Smoke and Mirrors

Page 3 of 11

Haro stood squarely behind the Crusade and its militant cry for change. Although he spent most of his time at his service station, he opened the Crusade's weekly meetings, traveled with Gonzales, helped organize rallies and did whatever he was asked to do. He even ran for mayor on the Raza Unida Party ticket in 1971. The Crusade had become one of the nation's most prominent Chicano-rights groups. Juan Haro believed.

Daril Cinquanta loved being a cop. He loved everything about it. The long hours. The stale doughnuts. The look on a punk's face when he slapped on the cuffs. "It was wonderful," he says. "The best."

Today, ten years after he traded in his DPD badge for a private investigator's license, Cinquanta keeps cardboard boxes of old case files and thick black binders of news clippings.

"I don't think I was a normal policeman," he says. "I worked every day. Even my days off. I loved the chase. The challenge. Catching stickups in progress. Solving whodunits. You have no idea how great that was. I didn't care if I was a detective or a patrolman. I loved working the street. I was good, too. Really good."

Cinquanta was 21 when he joined the force in 1970. He worked all parts of the city and closed all kinds of cases, but he focused on the Hispanic community. The compact Italian with a large nose, a thick mustache and a silver tongue has been called both a supercop and a racist thug, but he shrugs off his detractors. He didn't care about skin color, he says. He was unpopular only because he made so many arrests and "put 1,000 people in prison."

But understand this: Cinquanta wasn't into writing parking tickets. He wanted robberies, thefts, dope deals, murders. If something big went down on his beat, he wanted to know. And one of the ways he knew was through a network of informants who dug up dirt and snitched to make a little cash, stay out of prison or take down competition. If you want to catch a crook, he says, use a crook.

Late one night, Cinquanta found one of his best sources. The cop was standing outside the notorious Las Casitas housing projects at Federal and 13th Avenue with a hot tip. He had just heard that two fugitive robbers lived there, so he crept closer to the front door to see if they were home.

Just then a short, stocky man walked out and practically bumped into him. Cinquanta pressed his nickel-plated .9mm pistol to the man's head and frisked him. In his pocket, the officer found a bag of marijuana.

"Look," Cinquanta said. "Work for me and I'll save you a trip to the pen. Do deals for me and I'll drop the arrest for weed."

The man was Joseph Cordova Jr., a former Marine wounded twice in Vietnam and dishonorably discharged after he tried to rob a Denver pharmacy while on furlough in 1969. Cordova had also done some prison time and had dabbled in petty crimes since his release. He considered Cinquanta's offer for all of two seconds before agreeing.

In the months that followed, Cordova and Cinquanta worked some twenty cases. In exchange for his help, Cordova received cash and deferred prosecution on drug and other charges. Cinquanta made his way toward detective.

In August 1975 Cordova called Cinquanta with another tip: A friend of his dad's was making grenades at a Phillips 66 station and bragging about doing "something permanent" to a police station. His name: Juan Haro.

Cinquanta had heard of Haro and knew all about the Crusade. Four years earlier Cinquanta had been shot in the torso during a traffic stop by a gunman who left behind a cap with a Crusade for Justice button. The gunman had fled to Mexico, possibly with the Crusade's help, before being extradited to Denver and convicted for shooting the cop.

Afterward Cinquanta had made it his business to learn about the group and its members. His conclusion: "They were terrorists. They openly advocated shooting policemen, overthrowing the government and civil disruption. They were dangerous."

He and other officers suspected that revolutionary factions within the Crusade had either engineered or supported many of the Denver bombings in 1975 and had ties to international terrorist groups, including Puerto Rican radicals.

Cinquanta passed the grenade tip to bomb squad captain Robert Shaughnessy as he sat behind his typewriter, absorbed in his work. "If you get one," he told Cinquanta, "call me."

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Harrison Fletcher