John Hickenlooper's "What the f*ck?" to sheriffs group caught on video

Updated with correction: Governor John Hickenlooper brought out the big verbal weapons during a Friday meeting of Colorado law enforcers on Friday, saying, "What the fuck?" after Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith didn't immediately accept his apology for failing to consult with the group before signing gun laws they oppose. And lucky for us, it was all caught on video.

See the clip below. That's followed by two Facebook posts by Smith, who can be seen laughing at the remark in the video. Update: The first version of this item incorrectly stated that the first of the posts had been deleted. We apologize for the error.

First Facebook post by Sheriff Justin Smith:
Where does our governor now stand on the gun control laws he signed in 2013?

9 News reached out to me for this story, but I was on the road back from the conference, so I wasn't able to respond in time for their story.

The County Sheriffs of Colorado extended the offer to the governor to come address the gathering of sheriffs at our summer conference. This portion of the event was open to the press and was attended by both the Aspen daily newspapers and a press outlet from Grand Junction.

The governor spent about an hour with us. He made remarks then invited questions from the sheriffs. Rather than beat around the bush, Sheriff John Cooke posed the first question about the gun control measures. Sheriff Cooke framed his question around statements that Governor Hickenlooper made at an event in Weld County about being a better listener. His question was simple and direct- why didn't you listen to the Colorado Sheriffs when we attempted to share our concerns about this legislation with you? The governor extended an apology for not being a better listener during this time. He told us things were very busy for him.

I wasn't taking notes, but my recollection was that he didn't apologize for his actions, but apologized for not listening and claimed he really didn't understand the issue until afterwards.

When Sheriff Cooke pressed him about why he supported the legislation without fully understanding it, the governor explained that one of his staff members made a public commitment that he would sign it, so he was obligated to keep the promise of this staff member. I found it shocking that the Colorado governor felt more beholdened to honoring the promise of a staff member over honoring his duty to represent the citizens of Colorado.

In finishing his response to Sheriff Cooke's questions, the governor claimed that he was unaware of the opposition of the Colorado Sheriffs until days AFTER he signed the bills. The governor explained he knew of the position of the Denver Police Chief, supporting the magazine ban bill and the governor used that as his justification for believing that law enforcement officials supported the bills.

He essentially staked his apology on a claim not knowing of our position and concerns until after he signed the bills.

I hadn't planned on asking a follow up to that same topic until I heard that part of his response. So I followed up by reiterating to the governor the extensive press coverage about our opposition and the fact that somewhere around 40 Colorado Sheriffs showed up at the Capitol building to testify in opposition while only one or two police chiefs testified in favor of them. I further explained that our association president had sent a letter to the governor's office expressing our concerns and requesting a meeting. I also told him that I had personally hand delivered a letter expressing my concerns to his office in the Capitol. Given these facts, I simply found it incomprehensible that he claimed he didn't know of our opposition.

I have to tell you that I was utterly flabbergasted at the response he made. From about 10 feet away, the governor looked me in the eye and snapped "I've already apologized, what the f*** else do you want?" Now, I'm a big boy and won't pretend for a moment that it's not language that's foreign to me- but I found that type of attitude and response to be well below the dignity of the office of governor. This was a sitting governor, in a public meeting, responding to another elected official.

From what I've seen, you won't find any reports of that exchange from any of the reporters who attended. That's a shame because I believe it's newsworthy for the voters to know the attitude and demeanor of their governor during this public event.

The important thing to know is that our governor does not apologize for his support of the gun control bills, rather he incredulously denies understanding the bills and blames his staff for committing his support- obliging him to sign the bills.

Second Facebook post by Sheriff Justin Smith:
What else happened at the summer Sheriffs Conference?

You've heard about the governor's "What the F$%*?" statement in response to my question about his claims he didn't know about the Colorado Sheriffs opposition to the 2013 gun control bills he signed.

It's also important to know what else the Sheriffs brought up to the governor. Sheriff Pelle brought up the concerns of all Sheriffs about the reality that our county jails are becoming the warehouses for the mentally ill. Sheriffs recognize that jails are for criminals, not those who aren't receiving the mental health treatment they need.

In Larimer County, we have drug courts, dui courts and now we are starting a wellness court, set up to specifically work with those who's core problems revolve around mental illness issues.

We also expressed frustration to the governor with the fact that his Parole Board continues to prematurely empty the dangerous felons out of the prisons and into the community (aka Evan Ebel), just so that they can close down prisons. Our communities are less safe because these dangerous convicted felons are being pushed out the back doors of our state prisons.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa January 2013: "Justin Smith, Larimer County sheriff, says he won't enforce 'unconstitutional' gun laws."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts