True stories from a year we'd like to recall
There are good years and there are bad years — the ones you wish you could have back for a do-over, could simply recall. And 2013 certainly had its share of events that we wish had never happened, from the entire Colorado Rockies season to the weather: the drought that led to the summer's horrific wildfires, the downpours that resulted in devastating floods, the subzero temperatures that froze us in our boots in early December. And while same-sex marriage and marijuana dominated much of the news cycle, the biggest stories of the year involved guns, including tragic shootings — like the one at Arapahoe High School and the murder of prison chief Tom Clements — and laws passed after emotional, rancorous debate in the legislature that inspired eleven counties to vote on whether they should secede from Colorado. But that was just the start of the total recall: Pro-gun forces moved in and, yes, recalled two lawmakers, state senators John Morse and Angela Giron, who'd voted in favor of the laws, and inspired a third, Evie Hudak, to resign before she could be recalled as well. What else happened in 2013? Well, here's our list of some of the strange but decidedly true events from a year we'd like to recall.
THE REAL WORLD
The Denver TV market has always been competitive — but who'da thunk the competition would extend to snowy-patio photos? In late November, 9News anchor Kyle Clark starred in a hilarious rant in which he discouraged viewers from sending in photos of their snowy patios after a storm. "Good afternoon, Colorado. Listen. You know I love you. But it is time that we had a talk about your snow-covered patio furniture. Why is it that every time it snows, we whip out photos of our patio sets like we're showing off baby photos of our kids?" The video went viral but elicited a bit of backlash as viewers overloaded Clark with photos. In December, 7News took advantage of the situation in equally amusing fashion, soliciting patio pics with the hashtag #PatioFurniturePride.
Most bureaucrats are a bore to talk to on the phone. Not Resa Cooper-Morning. In December, CBS4 News reported that 54-year-old Cooper-Morning, the cultural-diversity coordinator at the University of Colorado Denver, had been operating a phone-sex line during the same hours that she was at work. She also ran a website where people could pay to watch her strip in "dozens of low-budget, soft-core videos," with names like "Ride Her Pony!" and "Vanilla Cocoa Butter Oil." An employee at the school for more than two decades, Cooper-Morning created her website in 2003, according to the report. But the website wasn't as big a problem as the possibility that Cooper-Morning was taking phone-sex calls while she was being paid by the state to work at the school. UCD put her on paid leave and is investigating.
Can a six-year-old kid sexually harass someone? That was the question raised in December when the Lincoln School of Science and Technology in Cañon City suspended first-grader Hunter Yelton after he kissed a girl on the hand, calling the offense "sexual harassment." The story went national and focused an enormous amount of unwanted attention on the school, which eventually decided to change the offense to "misconduct" and allowed Hunter back. The boy's mom, Jennifer Saunders, told media outlets that her son had been suspended before, for kissing the same girl on the cheek, but that the charge of sexual harassment was outlandish.
In January, police popped an 85-year-old man whom they accused of beating a 66-year-old volunteer parking-enforcement official — with his cane. The incident took place at a Home Depot in Stapleton after the sexagenarian allegedly confiscated the octogenarian's handicapped-parking permit, saying it had expired. The man had to use a walker in court because his cane had been confiscated. He also spent two nights in jail before community outcry convinced police to release him.
Joyce Bradmon, 76, secured a place as a legendary neighborhood crank when she was convicted of felony menacing for brandishing an unloaded but realistic-looking pellet gun after kids dared to use sidewalk chalk in her vicinity. The weapon was so convincing, in fact, that the father of one of the kids took cover behind a truck and called 911. "It's a pellet gun; it wasn't loaded," she told 9News, adding that her Greeley neighbors were "trash."
A man attending a Halloween-night zombie-rock-themed concert at ViewHouse Bar & Restaurant in LoDo was hospitalized (with non-life-threatening injuries) after he climbed over the railing on the top deck, according to a ViewHouse honcho, and then tried to jump onto an adjoining roof. He missed, and fell onto some wooden scaffolding about fourteen feet below. The kicker: He had come dressed as a mountaineer.
