Music History

The Smiths '80s radio-station takeover: What really happened according to the police report

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When Agent Hinkle arrived at the station just before 5:30 p.m., he found the suspect sitting calmly behind the wheel of his car. Upon engaging him, Officer Hinkle ordered the suspect out of the car and frisked him for weapons. While he was patting him down, Hinkle noticed a green rifle case, plus live .22 caliber rounds and a magazine clip resting on the dashboard, and that's when he began to ask questions.

"Not knowing what was going on," he writes in the report, "I asked the general threshold question, 'What's going on, partner?'" to which the suspect confessed, "'I was gonna hijack it, but I lost my nerve.' I said, 'Hijack what?' Suspect Kiss replied, 'The radio station -- I was going to make 'em play some tapes, but I couldn't go through with it.'"

That was enough for Hinkle, who found probable cause and placed Kiss under arrest, while Agent Hitchens interviewed the witness and Agent Binks processed the crime scene, seizing the suspicious items in the car with the approval of the suspect, who had evidently consented to the search. When Binks surveyed the vehicle, he found a cartridge with ten .22 caliber rounds in it, along with forty other rounds remaining in a fifty-round box in a plastic cup holder and a pellet gun on the rear floorboard. Along with the arsenal, Binks located a Smiths album on the front seat and a green backpack containing several cassettes, six featuring the Smiths and one featuring Morrissey.

On the way to the police station, meanwhile, Agent Hinkle advised the suspect of his Miranda rights, which he subsequently waived -- at which point Hinkle discussed the situation with the suspect, who laid out his plan about making the station play the music of the Smiths, explaining that "he would fire a round into the ceiling, if necessary, to convince them he was serious," according to Hinkle's report.

Kiss then evidently pointed out that the Smiths "play music about how insensitive everyone is," and added that he was planning to play their music as a protest. "Later, he alluded to one of their songs, which calls for a 'brave protest,'" Hinkle noted in his report. Kiss next explained that "he picked Y108 because they're number one," wrote Hinkle, noting the larger listening base, "and because they play Top 40 music, which the Smiths and Kiss regard as shallow, meaningless."

After revealing to Hinkle that he'd been by the station in August with a BB gun and had otherwise stopped by the station a number of times previously, Kiss explained how he had left the manual for the rifle, along with his insurance card and car registration, in a bag to be turned over to authorities after he took over the station. "That way we would know who he was, and that he was serious," Hinkle wrote, adding that Kiss's plan was to take four hostages and let everybody else go. After being booked and processed, Kiss was taken to Jefferson County jail.

Hinkle added these notes to the report: "In Kiss's left front shirt pocket was a photo button of a man he said is 'Morrisey [sic]'," one of the leaders of 'Smiths,'" and that Kiss purportedly told him that "he has felt like he 'doesn't fit' in today's world. He says he doesn't have any friends, and is also despondent because he's got hip problems which will require surgery."

What Hinkle and the officers didn't know -- and couldn't possibly have known at the time -- was the level of Kiss's despondency. When Arvada police searched his home, again with his consent, they found a magazine about the Smiths, a poem and a pair of letters, which were entered into evidence. In the letters penned to his parents just before the incident, Kiss spelled out exactly what he was planning and tried to explain why.

Continue on to read the letters he wrote

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera