Smoke and Mirrors

Page 5 of 11

Although Cordova had worn the body wire most of the day, at the last minute he left the microphone in the Plymouth for fear of being searched. So as the rest of the plot unfolded, police watched in silence.

About 8:30 p.m., Cordova called Haro's house and told Haro's wife he was having car trouble. He asked for Haro to meet him at the King Soopers. Haro did, and they inspected the Plymouth one last time.

Cordova then drove the stolen car to South Alcott Street and West Cedar Avenue. Haro picked him up there and drove the five blocks back to his house on West Exposition. Quintana arrived thirty minutes later with the blasting caps, stopwatch and some of the dynamite. Haro had the rest on hand.

About this time, police saw Corky Gonzales drive by the stolen Ford near Children's Hospital several times and examine the car very closely.

At 9:15 p.m., Quintana left Haro's home. Several minutes later, Haro and Cordova followed. Haro drove his Olds to the stolen Plymouth, dropped off Cordova, and wheeled around. Cordova put the bomb in the backseat of the Plymouth, got in and pulled away from the curb. Haro followed him.

Police didn't know how many bombs had been made, and they didn't know how many cars were en route to which substations. But they didn't want to lose Haro or Quintana in traffic. At 9:30 p.m., they acted.

Quintana was forced off the road at South Zuni and West Virginia and arrested. Haro was yanked through his window, thrown to the street and cuffed. Cordova was also detained.

Along with Cordova, Haro was stuffed into a car with Cinquanta, who told him, "If anyone gets killed tonight, you're a dead man." The officer later said he was referring to the death penalty, but Haro took it as a threat on his life and allegedly mumbled: "Let me dismantle it. All you have to do is cut the wire. I made the bomb. I know how to do it."

He never got the chance. Shaughnessy and the bomb squad lifted the dynamite from the Plymouth, clipped a wire leading from the stopwatch and disabled the bomb. The time remaining: Fifteen minutes.

Many things have been said about Ernesto Vigil: that he's a hothead, that he's wound tighter than a spool of thread, that he sees intrigue in even the simplest of events, that he looks over his shoulder one too many times and that he wears his scar from the March 17, 1973, police shootout like a badge. And all of those things might be true.

But you cannot say the man is disingenuous. He is meticulous, thorough and committed. Although he has a way of approaching a subject through the scenic route, his theories are usually grounded in dates, documents and research. If he cannot verify a statement with a fact or a footnote or a file from his tattered brown briefcase, he'd rather not venture an opinion.

In his book, Vigil holds nothing back.
In August 1977, he writes, a 49-year-old man walked into Crusade headquarters on Downing Street, distraught and nervous. His name was Varoline Joseph John Cordova Sr. He was the father of a police informant and said he had information about the Haro case. "The government," he said. "They used my boy."

By this time, Haro and Quintana had been acquitted on state charges of attempted murder, arson and conspiracy in connection with the 1975 bombing plot. But Haro had been convicted in federal court of illegally possessing hand grenades and sentenced to six years in prison. His attorneys had appealed. The Denver Chicano Liberation Defense Committee was also gathering evidence for his defense.

When Varoline Cordova walked into Crusade headquarters, he was directed toward defense-committee members. As he spoke into a tape recorder, he reinforced suspicions that Crusade members had long held about the bombing plot: namely, that Haro had been framed by cops who were willing to break the rules and an unstable informant with a reason to lie.

Joseph Cordova had grown up in northwest Denver, where Varoline owned a grocery store. When he was five, Joseph suffered a serious injury, and a steel plate was placed in his head.

"The best neurosurgeon saved his life," Varoline Cordova told defense-committee members. "But I had a retarded boy."

At seventeen, Joseph brought home a Marine Corps recruiter and told his father he wanted to enlist. Varoline Cordova refused.

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Harrison Fletcher