carl Moten, a man familiar with drugs, cops and jails. Moten was no stranger to O'Bannon and Duncan, either.

Still drawing from the metal crack pipe in his mouth, Moten looked up at O'Bannon. The flame beneath his pipe died, and he dropped both the pipe and lighter to the floor.

But O'Bannon noticed that the officers were outnumbered, seven to two. He ordered the three men to join the others in the living room. One of Moten's smoke buddies, Lawrence Nelson, was mouthing off. O'Bannon slapped a pair of cuffs on him, then went for Moten.

O'Bannon told Moten to stand up and asked whether he had anything illegal on him. Moten said no, and when O'Bannon asked to search him, Moten said, "Go ahead." When O'Bannon put his hand in Moten's front right pocket, he found half a gram of crack.

Duncan flung a pair of handcuffs across the room, and O'Bannon clasped them around Moten's wrists.

It was an amazing catch for O'Bannon and Duncan. One frantic phone call about a man waving a knife turned into five drug-related arrests.

Carl Moten sat in Denver County Jail for eleven months, waiting for his jury trial, which ended this past June. By the time the trial was over, the jury had been forced to question much of O'Bannon and Duncan's neat story.

Why would Lynch willingly open the door for a pair of mute officers and then run? Why would Moten spark a crack pipe when officers were wrestling around outside the open bedroom door? And why would Moten tell O'Bannon he wasn't holding drugs and then gladly consent to a search?

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