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Such nuances mattered little to the CIRT team or to District Attorney Storey, who found that Johnson used "lawful and appropriate force" for the situation. Other officers who participated in the sting had their guns drawn and told investigators they would have taken action if Johnson hadn't.

"Yes, I would have shot him," Colorado State Patrol officer Kelly Pickering said, "in self-defense of me and other police officers."

"I had never seen determination like this," Bickmore said. "He just wouldn't stop."

Although his care in the prison system costs the state more than $200,000 a year, a medical parole for Darrell Havens drew protests from Arvada police.
Mark Manger
Although his care in the prison system costs the state more than $200,000 a year, a medical parole for Darrell Havens drew protests from Arvada police.
Havens celebrating a birthday shortly before his 2006 motorcycle accident.
Havens celebrating a birthday shortly before his 2006 motorcycle accident.

A search of the Audi turned up property stolen in a Jefferson County burglary and a vial of meth -- but no gun. While paramedics tended to Havens, an Arvada sergeant drove Bill Johnson back to headquarters and secured the detective's Glock. The twenty-year veteran cop was visibly shaken.

"I don't know why I'm crying," Johnson told the sergeant. "He tried to hit me."

Twenty-one months later, Havens appeared in a Jefferson County courtroom and received a twenty-year sentence. His court-appointed attorney signed the usual paperwork stating that his client was competent and not "presently operating under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication." But his father says that Darrell was clearly doped up on painkillers at the hearing and could barely function.

"The judge had to keep repeating his name to get him to answer questions," says Gerald Havens. "His eyes were rolling back in his head, and he kept nodding off. I tried to tell him to take this to trial. Twenty years for someone like him is a life sentence. He was so medicated that I don't think he understood a damn thing."

Havens remains on an extensive regimen of drugs at Fort Lyon -- although, because of Department of Corrections restrictions on pain medication, not all the medications that family members say he needs. Since he's been at Fort Lyon, he's battled several serious infections, suffered heatstroke from being left in a hot shower and filed grievances over the deteriorating condition of his wheelchair. Prison life makes few allowances for quadriplegics, even in the special medical-needs unit.

Warden Wasko says Havens meets the demanding criteria for a medical parole, from the exceptional degree of his health needs to the type of crime he committed. (Sex offenders aren't eligible.) The process involves extensive review through various layers of the prison administration before an application ever reaches the state parole board. Only a handful of prisoners have actually received such a parole in the past decade -- even though, in cases like this one, such a parole could save the state millions of dollars in medical costs.

Havens sailed through the internal review process and scrutiny by the entire parole board, too, which is primarily concerned with whether the offender poses a risk to the public. In January the board approved his transfer from Fort Lyon to a house in Denver, where he would begin serving five years of parole, effective February 8.

"Nobody is saying he's any kind of angel, but I don't have a sense that he's a risk, based on his condition," says former board chairman Michaud, who signed off on the plan. "The only thing he can do is wiggle his left hand."

Havens's family lined up nursing care, a special bed and other equipment he would need in his new home. But less than 48 hours before his scheduled release, Havens learned he wouldn't be headed to Denver after all. The board had "suspended" his parole, he was informed, "due to additional information."

At first, nobody could tell him what the additional information might be. Then he was told it had to do with the fact that a joint had been found in a pocket of his wheelchair when he was recovering in a nursing home, prior to his sentencing -- in other words, he'd continued to "commit new crimes" after being shot. But Havens says the board already knew about the marijuana infraction when it approved his parole.

The real explanation, he suggests, has to do with his lawsuit against the police officer who shot him. "I had a hearing scheduled in Denver for my civil suit on February 8, the same day I was supposed to be released," he says. "So I filed a continuance, saying I was being paroled that day and didn't know if I would be in Denver in time. I filed that continuance on February 4. The Arvada city attorney's office would have received it at the same time. The next day they pulled my parole."

Documents obtained through an open-records request support Havens's version. After Arvada officials learned of Havens's impending release, parole chairman Michaud, a former Denver police chief, apparently received a phone call from Arvada police chief Don Wick. Wick then followed up with an e-mail providing "a summary of Havens's background that provides additional explanation beyond what is shown in just his criminal history."

The summary notes that Havens continued to pursue his "criminal career" even after being partially paralyzed in the motorcycle accident; that the Subaru theft victim had been "thrown from a moving vehicle" and a witness in the Sheridan case had been nearly struck by him; and that after being caught not once but twice with marijuana after being shot, he failed to pay his fine.

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