UNDER THE GUN
Francisco Duran, the Colorado Springs man who allegedly attempted to assassinate President Bill Clinton in Washington, D.C., on October 29, was inspired to take action by a Colorado militia group.
Although initially Duran's White House shooting spree appeared to be an impulsive rampage, he actually put his plans together in mid-September. And he may have had help.
Before he left town, Duran told his wife, Ingrid, that she would have "a lot of money coming in." She feared that her husband planned an assassination attempt and told others of her concerns.
"Frank is being used as a scapegoat," says Jose Gutierrez, Duran's brother-in-law. A native of Buenos Aires, Gutierrez says he knows the price of revolution all too well. "Frank was betrayed."
Citizens' militias--paramilitary groups tied to the "Patriot" movement--now exist in twenty states, including Colorado. Law enforcement sources believe that three militia organizations are operating in the Colorado Springs area. The largest, they say, is the fast-growing 200-member Save America Militia based in the town of Calhan. According to Gutierrez, a private investigator and former corrections officer, his brother-in-law attended meetings of that group.
Duran also listened to militia members and Patriots on talk radio. One day in August, Duran tuned in to Chuck Baker's local talk show, On the Carpet, on KVOR-FM. Baker's guest was Linda Thompson of Indianapolis, the self-styled "acting adjutant general of the Unorganized Militia of the U.S.A" who has her own national shortwave radio program and a phone information bank for Patriots. Thompson was talking about plans for a march on Washington, D.C., during which Patriots would shoot members of Congress and "retake the government."
A man named "Franco" was a frequent caller to Baker's show. But Thompson's appearance inspired a call somewhere else.
On August 23 a man later identified as Duran phoned Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell's office and threatened to "take someone out" in Washington.
Was Duran inspired by the militia's talk of a march? "Bingo," says Gutierrez. "Now you've got it."
From the start, Francisco Duran and Colorado Springs were a potentially lethal combination.
The mix took only a year to explode.
The following account is based on interviews with several people who were close to Francisco or Ingrid Duran--and have never been interviewed by the FBI. The principal details have been confirmed by either Ingrid or Gutierrez, who is married to Ingrid's twin sister, Corrine.
Duran married Ingrid in 1989 in Hawaii, where he was serving a two-year stint as a medic with the 25th Infantry Division. But after ramming his car into a crowd of people in August 1990, Duran was court-martialed and convicted the following March of aggravated assault with a vehicle, drunken driving, drunken and disorderly conduct, and leaving the scene of an accident. He was jailed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he learned the upholstery trade and served two years of a five-year sentence.
In the meantime, Ingrid Duran and her infant son moved to Colorado Springs, where Corrine and Jose Gutierrez live. Ingrid had worked at a McDonald's in Hawaii, but she decided to become a medical transcriptionist and enrolled at Pikes Peak Institute, a school specializing in health-career training. She eventually got a job at Community Health Center, Inc., in Colorado Springs.
Although Duran reportedly was released from Leavenworth in February 1993, it wasn't until late summer that Ingrid took time off from her job to welcome him home with what she calls a "get-together." Almost immediately afterward, Duran flew to New Mexico because a relative had died--either through an overdose or suicide, Ingrid doesn't know which. Shortly after he returned from that trip, Duran told his wife that another relative was dying, and he left again. "I didn't know his family all that well," Ingrid says.
Eventually, though, Duran settled down with his family, got a job at the Broadmoor as an upholsterer and started getting involved in local groups. And in the Security-Widefield area where the Durans lived, it was easy to find others with like interests.
Colorado Springs has always been a military town, home to the Air Force Academy, the headquarters for the North American Defense Command and the super-secret underground installations inside Cheyenne Mountain where many national decisions would be made in the event of a nuclear war.
But there has always been another military presence in the area as well: Fort Carson, the large Army base located to the south, at one time one of the city's largest employers. In the Colorado Springs military hierarchy, Fort Carson's enlisted men were the troublemakers, the ones who got into bar fights. Still, they had something in common with the people in the more prestigious military outfits: Many fell in love with the Colorado Springs area and eventually retired there.
The class distinctions remained, however. The more elite officers retired north of the Springs and in other higher-priced areas. The enlisted men, both retired and on active duty, congregated south in the Security-Widefield area near Fort Carson, where they were close to the PX, the commissary, medical facilities and lower-priced housing.
For decades the military--both active and retired--had dominated the political scene. But over the past several years, religious groups have been moving into the Colorado Springs area, lured by the scenery and economic incentives offered by the city. While retired generals and their wives for years had ruled the El Paso County Republican party--essentially the county's only political party--now the religious right was gaining influence and the military types were losing it.
