December turned Denver into a giant snow globe, sealed off and insulated from the rest of the world -- but with a whole lotta shaking going on.
The shakiest sight was just off Speer Boulevard on New Year's Day. An Off Limits operative driving out of downtown just after 8 a.m. found a squad car blocking her usual turn left onto 11th Avenue. Ninth was still open, though, and after she turned there, she looked out the driver's side window -- and spotted a white stretch limo surrounded by crime-scene tape, with cops climbing all over it.
Two hours later, she got word on her car radio (right after a Gerald Ford update at the top of the national news) that the limo had been the target of a drive-by shooting, and that one of the passengers, Bronco Darrent Williams, had been killed. He and his party had been headed downtown from Shelter, the nightclub at 1035 Broadway, where he and "some of your favorite Nuggets and Broncos" -- including Tatum Bell, D.J. Williams and Brandon Marshall, as well as J.R. Smith and DerMarr Johnson -- had been the hosts of the third annual Safari New Year's Eve party. "Guaranteed to have a good time," promised the e-mail invite from the promoters, 3DEEP Productions, at "one of the hottest clubs in Denver history."
They had no idea how hot it could get.
3DEEP is a partnership between Francois Baptiste and Alvin LaCabe. If that last fellow's name sounds familiar, it should: His father is Alvin LaCabe, Denver's Manager of Safety, the position that oversees the Denver Police Department -- which is very busy right now trying to solve the murder of Darrent Williams.
Other snowbound sights were much less earth-shaking and far more amusing. On the Wednesday before the promised second blizzard, spirits were high as the kitchen crew of Lola boarded off the snowbanks behind the Olinger's building, where the restaurant is located and the mortuary still parks its fleet. That same night, a randy couple in the second floor conference room of the Davis Graham & Stubbs building gave quite a show to the people dining across 17th Street at Jax Fish House; trouser trout was the evening special. And then there was the group of guys smoking outside of Tarantula Billiards on 15th Street, who started tossing snowballs -- one of which hit a homeless man across 15th Street, who ran across the street and pulled a knife on the smokers. (Hey, smoking is dangerous, don't forget.) At which point one of them punched the homeless fellow in the nose, and another called the cops. The homeless man was arrested; the snowballer went free.
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Ride 'em, cowboy: Driving over the frozen ruts on Denver's side streets feels a lot like you're riding a frisky bronc -- a handy reminder that the National Western Stock Show hits town this week. But another bump in the Stock Show's way has been flattened, and just in the nick of time.
An Off Limits operative heading home from Denver International Airport on westbound I-70 very early last Thursday morning was shocked -- shocked! -- to look down at the National Western grounds and see...absolutely nothing where a ramshackle, two-story building had stood in a sea of parking lots. The Victorian structure, rumored to be the original jail for the town of Elyria before it was consumed by Denver, had been in private hands, and its owner had refused to either fix it up or sell it to the National Western complex. So there it sat, an outpost filled with history and debris, an eyesore and an irritant to Stock Show management.
But in this case, not seeing was believing. Because the building is indeed gone. "They came in somewhere around Thanksgiving and just demolished it," confirms National Western's Kati Anderson.
The owner, McDougal and Co. , has turned the spot into another parking lot. And the rest is history.