Kings of the Hill

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

Within two weeks, an agent from the police department's internal-affairs unit interviewed Keathley at her bar during the lunch hour. Though the files remain confidential, Keathley says the investigator told her O'Bannon and his partner were charged with a misdemeanor for failing to file a report describing the altercation.

One witness claims O'Bannon spit out "Fucking faggots," but Keathley never heard the slur. "It's possible," she says. "Or maybe it's just a person that goes around doing that to people, abusing his authority."

Keathley says a patrol officer later apologized on behalf of the precinct. "The police have always been great to me. They watch my parking lot and come in the bar all the time to make sure everything is all right. I've never had a problem before. I don't know what this guy's problem was."

And since then, the melee has become O'Bannon's problem.
When CHUN director Knorr learned of O'Bannon's involvement in the macing incident, he phoned Captain Lamb at the Capitol Hill precinct.

"John," Knorr said, "if what's alleged is true, then we don't need that kind of behavior on Cap Hill."

On May 25 at 8:15 a.m., Sergeant Tim Towne walked into the District 6 precinct and handed his co-worker a citation that formally charged him with misdemeanor assault. In the police report, Towne left the "remarks" section blank. O'Bannon pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. If he's convicted, O'Bannon most likely won't be pushed off the force, since misdemeanor offenses require no punishment. The charge, however, remains one of the few instances in which the city attorney has filed charges against a police officer.

According to court documents, at least eight individual complaints against O'Bannon and Duncan have led to internal-affairs investigations. A ninth internal investigation began in June, after Jemar Greenwood complained of unnecessary force by the duo. (Greenwood, who has more than thirty arrests on his record, is serving a three-year stint in Canon City for drug possession.)

The internal investigations don't include the unknown number of cases thrown out of court for lack of evidence--a trend that can be documented only by groaning city attorneys and snickering public defenders. The impression left by O'Bannon and Duncan's work is woeful. "What's really troubling," says one attorney, is that "it's impossible to know how many people these guys stop, hassle, but let go. That number will never be known."

Just six days after O'Bannon was cited for assault, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on a case that stemmed from a sloppy arrest he'd made. The city attorney's office had gone to the wall for O'Bannon by appealing the case to the state's highest court, and now the same office is being forced to try a case against him.

Last November 16 at 9:25 p.m., Robert Clark called the police from his Capitol Hill home at 1442 Humboldt, a taupe-colored mansion cut into nine funky apartments. Two satyrs blow their flutes from the porch, welcoming visitors into the Victorian-era residence complete with beveled windows and draping chandeliers.

When O'Bannon arrived at the scene alone, Clark told him that loud, disruptive music was thumping from the apartment across the hall. O'Bannon knocked on the lacquered oak door, but there was no answer. The noise coming from the apartment was so loud that "it was basically almost shaking the walls," O'Bannon said later. "I knocked on the door real hard so I could get somebody's attention inside, at which point the door just swung open."

Once inside, O'Bannon saw a large water bong on the end table near a couch and a group of friends watching a very loud Monday Night Football game. A thick cloud of marijuana smoke filled the room. The cranked volume of the television, it turned out, was a response to the loud music coming from the apartment below. "We were just sitting around watching the Broncos game, and the next thing I know, there's a cop walking in my house," resident Mike Perez later told a judge.

When O'Bannon asked who lived in the apartment, eighteen-year-old James Holmes walked toward the officer and said, "It's mine." O'Bannon searched Holmes, found a bag of meth in his front right pocket and placed him under arrest. The next officer to arrive, Trent Tatum, didn't witness O'Bannon's entrance, but as he walked through the lobby area, Tatum followed the scent of pot and "went to the noise, and that was apartment 2, where officer O'Bannon was in the room with about ten to fifteen people."

By the time O'Bannon and Tatum were finished fingering pockets and patting bodies, three people in Holmes's apartment were arrested for drug possession. When the partygoers blamed the apartment beneath them (where two DJs lived), O'Bannon walked downstairs, informed the resident his music was too loud and, after a quick search, arrested the DJ for drug possession. It was a killer find for O'Bannon: One complaint about loud music turned into four arrests for drugs from two different apartments.

At his hearing, Holmes's attorney, Robert Biondino, questioned Charles Snow, the longtime maintenance man at 1442 Humboldt and a former union carpenter. Snow had visited Holmes's party thirty minutes before the bust to check the score on the game and to use the apartment as a shortcut for loading supplies in the driveway. "I did it all the time," Snow said.

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