Year in Review: The strangest people and events of 2012
The world didn't end on December 21, but it sure felt like it had at other times in 2012, especially as Colorado was subjected to shootings, murder, madmen, wildfires and presidential advertisements. This past year also held plenty of signs of the apocalypse for some people as legalized pot, Democrats and civil unions all gained firm footings in this state while the chosen one, Tim Tebow, made a fast exit.
Others saw signs of the end times in more innocuous trends, including cyclists in the streets, homeless on the sidewalks and pathetic seasons put together by the Rockies and Buffs. And there were plenty of other indications that this state was on the edge, if not going over entirely. Here's our look back at 2012: Doom with a view. — Jonathan Shikes
Strange but True
Two mothers in Manitou Springs brought new meaning to the term "keeping it clean" when they sprayed Febreze (first thought to be Lysol) on teens who were dirty-dancing at a high school prom in April. The women, Jennifer Farmer — a former school-board member — and Hannah Rockey, were also accused of calling some of the girls "sluts" and "whores." Both were cited for harassment after a student filed a police report, but they avoided prosecution after they agreed to apologize and donate money to the school's prom fund.
The photo said it all: a gas can buckled into a child's car seat, and a child, clad only in a diaper, sitting unbuckled next to it. Priorities, right? The Colorado Department of Transportation caused quite a stir when it posted this photo — taken by law enforcement during a Click It or Ticket campaign in Aurora — on its Facebook page. The mom, who told news outlets that things weren't quite what they appeared to be, was ticketed.
In September, a Greeley woman told police that her neighbor had broken into her house and stolen "a large selection of sex toys" and bottles of personal lubricant. How did she finger the culprit? The man's wife had tried to return the items, which she'd found on his bed. He was arrested and charged with theft.
It turns out the guy spanking his monkey next to you on a Southwest flight from Baltimore to Denver International Airport last September was a former Roman Catholic priest. Surprised? We're not. Sixty-three-year-old Daniel Michael Drinan logged into the airline's wi-fi account, pulled up some Internet porn and started fingering his rosary, according to police reports. And it wasn't his original sin: Drinan was suspended a decade ago from the diocese and later defrocked because of an incident involving a child.
As a player on the Basalt High School girls' basketball team, Lauren Redfern was a baller. But the balling didn't stop when she got a job as a gym teacher at her alma mater a few years later. Twenty-five-year-old Redfern was arrested in February after she was caught having sex with a seventeen-year-old male student in the teacher's bathroom, and charged with sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. Since the student was nearly eighteen, those charges were later reduced — but Redfern was arrested again later in the year. This time, she was one of a group of campers in Utah who were shooting guns, boozing and harassing people.
When it reported on disgraced CIA director David Petraeus and his mistress, Paula Broadwell, a 7News editor aired a picture of the cover of Broadwell's biography of Petraeus, All In. However, the version he grabbed off the Internet had been doctored to read All Up In My Snatch. 7News called it "a regrettable and embarrassing error."
A northern Colorado woman took such a disliking to a family member that in February she submitted a fake obituary to the Greeley Tribune, which ran it. The victim of the hoax, 28-year-old Edgar Balderrama, told news outlets that friends and family were shocked at the news of his death, then relieved to find out that the report was very premature.
Halloween gets creepier by the year, as people heap on the gruesome decorations to frighten trick-or-treaters. So maybe it's not that strange that a U.S. Postal Service worker didn't realize that the body draped on the front steps of a Denver home in November was a dead body. The family of the deceased was reportedly very upset that the mailman didn't stop to help, but the carrier explained that he'd thought the body was part of a leftover Halloween display.
Carmen Tisch is not a fan of Clyfford Still — or at least it appeared that way when the 37-year-old woman was caught on tape scratching, kicking and peeing on a huge, $30 million painting at the new Denver museum dedicated to Still's work. Tisch eventually pleaded guilty to felony criminal mischief and was forced to undergo mental-health and alcohol treatment in addition to serving some jail time. She later told Fox31 that she was under the influence of bath salts at the time and doesn't remember the incident.
"Sorry. I stole this bike. I rode it home. Please give it back — Drunk." That was the wording of a note left on a blue Trek bike that was left outside the Pitkin County Courthouse in March. The Aspen Times wrote a story about the note — a story that reunited the bike with its real owner, Aspen's Jay Maytin, who told the paper he didn't care who stole it; he was just happy to have it back.
A woman gave DIA officials a scare in April when she stripped naked in full view of other passengers at the security checkpoint. According to news reports, the woman became unhappy when she was told to put out her cigarette, and doffed her clothes after dousing her smoke. Pictures and video of the incident made the rounds on the Internet; the woman was taken to Denver Health for a mental-health evaluation.
