The Strangest Colorado Stories of 2015

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Growth and development, newcomers and Mile High rent dominated much of the conversation in the city in 2015. But there were also lighter, funnier and just plain weirder stories, too. Here are some of our favorite strange but true events. Find the rest of our Year in Review in print this week and on our blog.

Here’s how Denver’s Buell Theatre advertised a January 17 appearance by comedian Bill Cosby: “Come and share the evening with one of America’s most recognized personalities known to both young and old; the star of The Cosby Show shows no sign of slowing down as he ages. By the time the curtain has raised, you will already have remembered why he has become the phenomenon that he is today.” More like a pariah. And when that curtain was raised, it wasn’t to a very full house: More than 1,200 people had demanded refunds in the wake of the continuing Cosby scandal, in which more than fifty women have accused the former icon of drugging and sexually assaulting them — a pattern that may extend back to the 1970s. A group of protesters chanted outside the show, but the audience nevertheless gave Cosby a standing ovation.

In January, Pastor Ray Chavez of New Hope Ministries in Lakewood stopped a funeral service at the church when he saw that there were pictures on display of the deceased, Vanessa Collier, and her wife. He told Collier’s family and friends that the funeral couldn’t proceed if it was acknowledged that Collier was gay. Loved ones decided to pick up the woman’s casket and move the funeral to another church; they held a protest outside New Hope the next day.

A 37-year-old Colorado Springs man was cited by police in April after he took his Dell computer into an alley and shot it eight times with a 9mm handgun. The man told police he’d been fighting with the computer for several months. He later admitted to the Los Angeles Times that killing the computer “was glorious. Angels sung on high.”

The SpongeBob Movie or Fifty Shades of Grey? In February, the MetroLux 14 movie theater in Loveland started to show the latter to an audience that had paid — and was the right age demographic — to see the former. Of course, none of the nasty stuff happens until later in Fifty Shades of Grey, but still. “People ran out of there,” one grandfather told the Loveland Reporter-Herald. “You could hear little kids going, ‘SpongeBob! SpongeBob!’ as the parents were dragging them out.”

The defense rested — a lot — during a May court date for an Aspen man who had been charged with violating a protection order. Why? Because the defense attorney was a stuffed animal. At least that’s what the defendant, Charles Abbott, tried to tell the judge when he “sat a fuzzy horned owl on the defense table… saying his name was Solomon and that he’d sit in until a public defender was assigned to his case,” according to the Aspen Times. The judge ignored the owl and talked to Abbott.

Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller told a Denver Post reporter in June that the players levy a “fart tax” on those who pass gas during team meetings. Miller said he farts a lot and thinks he has been fined more than any other player. “I keep trying to tell them that it’s not healthy if I just sit there and hold it in,” he told the reporter.

It wouldn’t be a year in Denver without a highlight, or lowlight, from Rocky, the Denver Nuggets mascot, who is both one of the city’s greatest talents and also one of the organization’s largest potential liabilities. His latest antic: In September, at halftime during a Denver Broncos preseason game, a variety of mascots took on a group of kids in a football game. While one kid was running up the sidelines, Rocky took him out hard, then stood over him to taunt him. It’s possible the routine was scripted. But, damn. The video went viral, and in it, the kid doesn’t look like he particularly enjoyed Rocky’s actions.

Thousands of people passed through the gates of the Denver Botanic Gardens in August — not to see the beautiful flora for which the DBG is known, or even for the latest popular sculpture show. No, they lined up to get a whiff of a corpse flower, a giant plant that blooms only rarely and is known to emit a stench resembling that of dead meat. While the plant didn’t smell as bad as some expected, its slow bloom managed to captivate even the people who stayed home and watched it unfold in a live stream.

