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4/20 shooting at Civic Center Park: What I saw and heard

Civic Center is quiet this morning: the grass raked, the trash collected...and the crime scene tape down. The Denver Police Department had used it to cordone off the southeast corner of the park after after multiple shots rang out -- stampeding the crowds and leaving three 4/20 celebrants with bullet wounds. The shootings happened just over half an hour after 4:20 p.m., when tens of thousands of pot partiers lit up in a collective puff to celebrate the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado. But all those high spirits soon evaporated.

As I headed toward the park shortly before 5 p.m., I passed a half-dozen motorcycle cops parked just east of Broadway. That was a good sign, I thought: The 4/20 moment must have passed without incident, and the DPD was letting the party continue on.

I was on the southeastern edge of the park, about a hundred feet from the Greek Amphiteatre, when I heard the shots -- probably a half-dozen by my count, although activist Timothy Tipton heard more. After the horrific events of the last week in Boston, the last year in Colorado and Connecticut, the last decade around the world, they sounded unreal. But the crowds that started running in all directions were real enough. So were the motorcycles that soon sped into the park, stopping just before the wall to the east of the amphitheatre, where a man was down. His dog was by his side. As police cars arrived, the crime scene tape went up.

Across the park, you could see more people running in different directions, as rumors started spreading. Police cars and ambulances were speeding down Broadway (turns out, there was a traffic accident at 11th and Acoma streets about the same time). But much of the scene was surprisingly calm. While thousands had fled, thousands remained in the park. Outside of the barricaded corner, many people were waiting to find out what had happened (two people wounded in the legs were transported in the hospital, one person grazed by a bullet walked there, and the DPD are still looking for suspects), waiting to see if the music would start again (it didn't), passing joints while they waited to figure out it the party was over.

It was, at least for last night. What buzz wasn't killed by the shots was finished off by the rain that arrived shortly after 6 p.m., putting a final damper on the country's largest 4/20 celebration.

From the "Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Will reporters have to stay pot-free in Colorado? Not at Westword."


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