A Green Valley Ranch resident who tried to get his cell phone fixed at an Aurora Best Buy store learned the hard way not to leave his phone logged on to his Facebook account. Just a few minutes after the man was given a new phone by a technician, who couldn't repair the old one, a status message was posted to his page that read, "I am gay. I'm coming out," according to a 7News report. The man isn't gay, nor was he happy. "It's totally not a joke," he told the news outlet. "I feel like I've been humiliated.... Calls started coming in immediately to my house phone. Friends, ex-spouses, they were all calling." The man said he'd been told by Best Buy that the employee involved had been fired.
In December, University of Colorado students Mary Elizabeth Essa, 19, and Thomas Ricardo Cunningham, 21, were charged with eight counts of second-degree assault and eight counts of inducing the consumption of a controlled substance after they allegedly baked up a nasty batch of pot brownies and served them to their history professor and fellow classmates without telling them what was inside. The teacher and seven students got sick; two were hospitalized.
Mount Evans gets a lot of crazy weather, but the small tornado that touched down at roughly 11,900 feet in July was a new one for meteorologists, who said it was the second-highest funnel cloud ever recorded in the United States.
Aircraft fighting a fire near Colorado Springs were grounded in June after authorities heard reports that objects, and possibly parts of a plane, were falling from the sky. The objects turned out to be pieces of a meteor that broke up over Kansas.
A woman had to go the hospital in May after she ran a stop sign at 16th Avenue and Pennsylvania Street on her bike and rode right into the side of a police car. The police car was dented. The woman suffered a head injury.
In July, a 24-year-old man jumped onto the roof of a moving taxicab in Boulder after it wouldn't stop for him. The man rode on the roof for a while before jumping off at a stoplight. He was later cited by police.
The YouTube video was both hilarious and frightening. Recorded by Boulder County cyclist Dirk Friel, it showed a man in a Ford Explorer slowly tailing Friel and another cyclist along County Line Road for several minutes, honking incessantly the entire way. The driver wouldn't pass the cyclists, who were riding far over to the right. The video, which went viral in September, led to charges of harassment and several traffic violations against 75-year-old James Ernst, of Erie; he has pleaded not guilty.
The bird is the word for Dan (no last name, please), a Denver man who hates photo-radar vans so deeply that he intentionally got a speeding ticket in February just so he could flip off the camera. Dan, who e-mailed a copy of the ticket and his picture to Westword, was doing 43 in a 30 mph zone. He didn't pay the ticket — and was served with a court summons later in the year.
No one likes to be served with legal paperwork, but a man in Denver took things a little far in June. After being handed the documents and getting into his car, the man reached through his window and grabbed the process server's arm, dragging him for several blocks before letting go, according to police reports.
In April, a Colorado man posted an ad on Craigslist saying he had to sell his 1994 Gold Wing motorcycle to cover the costs of his wife's boob job. "It's time to trade in one ride for another," he wrote. The bike was listed for $4,000.
Setting a President
Four-year-old Abigael Evans of Fort Collins captured the feelings of the entire nation — or least those of us living in swing states — when she burst into tears after yet another mention of the presidential race on the radio — in this case, an NPR story. "I'm tired of Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney," she said in a videotaped meltdown that her mom, Elizabeth, posted on YouTube in October. The video went viral, and NPR apologized for having caused the tantrum, sending a reporter out to console the girl.
Like the rest of us, Larimer County voters Butch Hartson and Ann Grant have the right to keep their politics private — or they would, if they weren't the only two residents of a new precinct that was inadvertently created when district maps were redrawn. Hartson is a Republican and his wife is a Democrat; their dog, Pippy, is unaffiliated. The precinct may be the smallest in the nation.
A college student who was doing an internship with the Democratic-held Colorado State Senate was arrested in February after he tried — and failed, miserably — to hit Mitt Romney with a "glitter bomb" (an increasingly popular form of protest this year) after Romney gave a speech at the Auraria campus. While Romney was shaking hands in a meet-and-greet line, twenty-year-old Peter Smith chucked blue glitter at him. Romney didn't appear to have been touched, but Smith was: He was fired from his job, and later pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace.
A plane carrying Ann Romney, Mitt's wife, from Los Angeles to Omaha had to make an emergency stop in Denver in September after smoke was detected in the cockpit and the cabin due to an electrical fire.
In October, Arapahoe County mailed out 230,000 ballots with "I Voted" stickers inside, which had the potential to rub against the ballot, leaving a line right where voters would draw it to pick a candidate. Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Nancy Doty said the marks were too faint to be detected by voting machines, but the situation still caused a stir.
If you live in the Casa Adobe Apartments in Colorado Springs, your rent is due. Oh, and if you voted for Obama, it's going to be higher. In late November, Casa Adobe landlord John Obringer notified tenants that Obama's policies were "resulting in increased taxes, regulations and mandates" that would force him to lay off employees and cut their pay. So, "If you voted 'Democrat' on Nov. 6, please notify me ASAP so I can raise your rent first to help pay for what you asked for," he told them.
