Off Limits

Not much happens in Woodland Park. It's the place where the Millennium Holiday Tree, which was used to celebrate Christmas in Washington, D.C., will be sliced up to make park benches; it's a jumping-off point for people heading into the Pike and San Isabel national forests for hiking, biking and other fun. And before a tip that the "Texas Seven" had holed up at a local trailer park slapped this sleepy town wide awake on Monday, the major news event out of Woodland Park was the saga of Squeak the Elk. Squeak, of course, was the town mascot who was shot and killed last October 27 on the orders of a Colorado Division of Wildlife official.

Here's how the Texas Seven showdown compares to that of Squeak the Elk:

The Outlaws: Seven dangerous and high-profile prison inmates who had escaped from a Texas prison. Squeak the Elk, a two-year-old pet elk who was raised and fed by Woodland Park locals after her mother was killed by a car.

The Crimes: Convictions for the Texas Seven ranged from murder and rape to armed robbery and child abuse. Squeak had allegedly threatened the safety of motorists and chased people.

The Tipsters: An employee of the Coachlight RV Park saw the Texas Seven on America's Most Wanted on January 20 and called authorities when he realized that the seven men crammed into a 34-foot-long Pace Arrow RV on the property were one and the same. Numerous people phoned the DOW to complain that Squeak was stopping highway traffic and chasing campers at Southmeadows Campground.

The Weapons: The escapees were armed with "dozens and dozens" of loaded weapons, according to reports, including .357 Magnum pistols, rifles and shotguns. Squeak had hooves.

The Disguises: Police reported that several of the former inmates had altered their looks. Alleged ringleader George Rivas had dyed his hair blond and grown a goatee. Another Texan had dyed his hair orange; a third had grown his hair long and added a shaggy beard. Squeak, who was often dressed up by townspeople for special occasions, was painted pink, wearing an orange vest and had a Halloween pumpkin costume wrapped around its neck when she was shot.

The Busts: More than sixty officers from the ATF, the FBI and several Colorado police and sheriff's departments were involved in the Texas Seven apprehensions. While ambulances and hospitals from Colorado Springs to Denver were on standby for mass casualties, three fugitives were taken into custody at a gas station. A fourth was arrested in the RV that the group had been living in. The fifth shot himself. Squeak was shot on sight by a Teller County sheriff's deputy acting on DOW orders.

The Aftermath: Two fugitives are still on the loose, possibly headed for Mexico, possibly sitting next to you right now (their van was found Tuesday in Colorado Springs). The others will most likely be transported back to Texas -- very carefully. Squeak's death outraged town residents, who are still fuming that their pet was shot to death rather than removed to some safe place. An animal refuge, say, or a prison in Texas. Or a Woodland Park trailer park.

Home away from home: But wait! This wasn't the first time an accused murderer had holed up in Woodland Park during a country-wide manhunt. Jesse James Hollywood, a twenty-year-old who is still wanted in connection with the kidnap and murder of a fifteen-year-old boy last August in Santa Barbara, California, allegedly visited the town shortly after he allegedly committed the crime. And Woodland Park High School coach Richard Dispenza, Hollywood's godfather, was arrested August 23 for allegedly harboring the fleeing felon. Dispenza denied the charge and has pleaded innocent.

Maybe John and Patsy Ramsey should focus the search for their daughter's real killer in Woodland Park.

And maybe the folks at MSNBC should expand their horizons -- or at least their view of Colorado. As the cable outlet was reporting the breaking news in Woodland Park, it displayed a handy map of Colorado, filled with all the important landmarks: Denver, Colorado Springs and...Littleton. What, no Boulder?

Littleton, of course, is the alleged home of the Columbine High School massacre -- which really took place in unincorporated Jefferson County, but don't bother telling the national media that.

The paper chase: Because of the breaking news in Woodland Park, Denver's dailies bumped coverage of their own JOA to the bottom of the front page. And even the announcement that Invesco Funds had offered $120 million for naming rights to the new football stadium -- made at a meeting of the Metropolitan Football Stadium District board Monday morning -- didn't score as much press as it might have. Not that Invesco provided any details beyond this statement:

"We appreciate the opportunity to present such an offer, and believe the offer we have submitted helps the district meet their stated goals of reducing taxpayer burden while retaining the history of the Mile High name."

If not the actual Mile High Stadium name, since the proposed "Invesco Field at Mile High" drops the word "stadium" entirely.

But Richard Healey, senior vice president at Invesco, was considerably more forthcoming in a letter to Lew Cady, Invesco shareholder and, not coincidentally, a moving force in the push to keep the Mile High name. When rumors of Invesco's deal first surfaced, Cady wrote a letter of protest to the company. And on January 11, Healey responded thusly: "The controversy surrounding the naming of the new stadium has unfortunately become politicized, with very few details reported being either accurate or based on fact. Any involvement that we may have had, or may have in the future, has been at the request of the Metropolitan District Commission in an effort to reduce taxpayer liability. Whatever happens regarding naming conventions, it is important to understand that this is ultimately a business decision by the Broncos on how they can maximize revenue flow as they control all inventory within the new complex."

Hmmm...any involvement is "an effort to reduce taxpayer liability"? How about half of that $120 mil going to Pat Bowlen for inside signage -- read: "inventory" -- at the stadium?

But Healey wasn't quite done. He concluded: "The stadium in and of itself, without the Broncos, holds little value albeit sentimental."

Hmmm again. Tell that to the taxpayers coughing up three-quarters of the stadium's cost.


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