For months, Colorado law enforcement and transportation officials were baffled by a literary mystery: Someone was regularly dumping hundreds of books by the side of U.S. Highway 287 south of Longmont. The situation was so odd that it inspired numerous news reports. Finally in April, a Colorado state trooper witnessed a man throwing books out of his car window and pulled him over. The culprit was a 67-year-old Arvada resident named Glenn Pladsen, who had amassed thousands of titles eight years ago when he bought them from a bookstore that was closing. Plasden told police he’d tried to sell them online but wasn’t able to, and, not knowing what else to do, started throwing them out the window of his car while driving to his job in Longmont. “I didn’t even know anybody even cared,” Pladsen told the Denver Post. “I just thought they were being blown in the ditch. That’s what I thought was happening.” State transportation officials said they’d cleaned up more than 600 books since the previous fall. Pladsen was charged with 62 counts of littering; he pleaded guilty in August and was ordered to pay a $1,725 fine.

Police and parents in Cañon City went ballistic in November when they discovered that more than a hundred students at Cañon City High School — and perhaps some eighth-graders — had been trading naked pictures of one another using smartphone apps. School officials said the players on the football team may have been at the center of the “sexting ring,” and the team ended up forfeiting its final game as the city dealt with the fallout. Possessing explicit photos of minors is a felony in Colorado, and although prosecutors considered filing charges against many of the students, they ended up deciding not to because there were no “aggravating factors like adults’ involvement, the posting of graphic images to the Internet, coercion [or] related unlawful sexual contact,” according to CNN, one of many national news outlets that picked up the story. Rather, authorities wanted to avoid “the inequities in punishing just those that have come forward, have been identified, or have cooperated with the authorities,” the report said.

An Aurora mom told news outlets in April that a teacher at Children’s Academy, a private preschool, confiscated part of her five-year-old daughter’s lunch — which consisted of a ham sandwich, string cheese and some Oreos — because it wasn’t nutritious enough. “Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch,” read a note that came home with the girl (along with the uneaten Oreos). “This is a public school setting, and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable and a heavy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program, and we need everyone’s participation.”

The two Hispanic owners of Rubbin’ Buttz, a barbecue restaurant in the town of Milliken, decided to tempt fate — and test the limits of stupidity — last June by advertising a White Appreciation Day, during which they planned to give white people a 10 percent discount. The promotion would have been funny if Edgar Antillon and Miguel Jimenez had been trying to make a statement, but it looks like the event was more about publicity. After various kinds of backlash and some bomb threats, the owners changed the parameters of the day so that everyone, regardless of race, was offered a discount; they ended up doing three times their normal business. And all along, the owners insisted that the point of White Appreciation Day was to promote racial unity.

In June, a SWAT team descended on a Greenwood Village house where a man had reportedly barricaded himself inside with guns and drugs. Over the next eighteen hours, law enforcement proceeded to completely destroy the house in an effort to get the man out, which they finally did. The home, which had to be condemned after the SWAT team was through with it, didn’t belong to the suspect but to one Leo Lech, whose son was living in it at the time. Although the City of Greenwood Village offered Lech $5,000 in reparation money, he declined the offer, because the money wouldn’t have come close to covering the cost of temporary housing or of replacing the furniture and other belongings (insurance covered the house itself). Eventually, a crowdfunding site was set up to help pay off the costs, but Lech also decided to sue the city over the situation.

Colorado Springs residents are responsible for many of our state’s worst politicians, but even they weren’t able to get Justine Herring elected. In January, Herring, who had declared her intention to run for mayor, was arrested twice in a two-day period. The first time, police said, she pointed an AR-15 assault rifle at a man in Memorial Park; the second time, it was for assault and violating a protective order. She was also accused of impersonating a law enforcement officer. After that, news outlets dug up an arrest record for Herring that includes charges of DUI and domestic violence. She was not successful in her mayoral run.

After months of debate, the city council in Fort Collins decided that, no, women still can’t expose their breasts in public, but, yes, they can breastfeed in public. The subject come up as part of the Free the Nipple campaign, which was big in 2015 and which roiled Fort Collins as activists said they believed women should be allowed to bare their nipples in public, just as men are. But a majority of the community felt differently, and they bombarded the council with comments, saying that topless women would damage the city’s reputation. In the end, Fort Collins settled on a law prohibiting women from exposing their breasts below the top part of the nipple. Exceptions were made for breastfeeding women, medical emergencies, and locker rooms or other places where nudity would be more normal.

These stories were compiled from multiple news sources, including Westword. Read many of the originals, as well as updates in the year to come, at westword.com.

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