Election Day? Yes. Erection Day? Not so much. Aurora police busted a man who was exercising his civic duties in an inappropriate way — by masturbating outside of a polling place on November 6. Authorities voted to give him a ticket.
The Sporting News
In January, Colorado House Majority Leader Amy Stephens invited the Denver Broncos then-starring QB and media lightning rod Tim Tebow to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol and lead the legislative body in its morning prayer. He declined.
Just a few days later, Tebow managed to answer a few prayers by throwing for 316 yards in an overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The significance? Tebow's favorite Bible verse is John 3:16, which he used to pencil onto his eye-black stickers in college. You know the one: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Sadly for Tebow, his life as a Bronco was not eternal, and it ended somewhat ignominiously in March, when the Broncos won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, signing the heralded free-agent quarterback and signaling the end of Tebow's magical year. Adding insult to injury: CBS4 News reported that "in the team room where the news conference was held to announce Manning's official signing on Tuesday, all the pictures of Tebow had been taken down."
Peyton Manning may have been the real second coming as far as Denver Broncos QBs are concerned, but that didn't stop a Greeley elementary school from sending a third-grader home in September for wearing a No. 18 Manning jersey. Why? Because the Greeley-Evans School District banned students from wearing clothes with the number 18 on them in 2009 after it became synonymous with the local 18th Street Gang, according to news reports. Several other numbers are also banned. Go, Broncos.
Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno ended the year on a high note, helping the team make it to the playoffs, but things weren't going so well for him back in February. That's when Moreno was pulled over for driving 70 mph in a 45 mph construction zone on I-25 in a Rolls-Royce convertible outfitted with a personalized license plate reading "SAUCED." Which was apt, since Moreno was also charged with DUI.
Aside from their World Series appearance in 2007, the Colorado Rockies have been pretty sucky since the team was created in 1993 — but never worse than in 2012, when they lost an epic 98 games. In July, as the misery unfolded, a few fans began wearing paper bags on their heads — a longtime tradition in sports. But the Rockies quashed it, saying that security rules prohibited face coverings — an excuse the Denver Post termed "nearly as laughable as their 'paired pitching' experiment."
In May, a woman shocked the Denver Nuggets and security guards at the Pepsi Center by strolling onto the court in the middle of a playoff game. The woman, Savannah McMillan-Christmas, was originally reported to be a known stalker of one of the players, but that information was later discredited. Her father told a news outlet that McMillan-Christmas is dealing with personal issues. She was charged with trespassing.
An Aurora first-grader was suspended for three days in May and accused of sexual harassment after he quoted a lyric from an LMFAO song to a girl who was standing in the lunch line with him. The six-year-old and the lyric — "I'm sexy and I know it" — disrupted the learning environment, according to Aurora Public Schools.
A Colorado Springs second-grader was yanked out of class in May for wearing blackface for a project on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The students had been asked to dress as a historical figure.
It takes a village to raise a child, but it only takes one meddling homeowners' association to tear that child down. In June, a private, Stapleton-area HOA banned sidewalk chalk after someone complained that a three-year-old girl was drawing flowers on the sidewalk in a shared area between houses. The story generated so much national attention that the Stapleton Master Community Association, which governs the majority of the neighborhood, distanced itself from the HOA.
"Don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish yet," said Governor John Hickenlooper on the day that Amendment 64 passed, paving the way for recreational use of marijuana in Colorado. The quote made headlines around the world.
"Now I get to introduce that rising sex star...symbol. I mean, symbol — not star," Governor John Hickenlooper said in introducing Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia to a bunch of kids, while the Denver Post caught the action. "This might go down as one of my most difficult press conferences in the history of the office," Hickenlooper added.
"I Have Riff-Raff In My Hoo-Hoo," proclaimed an advertisement placed on the side of an RTD bus in February. The ad, paid for by the Colorado Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy, was targeted at 18- to 29-year-olds and designed to educate them about sexually transmitted diseases. "It's slang that is very — it resonates with the target group," an organization spokeswoman told 7News.
"I am not a 25-year-old anymore. I wanted to do something with a more strategic focus," said Wil Alston, who was Mayor Michael Hancock's communications manager before transferring to a lower-paying job in the city's finance department in January.
"No one should miss out on good snow just because they live in Colorado," a spokesman for Big Sky Resort in Montana told 7News for a story on Colorado's terrible snow year. Big Sky and other resorts in surrounding states tried to lure skiers away from Colorado all last season with special deals and promotions.
"In his heart, he's not an American," said Colorado congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican, of President Barack Obama during a May fundraiser in Elbert County, one that was recorded. "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American." Coffman later apologized.
