Cruisin' for a Bustin'

For Adams County deputies, making sex arrests was a walk in the park.

As area parks go, Lafayette is pretty lame. There are no grassy fields, no basketball courts or playgrounds or horseshoe pits. The entrance is a large, mucky parking lot that cowers beneath a gargantuan highway overpass; the park is sandwiched between Highway 224 and Interstate 76, so the roar of traffic is ever-present. There's a small, slimy pond near the parking lot, and a concrete bike path runs east-west along a brown, gurgling stream whose banks are lined with towering, prickly weeds.

Sergeant Dixon grew up in Adams County, and when he was kid, he and his friends called Lafayette "Mosquito Park, because you'd get swarmed, man," he says.

By bugs, not guys.

No two ways about it: Lafayette Park is butt-ugly. But it's perfectly designed for public sex. It's in a large metropolitan area and easily accessed off a major road, with groves of trees on one side of the main path and weeds on the other that are so dense and high that it's easy to disappear from view and still be within 200 yards of highway traffic.

Five minutes on foot in either direction from the parking lot, well-worn paths begin to appear, leading off the bike trail and down into the woods or closer to the stream, into a tangled warren of trails in the tall weeds. Walking there is like navigating a cornfield maze.

The Adams County undercover deputies made about a third of their Lafayette Park arrests in the parking lot, and the rest on the side trails. With each bust, a deputy either observed an alleged sex act in progress and arrested those involved, or inserted themselves into a situation where a suspect exposed himself or tried to touch the deputy's penis.

Dixon says the deputies didn't undergo any special training prior to starting their park patrols, but reading the arrest reports, it's obvious that the deputies followed a carefully pre-constructed script in their conversations with suspects. If a man asked what a deputy was doing in the park, he replied, "Just hanging out." If a deputy was asked what he was into, or what he liked, or what he was looking for, he answered with a suggestive but non-specific "just about anything."

To make a good legal bust, an undercover deputy had to get the suspect to make the first physical move, usually by unzipping his pants and whipping it out or by reaching for the deputy's crotch. By law, a law-enforcement officer is not allowed to touch suspects in a sexual manner prior to making an arrest -- that's entrapment. But there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding the kind of non-verbal cues -- such as eye contact, gestures and body language -- that undercover cops in sex parks can give off.

Working undercover, I was sitting in my pick-up when [the suspect] approached my truck and saw my CU hat. We started talking about their loss to Baylor over the weekend. I told [the suspect] I needed to get going. He reached in my window and grabbed my penis and tried to kiss me. This made me very uncomfortable. I then placed him under arrest.

-- arrest of a 37-year-old Golden man at 1:13 p.m. October 7.

Seven of the 91 men busted in Lafayette Park agreed to speak about their experiences with Westword. Two claim they were arrested purely by mistake: A 44-year-old Littleton man charged with alleged fondling on September 3 says he had jock itch and was innocently scratching his balls off-trail; a 33-year-old Denver man arrested the same day for indecent exposure says he has a bladder problem and a hard time controlling his need to urinate. "I wasn't jacking off," he explains. "I was just taking a piss in the woods."

The other five admit they were in the park for sex. But they all insist they were unfairly enticed by the undercover deputies who busted them. They claim the deputies leered at them and stared at their crotches or motioned them to follow them off-trail.

"He was giving me the look," says a 65-year-old Lakewood man also arrested on September 3. "I know the look, and he was giving it to me."

His arrest report is short and to the point: "The suspect walked past me pulling up his shirt and began rubbing his chest and winked his eye at me. He then turned around and walked back and reached toward my groin area. I then placed him under arrest."

After this is read to him over the phone, the Lakewood man sighs and agrees the report is accurate. "But they left something out," he adds. "The undercover agent winked back."

Another man claims that the deputy who arrested him was walking ahead of him on the concrete path, looked over his shoulder, then motioned with a sideways nod of his head for the man to follow him. Once they were hidden from view, this man says, the deputy put his hand on the man's shoulder and ran a finger over the button of the man's jeans: "He acted like he was teasing me, like he was about to unbutton me, so I did it myself, and that was when he arrested me."

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