Longform

Riot and Wrong

Page 3 of 6

Boyce still seems a bit incredulous when he talks about the Saturday night that changed his life. Earlier that evening, he and some friends had driven into Denver to check out a Reverend Horton Heat concert ("That's why I was dressed like I was," he says sheepishly), and they were already pretty liquored up when they got back to Boulder to find a full-scale riot in progress.

"The closer you got, the crazier it got," he says. "It was just like this fanatic energy with all the fires burning. I've never seen or imagined anything like it. I was loaded and wasn't thinking about consequences. I was right down there at the intersection for an hour and a half, all right on video, chucking shit at the police line. Then it started to get light and people started leaving. I remember some businesses getting busted up, and I guess that's what really sobered me up. My parents own a small business in Vermont, and when I saw some people throw a rock through the window of the Deli Zone and some guy come running out with a handful of cookies, I realized that I didn't want anything to do with it anymore. It was a strange and emotionally charged experience, and not a particularly pleasant one at that."

On the police videotape, a dazed-looking Boyce can be seen trying to walk right past the police skirmish line that he had been hurling rocks at all night and quickly being arrested by Commander Joe Pelle.

"I couldn't quite figure out what he was doing," says Pelle. "I'd been behind the police line all night and had been watching him in that stupid cowboy hat throwing rocks. I wasn't going to let him just walk away. But when I grabbed him, he had nothing to say. Even when I asked him what the hell he was doing, he was just stoic."

Boyce explains that he was simply dazed by a whole night's worth of rioting. He was joined in lockdown by five other rioters whom police caught in the act. One was Connell. Three others, David Martinez, William Hodak and Chad Lawson, served six months in jail. Hodak and Lawson have been exiled from Boulder as part of their plea bargains. Damon Dickey, a former CU football player, walked away from his work-release program after serving three months of a nine-month jail sentence. Authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest.

Boyce is the only one of the Boulder rioters who's still in jail. Oddly, he seems to be thankful for his predicament. He spends most of his time in jail working in the kitchen or in his one-man cell penning college-application essays (he's been permanently expelled from CU, where he studied journalism and took "a lot of criminology classes"). But he says he still can't explain why he participated in the riot.

"I know it sounds ridiculous when I say that I wasn't trying to hurt anyone, but it's true," says Boyce. "You couldn't even see the cops out there. It was just a line of dumpsters with tear gas getting launched from behind them and bullhorn warnings. I never saw a cop face-to-face, and I guess that's one of the reasons I didn't take off earlier. It was almost impersonal."

Despite the fact that Pelle was one of the prime recipients of Boyce's barrage, he doesn't totally dismiss the youth's explanation. "I know when you have cops in gas masks and helmets, they're not looked at as individuals," says Pelle. "I guess to him and those other kids, we were inhuman and intimidating. And when you combine that with the mob mentality, people just get caught up in the moment. That feeling of anonymity can make people do stupid things. And none of us are interested in seeing someone put to death for stupidity. Boyce is paying a stiff price."

Boyce himself is well aware that it could've been stiffer.
"This has been the largest learning experience of my life," he says. "It's allowed me to grow up, get my priorities straight and realize that I did a lot of really stupid things when I was loaded. Don't get me wrong--I wish it hadn't happened, but it allowed me to focus. It all boils down to the fact that I fucked up, made a mistake, and I learned from it. This could've ruined my life, and I shudder thinking about what could have happened if somebody had died. I'm just blown away about how two hours resulted in such a drastic change in my life. It's definitely made me appreciate everything I've got.

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Tony Perez-Giese