Although they were born long after the original Footloose hit theaters in 1984, some students at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland must have seen the 2011 remake, because they invoked the pro-gyrating flick in January after walking out on a school dance where their bumping and grinding was determined to be inappropriate. The students instead started dancing in the school parking lot, but were soon kicked out by police and not allowed back into the school for the rest of the night.
Political correctness went into overtime during the Halloween season on two college campuses this year. The University of Colorado posted a memo asking students to be careful of "stereotypical and offensive" costumes: "As a CU Buff, making the choice to dress up as someone from another culture, either with the intention of being humorous or without the intention of being disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of other peoples' cultures," the memo said, before singling out blackface, sombreros, serapes, geishas, Indian "squaws," white trash, ghetto, hillbillies and prostitutes. The University of Denver, meanwhile, said that "Halloween can also be a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of DU students can be forgotten and some poor decisions are made. So, if you are planning to dress up for Halloween, or will be attending any social gatherings planned for this weekend, we encourage you to think on these questions before deciding upon your costume choice: Are you wearing a funny costume? Is the humor based on making fun of real people, human traits or cultures? Are you wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies? Are you wearing a 'cultural' costume? Does this costume reduce cultural differences to jokes or stereotypes? Could someone take offense with your costume, and why?"
A smelly diaper led to a heated exchange between some Denver Starbucks employees and their customers last May — and eventually resulted in the police being called. The situation began when Ruth Burgos decided to change her one-year-old son's diaper at her table because there was no changing station in the restroom. According to news reports, a Starbucks employee called her out on the dirty deed and tossed her a rag. At that point, the boy's father, Alex Burgos, dumped his coffee on the floor and told the employees to clean it up. That's when the police were called. No one was arrested, and Starbucks apologized.
Phil Steel hates unmanned drones, and he attracted a huge media spotlight this fall when he drew up a proposed ordinance for the small town of Deer Trail that would let people apply for hunting permits that allow them to shoot drones out of the sky. A vote has been postponed at least twice because of legal challenges — not to mention the fact that it's illegal to destroy government property and that the FAA has said that shooting unmanned aircraft is a crime — but a judge has ruled that an election can now take place in January. In the meantime, Steel — a longtime skeptic of government surveillance — organized a drone-shooting practice event involving rockets.
POLITICS AND BEDFELLOWS
Greg Brophy, the same guy who actually wasted effort and energy twice trying to get a law passed that would have put Colorado on daylight-savings time year-round, was back with another time-waster in January. This time, the state senator from Wray introduced the so-called Drinking With Dad bill, which would have allowed parents to buy alcohol for their kids, eighteen and over, in bars and restaurants. Brophy said he brought the proposal forward because he was sad about not being able to buy his twenty-year-old daughter a drink when the family went out for dinner for her birthday. The bill was defeated. Oh, and by the way, Brophy is running for governor, so get ready to party.
Democratic state representative Dan Pabon — and a clothed group of Republicans — proposed a law that would have prohibited people from withdrawing welfare-money benefits at ATMs located inside strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores. The measure, which was similar to a recently passed federal law, was killed in April by Democrats — who said those ATMs are the only ones available in some poor neighborhoods — but not before the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reported the following quote from a Republican representative: "If you're on the dole, you shouldn't be on the pole."
In September, speaker of the house Mark Ferrandino, who is gay, and his partner, Greg Wertsch, revealed that they had successfully adopted a baby daughter. Most people congratulated them. But not former state senator — and champion of small-minded xenophobes and racists — Dave Schultheis, who wrote: "To deprive this little girl of a loving mother for the sake of self-gratification is perverted. I would place it in the category of deliberate child abuse." But the comments were nothing new for Schultheis, who'd landed in Westword's Hall of Shame in 2009 for his comments on Spanish speakers, AIDS-infected babies and President Obama, whom he compared to the 9/11 terrorists.
Jaxine Bubis was one of two El Paso County Republicans who wanted to replace Democratic Senate president John Morse, recalled from office in September because he voted in favor of several common-sense gun-control measures. But Bubis had a public-relations problem when it was revealed that she writes erotic fiction and calls herself the "erotic grammy." The El Paso County Republican Party ended up supporting her competition, Bernie Herpin (who eventually won), so Bubis filed a legal motion, saying that her own party had leaked the info about her writing and asked for $54 million in damages. The news drew national attention as well as this coy statement from one daily newspaper about the book Beantown Heat: [The book,] "which was available for download online and published by eXtasy Books — contains extremely explicit and graphic scenes depicting raunchy sex and other romantic encounters. Much of the content is not fit for publication in a family newspaper such as The Colorado Statesman."
