After Gorman got out of prison, he and Mestas went back into business together, but it wasn't the same. "I kind of got worried for him," Mestas remembers, "because you can only invite so many people into your home." He even purchased a security camera for Gorman, which he displayed in his living room but never hooked up.

In the end, Gorman's trust and his lack of security contributed to his death.

On February 11, 2007, Channel 4 aired a news segment in which he showed off his plants and offered up his patients for interviews. Six days later, he was killed.


Ken Gorman and Jan Kennedy were married in 1969.
Ken Gorman and Jan Kennedy were married in 1969.
Gorman (center) with Dominic Mestas (far right) circa 1994.
Gorman (center) with Dominic Mestas (far right) circa 1994.

Who killed Ken Gorman, and who were the two men seen fleeing the scene?

The predominant theories revolve around the gaggle of gang members Gorman kept as company.

"As long as I can remember, he had just an entourage of younger men who idolized him," Valency says. "Even to the day he was shot, he had a Vietnamese gang that was constantly there and loved him. He took in these kids who just had shitty lives. In his subtle way, he had an influence on their lives.... He had no fear. He would just kind of laugh in the face of all the craziness going on. I didn't feel safe going there."

One popular theory was given weight in a March 2008 Playboy article that focused on Lawrence, Gorman's former business partner in the Colorado Compassion Club. Lawrence, an ex-convict with an extensive rap sheet including hard-drug convictions and car theft, had reportedly ripped Gorman off, brewing bad blood between the two and their respective cliques. After the article was published, police opened up an investigation into Lawrence, but nothing has so far come of it. Lawrence, who many believe to have left the state, could not be reached for this article.

Diana McKindley, a close friend and medical marijuana student of Gorman's, says that shortly before his death, Gorman told her that he'd suspected one of his young disciples of stealing some of his pot and had banished him from the group. Her guess is that's the guy who killed him, but she never knew his real name. "I called him Boston because of the way he looked," she says. "The black leather boots, the jacket, the accent."

McKindley, who now operates a successful dispensary in Wheat Ridge, says she told police her suspicions in the days following the murder, but investigators at the time were more interested in finding out whom Gorman supplied marijuana to.

Denver police detective Aaron Lopez, the lead investigator on the case, and police spokesman Sonny Jackson wouldn't comment on the case, citing an ongoing investigation. Heavily redacted police records also provide no clues to the murder.

But Valency says that police have assured her they have a suspect, who may already be in prison.


McKindley says Gorman's death gave many people motivation. "When he got killed, a lot of us went underground for a year — and then we came out like gangbusters," she adds. "Now we're running the industry."

After Gorman's death, activist Miguel Lopez took over as director of the 4/20 rally. Lopez, who was admittedly high when he spoke about Gorman, says he's hoping to continue Gorman's legacy. (Lopez is running for governor as a write-in candidate on the November ballot.) But a self-described militant activist, he says he's no Ken Gorman. "He had a Gandhi-like spirit," Lopez says between sobs for his mentor. "I push the envelope. I have radical ideologies, but he was a happy, peaceful person.

"He'd be really happy and really proud of everything the people who represent the community are doing," he adds.

But Lopez is criticized among Gorman loyalists who say the rally has strayed from its beginnings as a political pot pulpit to become a theater for commercial business.

Mestas, for one, says he doesn't attend the rallies anymore.

At one point, the movement looked to Valency to carry on her father's legacy, but she says it's not hers to carry on. "I miss him a lot," she says. "It sucks. I miss going to the movies and spending time with him."

The last time Valency saw her father, they went out to the movies — an action flick — complete with popcorn, candy and sodas. It was just like a time, years earlier, that they'd seen a similar movie. On that day, in his comical, laid-back way, Gorman had mocked the movie, turning to her and saying, "I will avenge your death!" with gusto.

Now, Valency wishes she could find justice in her father's death.

She says she tries not to get caught up in questions of who and why. For her, it's a waiting game. "I don't even have any real hard feelings against the people who shot him," she says. "It's like he kind of agreed that's how his life would end. I kind of think it was cool that my dad went out in his glory: What a better way for a renegade to go out in that fashion? It kind of memorialized him, to some degree."

And he'd be loving every minute of today's environment, as the Mile High City goes up in smoke. "Dad, you did it," Valency tells her father in dreams, and if he were still alive, he would respond the same way he closed every rally, smoke-in and "Asshole of the Week" tirade: "Keep on smokin' them joints."

For video of the Channel 9 report, audio of Gorman's "Asshole of the Week" segments, selected writings and more, visit the Latest Word blog at westword.com. Contact the author at david.mcswane@westword.com.

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