Dave Thomas and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department
Outgoing attorney general Ken Salazar kept himself busy with more than coeds and kickers at the University of Colorado. A state grand jury also looked into allegations that officials in Jefferson County knew more about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold prior to the Columbine killings in April 1999 than they'd let on. In late September, the grand jury released a summary of its findings, including evidence that a few days after the worst high school massacre in history, District Attorney Dave Thomas met with a bevy of county attorneys, as well as then-sheriff John Stone and Mike Guerra, a bomb investigator with the Jeffco sheriff's office, to discuss -- and then hide from the public -- an affidavit that Guerra had drafted to search Harris's home in 1998. That piece of paper indicated that Jeffco had at least one flashing red-light warning about the soon-to-be teen killer -- and did absolutely nothing about it. The grand jury handed down no indictments, leaving instead a frustrating litany of what-ifs. What if Guerra's warrant had been issued and executed? What if Jeffco had followed through on Judy Brown's complaints that Harris possessed pipe bombs -- as well as the will to kill her son Brooks? What if Jefferson County had been more interested in the families of those killed and victimized by the two murderers than saving face with a grief-stricken public? The grand jury's summary doesn't offer any answers. But it does show us that Jeffco officials, in a moment when it was absolutely critical to serve the public interest, instead served their own. And in doing so, they added another sorry chapter to the shame of Colorado.
Marvin Heemeyer spent three years stewing over the many ways he'd been screwed in Granby, by Granby. The Grand County town had never let him hook up his muffler shop to its sewage line, as he'd so nicely requested. The Granby town council and planning board didn't listen when he tried to stop a cement plant from being built next door. The bastards didn't even try to stop him as he painstakingly constructed his "MS Tank" -- a sixty-ton Komatsu d355 bulldozer. So on June 4, he simply had no choice but to ram the goddamned thing through the center of town, smashing thirteen buildings, including city hall and the library. Heemeyer, 52, believed that God wanted him to destroy the town of 1,200 and that it was his destiny to die in the 'dozer. And indeed, when the tank got stuck in the back of a hardware store, Heemeyer shot himself in the head. His rampage cost more than $5 million, but the damage goes even further. In October, a group of local gals stripped down for the "Ladies of Granby 2005 Calendar," a fleshy, full-monty-style fundraising scheme. We can only imagine the naked-old-lady bit wasn't part of God's plan.
The Denver Police Department
In June, Denver announced that it would house the DPD's Intelligence Bureau files -- a controversial archive better known as the "Spy Files" -- in the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection. That was a welcome development for the American Civil Liberties Union and the hundreds of people and groups whose activities were documented in those files. In November, voters approved changes to the Denver Charter that will allow an independent monitor to serve as a DPD watchdog -- one of a series of reforms designed to encourage public trust in the cops, especially in the minority communities. But if the department really wants to earn the trust and respect of the public -- especially the Latino and African-American public -- it's just got to stop shooting people. In July, 63-year-old Frank Lobato was chilling in bed when Officer Ranjan Ford Jr. shot him in the chest after mistaking a soda can in his hand for a weapon. For the first time in over a decade, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter sent a cop-shooting case to a grand jury, which deadlocked on whether charges could be filed against Ford -- and so none were. Civilian oversight and accessible records are great things. But they're even better when they aren't overseeing and recording innocent people -- even ones with long rap sheets -- killed over a Coke.