Gary Flakes, who spent a dozen years in prison after being convicted of being an accessory to the shotgun murders of two teenage boys in 1997, ran for city council in Colorado Springs. Flakes said he had changed his life and was running because he has since become a leader. His announcement ignited a huge controversy in the city, but in the end, Flakes received just 238 votes.
"Hey, bartender, another glass of your finest Wimpy Ale, please!"
— A July tweet by Arapahoe County District Attorney (and almost gubernatorial candidate) George Brauchler, accusing Governor John Hickenlooper of being indecisive when making decisions, specifically regarding the death-penalty sentence of Chuck E. Cheese murderer Nathan Dunlap.
"I'd very much like to anally probe @govwalker each time he needs to make an 'informed decision.'"
— A tweet by comedian Sarah Silverman that state representative Joe Salazar retweeted in July, resulting in the Colorado Republican Committee's issuing a statement claiming that Salazar was calling for the rape of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Silverman's tweet was in reference to Walker's signing a bill that requires women considering abortions to get an ultrasound first; we don't know what Salazar wanted to probe.
And that wasn't the only time Joe Salazar got into trouble for firing from the lip. In February, while debating a bill that would have forbidden people with concealed-carry permits to bring their weapons with them into college buildings, the Thornton Democrat implied that women aren't able to handle themselves with a piece of steel and might shoot the wrong person while they were panicking. "Because you just don't know who you're gonna be shooting at. And you don't know if you feel like you're gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone's been following you around or if you feel like you're in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop...pop a round at somebody," Salazar said on the Colorado House floor. "It's why we have call boxes, it's why we have safe zones, that's why we have the whistles." The comments went viral, and Salazar was later forced to issue an apology.
"When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race: sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up, diabetes is something that's prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can't help it. Although I've got to say, I've never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down south and you...I love it."
— Republican state senator Vicki Marble, speaking about poverty and race in August; the remarks created a major hubbub in both parties, with Democrats denouncing them as racist at worst and insensitively stereotypical at best.
In September, Republican state representative Lori Saine couldn't leave well enough alone and decided to bring a box of Popeye's fried chicken to a discussion about the poverty rate among African-Americans at another meeting of the same committee where Vicki Marble had made her black-race comment. Saine first called it a silent protest, implying that she supported Marble. But later, after taking heat over the protest, she tried to blow it off, telling one news station, "I'm having chicken for dinner. Would you like a presser at my house?"
Chicken wasn't the only thing that fried state senator Vicki Marble's year. In May, she tried to have state representative Cheri Gerou, a fellow Republican, arrested, telling police that Gerou yelled at her and grabbed her arm so hard that she had to see a doctor about the pain, according to a report by the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels. Witnesses differed on their accounts of the confrontation, with some saying it was actually very minor; Gerou also denied Marble's version of the story.
You might be tired of the Macklemore song "Thrift Shop," which was ubiquitous in 2013, but not as weary of it as Samantha Malson. In April, police said the 23-year-old Longmont woman attacked her boyfriend, Lars Hansen, when he wouldn't stop singing along with the lyrics. "Malson said that she asked Hansen '25 times' to stop singing," according to a police report. "She said she pushed him a couple of times and, 'I grabbed him around the throat.'" Malson was charged with a misdemeanor, but the story went national after Macklemore himself shared it on his Facebook page.
In November, police busted a Longmont woman who had offered to give topless haircuts — not because of the proposed nudity, they said, but because she isn't licensed as a cosmetologist. Oh, the humanity! Suzette Hall, 46, was arrested after she began offering her services in an online ad, according to reports.
