The Eight Strangest Colorado Stories of 2014

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Colorado rang in 2014 with a bit of a mellow buzz -- a certain relaxed attitude -- and it was a feeling that lasted throughout the year. Sure, that mellow was harshed by continuing problems with police and sheriff's deputies, as well as a very contested (and expensive) election season. But we also got a few needed civics lessons in the form of same-sex marriage and student protests. In the end, though, our minds remained tuned to the biggest story of the year: legalized marijuana. What will 2015 bring? Who knows? Anything can happen when you're a mile high. For proof, here are our strangest Colorado stories of 2014, compiled from news sources across Colorado -- including Westword. Or, you can check out all our Year in Review 2014: Strange But True.

See also: The Year in Review 2014: Strange But True

Unusual people have been associated with carnivals and fairs for hundreds of years. But times may be changing, at least in Boulder County. In August, the Boulder County Fair shut down a sideshow featuring Little Liz, the World's Smallest Woman, after a couple of fair-goers complained that the sideshow, which allowed people to take pictures of themselves with the 29-inch-tall Liz, was inappropriate. Similar sideshows -- or freak shows, as they used to be called -- have been closed in other states because people claim they are exploitative. But fair organizers pointed out that Liz, who is from Haiti, can't earn money if her show is closed.

Police officers were suckered into a video-game-playing hoax

in August when someone reported an active shooter in an office building in Greenwood Village. It turns out that someone had called in the hoax, saying there was a shooting with hostages taking place inside the offices of The Creatures LLC. The online gaming company is run by gamer Jordan Mathewson, who happened to be playing

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

at the time and streaming it live. As a result, the video of a SWAT team bursting into the office, detaining Mathewson and searching the room ended up all over the Internet and eventually went viral.

In May, pilot Brian Veatch, who worked for Drag 'n' Fly Banners, accidentally crashed his small plane into a home in Northglenn after losing most of his power during a flight. Luckily, Veatch was able to walk away from the crash and no one on the ground was hurt. Turns out that Veatch had lived in the house, on Livingston Drive, about ten years earlier; Veatch told news outlets he had no idea it was his old house until after he'd gotten out of the plane and walked around.

For some unknown reason, Colorado has had more than its share of would-be terrorists. The latest story involved three teenagers who allegedly tried to join ISIS in October. Students in the Cherry Creek School District, the teens, two of them sisters, told friends of their plan to fly to Germany, Turkey and then Syria to join the radical cause; officials stopped the girls at the airport in Frankfurt after the school district alerted them to the situation. The girls had apparently taken money from their parents, paid cash for their tickets and then flown out of DIA; their parents reported them missing when they didn't return home from school. Although school-district officials say they believe the teens were victims of online predators who were looking for recruits, an outside monitoring agency told news outlets that the girls had been talking with jihadists for a year via e-mail.

Two ten-year-olds were injured in June when the inflatable bouncy castle they were playing in was picked up by a gust of wind and tossed about 300 feet across a field in Littleton. The story was picked up by national news outlets, which found several additional cases of bouncy castles being blown by wind and injuring children over the past year.

Colorado State University student Stefan Sortland had a rough Halloween. According to police and news reports, the eighteen-year-old took some ecstasy and cocaine and then headed off to a party and a concert. But he was kicked out of the show's venue and sometime later stole an unoccupied ambulance on campus -- the paramedics were apparently treating a student having a seizure -- and took it for a joyride, all the way to Loveland. That's where police found the vehicle in the middle of Highway 34, completely wrecked. Sortland was standing nearby, wearing an EMT vest and holding a box of crackers. The cops shot him with a stun gun when he wouldn't obey their commands. And the fireworks didn't end there: Down at the station, Sortland kicked the walls and masturbated before telling the police that his friends and roommates were all dead. They weren't. Sortland is facing a mental-competency hearing in court.

A man who was busted in October for spray-painting houses and dumpsters in Capitol Hill inspired a new feature on the Denver Police Department's Facebook page. The initial post read: "This is the first edition of 'What in the Wednesday' -- where we share some of the weirdest things our officers encounter while on the streets.... Friday, Denver Police -- District 6 officers responded to the 1100 block of N. Clarkson Street, on a report of a party in a 'Tony the Tiger' costume spray painting the victim's home. Before that, the suspect was also seen spray painting the pillars in from the victim's home and the sidewalk in the 1000 block of N. Clarkson Street. When officers arrived on scene, they found the suspect still in costume spray-painting a city dumpster. The suspect, 29 year-old Timothy Heckler, was arrested, and officers also recovered several cans of spray paint on him."

We're sure that cops have a sense of humor when they're off duty. But when they're on the job, they can be twitchy. So when a Grand Junction man idiotically pointed a banana at a pair of Mesa County sheriff's deputies in November, things didn't go well. According to news and police reports, the hilarity began when a deputy saw Nathen Channing "reach into the left side of his coat with his right hand and pull out a yellow object, pointing it in the air, then in my direction.... He drew the object in the same manner someone would draw a standard handgun from a concealed holster." When the deputy called for backup, Channing pointed the banana at the second deputy, who was about to pull out his gun when Channing yelled, "It's a banana!" Indeed. Charges of felony menacing were eventually reduced to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer by Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, who was blunt when he spoke with local news: "I decided while Mr. Channing's conduct was felony stupid, it didn't really deserve a felony charge, so we have filed one count of a misdemeanor obstructing a police officer. I think that's what fits best with his incredibly dumb conduct."

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