And at the same time, a new kind of vet began moving into the Security-Widefield area--Vietnam vets who brought with them an abiding distrust of the "system" and the people who run the government.
What had always been traditional Republican country was gradually turning into a land of suspicion and paranoia. Right-wing radio stations like KVOR and talk shows such as Chuck Baker's found an eager audience (see sidebar, page 16). Gun shops became an important gathering place where former military men could talk.
And after the election of Bill Clinton, that talk started to get serious.
According to his brother-in-law, Francisco Duran had always been attracted to militia-type groups. "Frank and the militia were longtime friends," Gutierrez says. "It goes back to high school." Duran even tried to take Gutierrez to some meetings of his "buddies," the Calhan militia that sometimes meets in area garages.
Duran was involved with "five or six groups," Gutierrez adds. "When Frank was in jail, he changed from being a Catholic to a pagan. Frank had his own ideas. He talked a lot about revolution, but I never took him seriously."
Not then, at least.
At one point Gutierrez met some of Duran's new friends. "They came by his house," he says. "I was there. A bunch of these buddies were there. They talked about fishing gear, and those guys bragged their gear was better. Frank wanted me to go to this crazy meeting, but I didn't.
"He had a lot of crazy books. He gave me one with a red cover, a scale of justice, Lucifer and a snake around the scale...it was something about justice biting you like a snake." Gutierrez says he's familiar with some Patriot literature, such as Cheque Mate: The Game of Princes and The Unseen Hand; the books Duran was reading fit that profile.
Gutierrez is a member of the National Rifle Association and the Colorado Firearms Coalition; he says he's concerned about Congress eroding the right to bear arms. But unlike Duran and other militia members, he says, "I believe that my vote counts...these guys don't even vote."
But they certainly talked--and about much more than influencing the political process at the ballot box. "Frank was impressed by the man who crashed his plane near the White House," Gutierrez says. "He couldn't understand how the guy missed the White House itself, and he was convinced someone was making a lot of money off of the incident."
According to Ingrid Duran, this summer her husband began disappearing without explanation for anywhere from several hours to an entire weekend. The couple was fighting over their five-year-old son, who'd begun exhibiting signs of emotional problems, and also over Duran's alleged affair with a local woman named Emily. Duran also had "pornographic pictures" of a woman he'd corresponded with while he was in prison, who'd "act out his fantasies," Gutierrez says. "He shouldn't have brought them home with him, but what could Ingrid say?"
After the Durans had a fight, Gutierrez adds, "he'd take off, go away and then he'd come back stoned. He wouldn't tell her where he was going, because she'd get mad. She had waited two and a half years for him to get out. How would you feel if you were her and your husband wanted to go off weekends?"
Ingrid Duran complained to friends about the family's finances, saying she'd been debt-free until Duran came home from prison. They'd "always had good credit," she says, which was how they were able to have two credit cards with high credit limits, as well as a cellular phone. Now Duran was buying guns and other paramilitary equipment.
On September 13, the day the Omnibus Crime Control Bill passed Congress, Duran purchased the SKS semi-automatic rifle he used in the assassination attempt from High County Wholesale Firearms. (The day he left town two and a half weeks later, he tried to buy a handgun at the same place but was turned down when the required check showed his arrest record.) Duran already had an extensive security system in his home; now he had Gutierrez help him install one in his truck.
In late September Duran transferred $6,000 worth of debt from one of the couple's joint credit-card accounts to a second account his wife used. When Ingrid found out and confronted him, Duran told her she'd soon have "a lot of money coming in" from "whatever he was going to do," Ingrid says.
On Friday, September 30, Duran told his wife that he was going to buy some targets. He never returned home. Even though Ingrid had gotten used to him leaving for several days, this disappearance was somehow different. She filed a missing persons report the next day.
Over the next few weeks, Ingrid Duran spoke to several people about her husband's disappearance. At first she seemed unconcerned, they say, but later she began talking about the fact that he'd taken his guns and ammunition and about how she'd found a letter to him from a militia group. (Ingrid now denies finding such a letter.)
Ingrid said her husband had told her he "wanted to make history." She told co-workers she was worried that he was thinking about an assassination attempt, and added that she was "scared." They advised her to notify authorities. According to Gutierrez, Ingrid later called the FBI and "left a message on their machine" but never heard back from the agency.
By mid-October she was receiving credit-card bills indicating that Duran had been in San Antonio. She says she thought he might be visiting "an old Army buddy" named Frank Martinez there.
San Antonio is also the headquarters for the Texas Constitutional Militia. The group is led by Bill Utterback, who was reportedly an anonymous guest on Baker's KVOR talk show two weeks ago.
Although Ingrid Duran initially denied having any contact with her husband after September 30, she now confirms that he called her from the road sometime before the White House shooting. He "wanted to be in the history books," Ingrid says he again told her.
