A Hard Hit

Whoever murdered Eric Scott deprived some troubled teens of a reason to make a better life.

Instead he was beaten to death in his own bed. The friends who mourn him remember Scott as cocky, charismatic and compassionate to a fault. Those friends come from subcultural circles near and far. In July, Colorado's Vespa scooter club dedicated its annual Mile High Mayhem rally to Scott's memory. Many Vespas in Denver belonging to the club's 120 members still bear the commemorative stickers: "ES" and a pot leaf. In Amsterdam, the Flying Pig Hostel where Scott was a repeat guest has painted a wall mural in his honor. Last fall, gutter punks on the Sixteenth Street Mall begged change to buy flowers for his grave.

That grave is anonymous. It's an unmarked plot, barely the size of a coffin, crammed into the grid of a pauper's cemetery along a noisy commercial strip of 44th Avenue in Wheat Ridge. It's impossible to visit Scott's burial place without standing on his grave or that of another beneath a field mined with dog shit.

Scott hated the idea of being buried. He always said he wanted to be cremated instead. His wishes were in his will. But friends say his will was in a safe that was stolen from his apartment the night he was murdered, along with at least $6,000 in cash and a quarter-pound of kinder, worth around $1,600.

This mug shot of Earl Taylor was shown to local teens by the Denver police.
This mug shot of Earl Taylor was shown to local teens by the Denver police.
One of Eric Scott's devoted friends had his likeness tattooed on her back.
John Johnston
One of Eric Scott's devoted friends had his likeness tattooed on her back.

Because he had no will and no living relatives, the state took control of his body as well as his estate. His worldly possessions were sold at auction, and he was unceremoniously buried without a headstone.

"The system was never kind to Eric," says Evan Frank, Scott's landlord and friend of six years. "It failed to protect him as a child, it basically screwed with him his whole life, and after he was dead, the system came back around to screw with him a little more."

Paired with the callous treatment of Scott's remains is what his loved ones denounce as a prejudiced lack of enthusiasm by the Denver Police Department to bring his killer or killers to justice. The efforts of the police have certainly not been widespread. More of Scott's friends and acquaintances were interviewed for this article than have been questioned by the cops. Although the investigation of Scott's murder is classified as open and active -- and although many of Scott's friends say they know precisely who killed him -- seven months have passed and no arrests have been made.

"The attitude of the authorities toward dealing with all aspects of Eric's death seems to have been, 'Oh, he was just some punk-rock pot dealer with no family. Good riddance,'" says Frank. "They don't believe he mattered. But they'd be surprised how many of us are grieving and how many of us are angry they're not doing more for him."

"You're trying to find out who killed Eric Scott?"

Joe laughs bitterly and then spits.

"It's no big mystery, dude. I mean, this punk showed up down here the day after the murder, before we had all even heard Eric was dead, right? And this guy was, like, flashing cash, flashing bags of kind bud, flashing his hammer, saying he did it, acting like that made him the man. Right here, dude. I heard him, I saw him, right here."

Joe slaps the concrete for emphasis. It's a chilly afternoon, and he's clustered with five other gutter punks on a row of steps beneath leafless branches in Skyline Park.

One of Joe's friends tugs nervously on a shock of purple hair dangling from his otherwise buzz-cut scalp. "You better quiet up, man. You're gonna get yourself hurt."

Joe's eyes flare. "Who's gonna hurt me?"

Purple hair stays silent.

"Oh, do you mean Kidder?"

"Fuck this." Purple hair gets up and stalks off, his unlaced jump boots scuffing the pavement.

Joe yells after him, "Oh, is big, bad Kidder going to kill me, too? Huh? Why you so afraid, man?"

Purple hair raises his right fist, slowly uncurls a middle finger and keeps walking.

Joe turns back to the group. "Kidder's only getting away with this shit because people are afraid of him and his bitch-ass crew."

A tiny girl in a torn powder-blue ski jacket pipes up. She looks no older than fourteen. "You're only talking so much shit 'cause you're leaving Denver."

Joe intends to hitchhike to Tempe, Arizona, for a winter in the sun. But that's not the point, he says. "The reason I'm talking this much shit is because I'm the only one around here who's not scared of that little psycho motherfucker."

Joe is six feet tall and brawny. He gives his age as eighteen. He's wearing a gray trenchcoat and a black watch cap over peroxide blond hair. He says he used to live with an uncle in Las Vegas who smoked crack and threw billiard balls at him. When he was fifteen, he took off, landed in Denver two years ago, and has been living on the streets ever since. Joe says he met Eric Scott last winter during one of Scott's blanket distributions on the 16th Street Mall.

"We got to talking about drugs, and I was doing a lot of crystal [methamphetamine] at the time, and I wasn't proud of it. He just really broke it down for me on a real level, you know, about how speed kills your soul long before it kills your body, and I pretty much quit. I've slipped a couple times, but I'm mostly off that shit. So I owe him big-time."

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