Throw It All Down

Michael Lanahan's life was a puzzle, his death a mystery wrapped in a song.

"He definitely tried to date girls on the team," she says. "All the guys did. When we first met, he was 19 and I was 22. I had grown up with guys, always been one of the guys, so I was never uncomfortable with him. At some point he tried to hit on me, and he quickly learned that it wasn't going to happen.

"But he lived a block away from me, and he'd just walk into my place, walk past me, grab something to eat and then come back and say hello. And then he wouldn't leave until the next day. That's how our friendship was."

In Patten's experience, Lanahan was as harmless as a frisky puppy. If he tried to "get friendly" and you weren't into it, you just told him no, and that was the end of it.

Spees, Lanahan and other longboarders in happier 
Mark Manger
Spees, Lanahan and other longboarders in happier times
Secret romance: Annaliz Hilberg learned about 
Lanahan's troubled past on their second date but 
decided he was "a great guy who had incredible 
Mark Manger
Secret romance: Annaliz Hilberg learned about Lanahan's troubled past on their second date but decided he was "a great guy who had incredible intentions."

But in another situation, with another woman, the line between no and yes wasn't quite so clear. After a few drinks, nothing was clear at all.

Excerpt from a University of Colorado Police Department report, May 9, 2002:

On 5/8/2002 at about 0205 hours myself and Ofc. McAninch were en route to a criminal mischief call that had just occurred in Baker Hall when we noticed a visibly intoxicated male with lacerations on his hands and right leg that were still bleeding...

I noticed the strong smell of an alcoholic beverage coming from the male's breath. The male's eyes were watery and bloodshot and his speech was slow and slurred...The male said that he lived over on East Euclid and was walking home when he fell on a broken bottle of Southern Comfort. The male said that he was an Eagle Scout and had applied pressure and bandages to the wound to stop bleeding.

I asked the male if he had any identification. The male pulled out a wallet and quickly flashed me a red driver's license...I grabbed the wallet from the male...the driver's license was from Ohio and listed the male as Michael Merton [sic] with a date of birth of 4/28/79. I asked the male how old he was. The male said he would not answer any questions without equal representation.

The Ohio driver's license was visibly fraudulent...Upon further inspection of the wallet I noticed an RTD bus pass with the name Michael Patrick Lanahan...The male admitted that his name was Lanahan. Lanahan informed me that his correct date of birth was 4/28/82.

Lanahan was issued MIP summons number 12788. The fraudulent identification card that Lanahan possessed under the name Melton was seized.

The Outlaw

"Alcoholic? No, I wouldn't say that," Jeff Malin says. "He was definitely an alcohol abuser. He liked to binge, and that's such a culture these days. He was an extreme social drinker, and he saw virtually no consequences from it. I remember dragging him by his neck after he got shoved out of a party, and a flask in his pocket smashed and cut his leg up. We took him down to the hospital for stitches. We walk in, and there's a cop there. The cop turns around and says, 'Hi, Michael.' It was the same guy who'd found him bleeding another time.

"There was never a point where he was drunk for weeks on end. But when he got in trouble, it was generally when he was drinking."

"He definitely had a problem with alcohol," adds Flores. "It's one of the things I feel guilty about, because I drank with him, too. It was college, and we just dismissed it. It was the time to be doing this."

"I never saw it as a problem," says Patten. "CU was the number-one party school in the nation. He was right there with the rest of us."

"Most of us wanted to say it wasn't an addiction," says Julsen. "I think the alcohol was a tool to fix a deeper problem that wasn't going to go away, something that had been with him for a long time. It was something he was trying to heal with the alcohol. With the women, sometimes. And with the extreme sports."

Amy Gosch joined the swim team during Lanahan's senior year and dated him for several months. "If he was at a party or around people, it seemed like he had to drink," she says. "I talked to him a couple of times about it, but he would brush it off. Later, when his parents came out, I talked to them. His mom's opinion was that he was doing it to numb his emotions so he didn't feel anything at all.

"That made perfect sense. He didn't talk about his feelings much. He would come across as very sincere, but sometimes you could tell he was just saying the right thing or whatever. He was a very caring person, but he didn't want to care too much."

Lanahan was cited at least three times in two years for underage possession of alcohol. He spent a few days in jail after failing to show up for a court hearing and failing to complete required alcohol-education classes and community service. But these setbacks didn't deter him. His wild behavior kept escalating. He was pushing the boundaries, seizing dubious opportunities to game the system.

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