According to Gutierrez, Duran told his wife that he planned "to make a statement" by shooting at the White House and "even getting killed."
"Look, I feel strongly about what I'm doing," Gutierrez says Duran told Ingrid. "I want you to raise Alex the best you can." Duran said he'd planned his action for Alex's birthday.
"That was October 18," Gutierrez says. "He was late."
On October 29 Francisco Duran reportedly shot 29 bullets at the White House, missing the man he apparently mistook for Clinton but leaving a huge gash in the wall and narrowly missing Chelsea Clinton's bedroom window.
In his truck, investigators found a map with the words "Kill the prez" scrawled on it, along with a four-page note written by Duran that mentioned the possibility of killing Clinton. Another note found on Duran after the shooting discussed the distribution of his property should his death be imminent.
Property seized from Duran's truck included a shotgun, a gun magazine, a gun bag, shotgun shells, twenty-round boxes of ammunition for the SKS semi-automatic rifle, a shoulder holster, a gun-cleaning kit and four used targets. There were also two dozen Atrophine injectors (syringes filled with doses of medication that soldiers use to combat poison gas) as well as two units of an unknown drug, campaign gear, compressed fuel packets, rope, tools, a fishing rod, medic shears, a machete, a knife sharpener, a mix of new-age music tapes, occult literature and porno magazines, thirty-one tapes, eight CDs, twelve books, four newspapers, nine magazines and a stuffed animal.
Meanwhile, back in Colorado Springs, Ingrid Duran was telling friends, "Money talks, bullshit walks" and demanding between $5,000 to $50,000 for her story. She now says she wanted to be paid because Duran ran up debts of over $10,000. (Although no media outlet has yet shelled out for an interview, Ingrid recently told her husband's lawyer that Duran had promised she'd be "debt-free.")
Ingrid reportedly dodged her first interview with the FBI, scheduled for October 31, by going home early. But agents caught up with the reluctant witness the next day at the clinic where she worked. "Oh crap! They're here," she said to someone she was speaking with on the phone when the agents walked in at 5 p.m.
Ingrid was in the conference room with the agents for three hours. During that interview, the agents pressed her about phone and credit-card bills. She left the interview extremely rattled, sources say, upset that the FBI had been able to get copies of her bills.
Although there's a phone listing for Dykes in the Security-Widefield area, it has been disconnected. The FBI has been approaching people and groups that appear on those phone bills, checking for any knowledge of Frank Duran, Franco Duran, Ingrid Duran, Stephen Dykes and Steve Dykes.
One group that appeared on the telephone records, Citizens Against Government Waste in Washington, D.C., apparently attracted Duran's attention because its phone number, "1-800-BE-ANGRY" appears on cable television. Leslie Paige, CAGW's media director, confirms that the FBI came into the group's office, showed Duran's picture and asked about various people, including Stephen Dykes. She also says other right-wing groups, including taxpayer resisters, have received FBI visits.
So far, most of the FBI's investigation has taken place in Washington. And local law enforcement officials, some of them extremely familiar with the militia, complain that they have been shut out of the investigation from the beginning.
On the same day Ingrid Duran met with the FBI, her husband's public defender, Leigh Kenny, called and asked that she come to Washington for the preliminary hearing the next day, November 2. Ingrid asked for money to cover her plane fare, a limo and her hotel room, as well as reimbursement of $6 an hour for her time--slightly more than she was earning at her job. She also asked that her sister be paid for watching the Durans' child and said she wanted to spend an extra day in Washington so that she could visit the Smithsonian and the Washington Monument, as well as the spot on Pennsylvania Avenue where the shooting had taken place. She also needed new clothes, she told Kenny, because she had nothing appropriate to wear. The public defender turned her down on the clothes, and Ingrid now says the public defender's office didn't pay for her child care or the limo, either.
Her husband was surprised to see her--partly because where he's being kept is "so hard to find," Ingrid says. She didn't ask her husband anything about the shooting, she says.
Since returning from Washington, though, Ingrid has started to blame her husband's actions on radio talk-show hosts and "those men. Those other guys should have been punished, too," she told a friend. "Frank is just the fall guy...it wasn't his fault that he fell into this group. They influenced him."
According to Gutierrez, the men who influenced Duran were "righteous, pious, holier than thou." The situation reminds him of kids in elementary school, he says. "The boys make a plan to all stand up for something, but when the time comes, only one boy stands up--the others just sit there like they don't know what's going on. That one boy is Frank."
Leslie Jorgensen is a Colorado Springs-based freelance journalist who has covered Colorado politics since 1984. Sherry Keene-Osborn works for Newsweek and has been a journalist in Denver since 1970.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.