By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Crippen cares less about her notoriety than she does her freedom.
"I just want out," she says. "I did some bad things in the past, but I was done with bad things. It's not fair."
Katica Crippen was born in California in 1966 and was legally emancipated as a minor at age sixteen after a California judge ruled that her parents were abusive.
She first ran afoul of the law in 1988, when she was arrested in Colorado Springs for driving drunk. She notched a second DUI in 1994, also in Colorado Springs. In 1995, she was busted again in the Springs, this time for possession of marijuana. The next year, she got a third DUI.
By this time, Crippen was riding with the Sons of Silence motorcycle gang, and she was using hard drugs. "I was a little bit of a mess," she says.
On April 7, 1997, Detective Al Quintana of the Cripple Creek Police Department, working undercover on assignment with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Metro Vice/Narcotics Unit, received a call from a confidential informant. The informant told the detective that per his request, the informant had set up the purchase of narcotics and illegal firearms from a known associate of the Sons of Silence.
The informant said he'd arranged a meeting for eleven o'clock that night in the parking lot of a local Wal-Mart.
At a quarter past ten, the informant called back and put Quintana on the phone with a woman who introduced herself as Katica but said he should call her "Dragon Lady."
Detective Quintana told Dragon Lady he was looking to buy an SKS assault rifle that had been illegally converted to fully automatic. She said that was no problem. According to Quintana's investigative reports, she also offered to sell him grenade launchers and nine-millimeter pistols with laser sights. He said no thanks to the extra weaponry but asked Dragon Lady if she could score him a little meth. Dragon Lady said sure, then added that before she sold him anything, she wanted to meet him and see if he smelled like a cop.
She told him to meet her in the parking lot. Thirty minutes later, she showed up behind the wheel of a blue Ford Ranger pickup. She parked three rows from Quintana; the informant was in the Ranger's passenger seat. He got out of the pickup, walked over to the detective's ride and told him to go see Dragon Lady. She talked to Quintana for a few minutes and didn't make him as a cop, so she offered him a quarter gram of meth for forty bucks. He gave her two marked twenties. She told him she had to drive to Manitou Springs to grab the SKS and that he should put up the hood of his car and act like he had engine trouble while he waited. She said she'd be back in thirty minutes. It was more like an hour.
She'd quoted him 350 bucks on the phone, but the price for the SKS had now gone up to $400. She had the gun and two spare clips in a brown nylon case. Quintana swore in a later affidavit that she then brandished a .380 Smith & Wesson pistol and said right to his face, "I know how to take care of myself, and I will not hesitate to cap any cop who tries to take me down. It's either me or them."
Crippen denies making that statement. "I never said I would shoot a police officer," she says. "They brought that up later to justify putting me back in prison for a bunch of photographs, trying to make me seem like a dangerous criminal, but I never said nothing like that."
In June 1997, a warrant was issued for Katica Crippen's arrest on the charge of Unlawful Distribution of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, which is a Class 3 felony. She was arrested during a sweep one month later and also charged with burglary and larceny for using stolen credit cards. She pleaded guilty to the narcotics charge; in exchange for her plea, the other charges were dropped. (Curiously, she was never charged with any crime for procuring the illegal assault rifle.) Crippen was sentenced to four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. She served just over two of them before she was paroled into the ISP program. According to court records, while she was inside, a male prison nurse sexually assaulted her.
Between her arrest and the time she went to prison, Crippen had married Gary Davis, a Colorado Springs resident. (Her daughter is from a previous union.) Although she and Davis were divorced before she was paroled, he still took Crippen in when she got out. (Davis declined to comment for this story.)
In September 1999, while Crippen was still in prison, then-U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland -- between failed campaigns for the U.S. Senate, and five months after the shootings at Columbine High School -- launched a controversial program called Colorado Project Exile. Under Project Exile, any and all felons found to be in possession of a firearm in Colorado are prosecuted aggressively in federal court ("Living in Exile," March 21, 2002).