Alec Arapahoe, a twenty-year-old Longmont man, was arrested and charged with using a Taser on his 66-year-old grandmother and his 63-year-old great-aunt. According to police, Arapahoe showed up drunk at his grandmother's house in early January and got into an argument with her and her sister when they asked him to hand over the stun gun. He declined and began harassing them. That's when Arapahoe tased Grandma's rickety old ass. After missing a couple of court dates, Arapahoe finally pleaded guilty in December.
A 23-year-old Longmont woman was arrested in April after police said she drunkenly attacked a Boulder County cab driver when she couldn't pay the fare. Pepper Varga punched him, kicked him, bit him on the shoulder and hit him with a can of iced tea, according to news reports. The final insult: a painful titty twister.
Robert Elmar Taylor, 51, was arrested in Longmont after police said he stole an ambulance around 3 a.m. while paramedics were inside a home, helping an elderly woman who had fallen. The paramedics knew something was wrong when they heard the sound of their ambulance beeping — meaning it was backing up. Police said Taylor may have been drinking.
The Longmont Police Department issued an alert in October for a skinny Hispanic man between 5' 9" and 6' in height who was apparently riding his bike around town, grabbing women's asses, blowing them kisses and riding away.
THE SPORTING NEWS
Coors Field beer vendor Captain Earthman — who has been the only reason to go to Colorado Rockies games on many days — was fired in June by Aramark, the company that handles food vending in the stadium. Earthman, whose real name is Brent Doeden, told a local newspaper that he was canned after a dispute over where he could set down his beer tubs. The 57-year-old has been one of the city's most recognizable vendors for years because of his spacey outfits and fun razzing of fans.
Colorado Rockies co-owner Charlie Monfort was arrested in November and charged with driving through the town of Windsor with an alcohol level at more than three times the legal limit. The meatpacking mogul, 54, was also speeding, according to police.
Denver has had a love affair with its football team for decades, but new fans sometimes forget their history. Not Mike Fruitman, who owns Mike's Stadium Sports Cards in Aurora. Over the summer, he paid $2,550 on eBay for a barrel worn by the late Tim McKernan, known as the Barrel Man, who wore that — and nothing else — to every game. "It's not as heavy as I thought it would be," Fruitman's ten-year-old son told the Denver Post. "We Febrezed it."
A Kansas City woman caused a stir in both Denver and Kansas City in November when she posted a Craigslist ad offering to trade her wedding rings for tickets to the December 1 game between the Kansas City Chiefs, who were unbeaten at the time, and the Denver Broncos. Radio sportscasters debated the story for days, but the woman later revealed that the rings were from a previous marriage and no longer had emotional meaning. She eventually sealed a deal with a Chiefs season-ticket holder, who gave her tickets to both the Denver game and one against San Diego. The Chiefs lost both games.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
Princess Leia may have rather kissed a Wookiee, but TSA agents at Denver International Airport preferred to frisk one. In June, airport security confiscated a light-saber-shaped cane from Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, who'd been in town to attend Denver Comic Con. The cane was eventually returned.
Sure, they got the Wookiee — but federal agents at DIA managed to lose a man who was in the process of being deported from the U.S. to Gambia last January. Phoday Dumbuya, who had been convicted of assault in Denver, was walking into the airport with two immigration officials when he simply ran away, according to a news report.
A 24-year-old man who had been riding his bike — with a friend sitting on the handlebars — was charged with assault, resisting arrest and several other crimes in February after a Boulder police officer said he tried to strangle her. The officer had stopped the man for cycling under the influence; a second officer was able to subdue the man.
He wasn't the first person to be arrested in Colorado for riding a horse drunk, and he won't be the last. But Patrick Schumacher, 45, of Colorado Springs is probably the only person to do it during the course of a 600-mile trip to a wedding. Schumacher was popped in September after motorists reported that he and his horse — and their little dog, too: a pug in a backpack — were weaving in and out of traffic in downtown Boulder. Although all three spent the night locked up, they were released the next day. Schumacher then continued his journey to Bryce, Utah, for his brother's wedding.
Coloradans have to wear so many extra layers in the winter that they are quicker than most to shed them in the spring. But a group of revelers along the river in Durango may have taken things a little too far in May when they gave the full monty to passengers on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. According to the Durango Herald, a tourist took a photo of "naked men and women holding beers, whooping and hollering, and showing their backsides — and frontsides — for passengers aboard the train as it was pulling into town." The police were alerted.