For a few weeks in April, the U.S. Forest Service publicly debated how to remove six cows that had frozen to death after getting trapped in an abandoned cabin near Aspen. Officials considered airlifting them out of the high-altitude area near Conundrum Hot Springs or hauling them away by truck, but at one point were leaning toward blowing them up. They ultimately nixed that idea because of high fire danger in the area, and eventually dispatched a crew of six to the cabin, where they sawed the cows into pieces.
Is that a dog in your pants, or are you just happy to see me? Actually, it's a dog. In September, Johna Turner was charged with animal cruelty after stuffing a tiny Chihuahua puppy down her pants during a domestic dispute, according to Longmont police.
In March, an officer ticketed Aspen resident Marion Lansburgh for not picking up her goldendoodle's poop — yes, it's Aspen. But in court — and, yes, it went to court — a judge ruled that the city's codes were ambiguous on the issue of poop pickup and said he had no choice but to find Lansburgh not guilty.
One of the most unfortunate — and most covered — animal incidents this year occurred in early February, when an Argentine mastiff who had been rescued the day before from a frozen lake bit popular 9News anchor Kyle Dyer during a live broadcast. Max the dog had fallen into the lake in Lakewood while chasing a coyote; he was saved by firefighter Tyler Sugaski, and the dramatic events were shown live on TV. The next day, also on live TV, Dyer was interviewing Max's owner and Sugaski when she put her face very close to the dog's. Max bit her, causing severe damage to her lip. Dyer had two plastic surgeries that kept her off the air for seven weeks; Max was held in quarantine for ten days and his owner was cited for the bite, for not having his dog on a leash, and other infractions.
A nineteen-year-old PetSmart employee was arrested in May for stealing two hamsters and at least three other small animals from his Westminster store and injuring or killing them. The man, who was charged with several felonies, told police he'd pinched one hamster for biting him and swung another around by its leg. He threw others against the wall or hit them repeatedly with his hands until they died.
In June, a young moose wandered onto a skate park in Nederland and got stuck at the bottom of a concrete halfpipe; his efforts to escape by running up the side of the pipe proved futile. Wildlife officials ultimately tranquilized the moose and lifted him out with a winch — but he later died from the stress.
Colorado Springs City Councilman Tim Leigh was hanging out on his deck with his wife and granddaughter in May when a feral cat attacked his pet cat, Annie. The councilman jumped in to protect his pet, and the stray turned on the elected official, savaging his hand so badly that Leigh had to go to the hospital.
After being burned by a TV radio transmitter in Colorado Springs in November, a skunk took out his aggressions by spraying the communications equipment, causing it to short out and leading to a satellite-TV outage.
Stop everyone and sort 'em out later. That's how Aurora police handled the hunt for a criminal in June. After getting a call about a robbery at the Wells Fargo branch at East Hampden Avenue and South Chambers Road, the cops decided that everyone was a suspect and pulled over more than two dozen cars at gunpoint just a few blocks away, forcing motorists out and handcuffing everyone. They eventually managed to locate an actual suspect.
In January, two women who were opposed to a planned five-story apartment complex in northwest Denver showed up unannounced at City Councilwoman Susan Shepherd's house and, after a heated conversation about the issue, began shouting at her in front of her young son and threatening to file a recall petition against her. The incident sparked an outcry and a Denver City Council plea for civility.
Denver Chief of Police Robert White was shocked — shocked! — to learn in July that airport cops are a pain in the ass when they force you to move on at passenger pickup, even when the person you are waiting for is only seconds from walking through the door. The chief reportedly lectured one of his officers after he told White's wife that she had to move along as she waited for White. According to the Denver Post, "White bawled out the cop, who was working off-duty handling traffic at the airport, because police should be willing to let someone wait in the passenger pickup zone for a few seconds if the traveler will be there in moments, he said." Welcome to the real world, Chief.
Wild horses almost couldn't keep Interior Secretary Ken Salazar away from Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Dave Philipps in November, after Philipps asked the former senator about the Bureau of Land Management's controversial policies regarding wild horses on public lands. "Don't you ever.... You know what, you do that again...I'll punch you out," Salazar said to the reporter — a threat that was captured on tape. A Salazar spokesman later said that "the secretary regrets the exchange."
It's a little awkward to have your jail named after one of the inmates, which is why Arapahoe County removed Patrick Sullivan's name from the building's title in April, re-christening it as simply the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office Detentions Facility. Sullivan had been the Arapahoe County sheriff for decades before retiring in 2003, then picking up a felony meth-for-sex charge eight years later that netted him a thirty-day jail sentence — to be served in the building once named for him — and two years of probation.
These accounts were compiled from reports in numerous media outlets across the state, including Westword.
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