An Uphill Battle

Lance Hering asked his best friend to help him disappear. What happened next is a real cliff-hanger.

They had worked their way across some of the best rooftops in Boulder that night. The hot spots along the Pearl Street Mall, a few choice locations on the Hill, then a brief stop at Jimmy John's for subs before hitting the red-brick buildings of the University of Colorado. But there was one more challenge before they headed home: Savers Thrift Store, standing before them on Broadway like an irresistible mountain of hand-me-downs. Lance and Steve were into parkour, and had incorporated a passion for rock climbing into their version of the urban free-running sport, practicing their tactics for hours on end. No structure in Boulder was safe from the night-crawlers, who could leap, squirm and shimmy their way to the top of just about any building, then watch the clueless masses below, like a couple of all-knowing superheroes.

"Once you get to the point where you have some decent finger strength and you are not afraid of heights, you can do some really cool, crazy stuff," Steve says.

By four in the morning on August 7, 2004, the superheroes were on top of Savers, sitting on a roof hatch and discussing Lance's recent decision to join the Marines. They didn't realize that their weight on the hatch had depressed it, tripping a silent alarm. Suddenly they heard the sound of cars encircling the building.

Steve Powers (above) used to climb in Eldorado Canyon with his best friend, Lance Hering.
Anthony Camera
Steve Powers (above) used to climb in Eldorado Canyon with his best friend, Lance Hering.
Lance Hering was crazy for climbing and thought that joining the Marines would keep him in peak physical condition.
Lance Hering was crazy for climbing and thought that joining the Marines would keep him in peak physical condition.

"The police showed up and started shining lights around," Steve remembers. "We just thought they were after people scavenging in the dumpsters and bins. We never thought they were after us. We were just up there playing ninja spy, you can't see us, ha, ha, and if they were after us, we figured we were cool on the roof."

They retreated to the center of the roof and listened as a much larger vehicle pulled up outside Savers. They thought it might be a delivery truck making an early-morning drop-off to the King Soopers in the same Table Mesa Shopping Center complex. But it was a fire truck outfitted with a ladder bucket.

"We looked over the side and saw this officer in a bucket being raised up," Steve says. "And we got down in this dark corner, crouching, hiding, thinking, 'What are we going to do?' We were shaking with adrenaline. If I could change anything, I would have just calmed down and walked over to the officers and said, 'Hey, we're on the roof. Sorry.'"

Instead, the two fumbled and bumbled like a scene out of the movie Bottle Rocket.

"When he shined his flashlight on us, I panicked and actually said the line, 'Oh, darn, they've seen us.' Which is pretty awesome," Steve continues. "Lance looked at me and just had this look on his face, like, 'I don't believe you really just said that.' Then the two of us kind of simultaneously panicked. We jumped off the roof, right above the 'V' in Savers, and dropped two stories to the ground."

The officer later filed this report: "I saw two men wearing ski masks, running westbound from the northern edge of the upper portion of the roof. I identified myself as a Boulder Police Officer and ordered them to stop. The two men continued running, and jumped down to the lower quarter of the roof, and then over the northern edge of the roof to the ground (approximately fifteen feet).... I looked over the edge of the roof and noticed one of the men running westbound through the parking lot. Officer Foster, Officer R. Bostrack and Deputy Pohl (with K-9) were chasing on foot, and ordering him to stop. I then noticed Officer Nicholas and Sergeant Everett handcuffing the other man in front of Savers, on the ground...he had not resisted arrest."

But Steve had. He hit the ground running and blew through the ring the police had formed around the perimeter of the complex, thinking he was in the clear until he heard an irate shout behind him. "I remember an officer screaming, 'Get down, get down now! Stop! This is the police, stop! We're releasing the dogs!' And I remember not believing them. We're just trespassing, I thought. There is no way they are going to release the dogs. And then I heard the pitter-patter of little puppy feet on the concrete behind me, and that was probably the most intense, mortal fear I've ever felt in my life."

Then he heard Lance calling after the dog. "He was screaming, 'Here, puppy, puppy, puppy! Here, puppy, puppy!' And he got the dog to turn, which is totally not supposed to happen."

Steve kept running for about a mile, then hid in some bushes while he caught his breath and tried to calm down. He ran through a couple of scenarios for alibis, for how he was never at Savers at all, but soon realized how dumb the whole situation was -- and that he probably shouldn't have left his best friend behind to deal with the fallout. So Steve returned to the scene of the crime, where he was arrested and taken down to the station.

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