Cops on bicycles aren't always taken as seriously as their brethren in police cruisers, probably because they don't look as cool pedaling and wearing bike helmets. But they're every bit as tough as their four-wheeled colleagues — and in Aurora, they definitely have the special skills needed to shoot over a pair of handlebars. The Aurora Police Department, which regularly shares vivid pics on Facebook, posted images of bike-patrol firearms training during the year. Mess with them at your own peril.
Where there's smoke, there's fire, and there was plenty of both in November when a woman drove her rental car onto the sidewalk in front of the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building and then set it on fire in front of a lunchtime crowd. Police arrested Anastasia Gordeeva, 39, and charged her with arson. According to the police report, the woman had a beef with the Denver Sheriff Department.
INTO THE FRYING POT
No sooner had Colorado's first recreational pot-exchange shop opened on January 1 than it was forced to close — but not because of any police action. The White Horse Inn, in tiny Del Norte, shut its doors after owner Paul Lovato got into a dispute with his landlord over the opening date. His lease wasn't supposed to start until the following day, and when the landlord realized how much media attention there would be, he backed out of the deal. The store wasn't selling pot, but it allowed customers to trade it — something that was allowed under Amendment 64, which had passed the previous November.
An American flag made out of hemp fibers flew high above the U.S. Capitol on July 4, thanks to Colorado congressman Jared Polis, who requested that this incarnation of Old Glory, provided by local hemp-farming activist Michael Bowman, be run up the flagpole. It is believed to have been the first hemp flag to fly above the U.S. Capitol since the 1930s.
As marijuana has become a booming industry in Colorado, so have pot-shop thefts, but one stood out last year because of the suspects: Police believe that two children, age twelve or under, broke into the Good Meds Network, near Sixth Avenue and I-25, and made off with plants valued at $16,000. Surveillance footage of the burglary, which took place at around 8 p.m. on July 21, shows that the suspects hung around the shop for 25 minutes.
Another pot-shop burglary that stood out: Two men wearing black clothing and ski masks robbed the Dandelion Dispensary in Boulder last January, spraying four people with bear repellent before fleeing. One of the victims, an employee of the pot shop, was taken to the hospital for treatment.
How safe are doggie pools in Colorado pet-care centers? Apparently dangerous enough that the Colorado Department of Agriculture considered a rule that would have made life jackets mandatory for dogs in the state's boarding kennels and daycare facilities; the proposal came about because of three dog drownings in other states.
It takes one to know one, but in the case of a horny moose in Grand Lake, things didn't work out so well. Over the winter, the moose took a liking to a statue of a moose in the town and proceeded to woo, court and eventually seduce the statue. Luckily for us, 9News was there, and produced an online slide show of the relationship (complete with a "Warning: Graphic Photos" disclaimer), including the money shot.
An elk that was part of a herd living near Morrison found itself with a decidedly urban problem in April. Photos showed that the female elk had a tire around her neck that she couldn't remove. State wildlife officials considered tranquilizing the elk so they could free her from the rubber necklace, but decided not to, in case the animal was pregnant.
Rocky, the supremely athletic Denver Nuggets mountain-lion mascot, has been thrilling basketball fans for more than two decades, whether by sinking backward half-court shots at halftime or flirting with the ladies in the crowd. Which is why it was so freaky in November when the man who dresses as Rocky passed out while being lowered from the rafters before a game, hanging motionless from a harness and collapsing on the floor. Thankfully, Rocky returned to form a few days later.
In August, Boulder police arrested Richard Moller and charged him with animal cruelty after witnesses said they'd seen him climb into a dumpster occupied by two raccoons and begin hitting the animals with a piece of wood festooned with nails. When one of the witnesses yelled at Moller for his actions, he responded, "All raccoons must die," according to a news report. One did; its body was found in the dumpster. The other's fate is unknown, since it scampered away before police could grab it.
A woman described as having "a small frame" was arrested in December by Douglas County Sheriff's deputies who said she'd been involved in a dozen home robberies. How do police think Mackenzie Mavis, age twenty, pulled them off? By crawling through doggie doors to get inside. One victim apparently chased her down and called police.
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