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The class distinctions remained, however. The more elite officers retired north of the Springs and in other higher-priced areas. The enlisted men, both retired and on active duty, congregated south in the Security-Widefield area near Fort Carson, where they were close to the PX, the commissary, medical facilities and lower-priced housing.

For decades the military--both active and retired--had dominated the political scene. But over the past several years, religious groups have been moving into the Colorado Springs area, lured by the scenery and economic incentives offered by the city. While retired generals and their wives for years had ruled the El Paso County Republican party--essentially the county's only political party--now the religious right was gaining influence and the military types were losing it.

And at the same time, a new kind of vet began moving into the Security-Widefield area--Vietnam vets who brought with them an abiding distrust of the "system" and the people who run the government.

What had always been traditional Republican country was gradually turning into a land of suspicion and paranoia. Right-wing radio stations like KVOR and talk shows such as Chuck Baker's found an eager audience (see sidebar, page 16). Gun shops became an important gathering place where former military men could talk.

And after the election of Bill Clinton, that talk started to get serious.
According to his brother-in-law, Francisco Duran had always been attracted to militia-type groups. "Frank and the militia were longtime friends," Gutierrez says. "It goes back to high school." Duran even tried to take Gutierrez to some meetings of his "buddies," the Calhan militia that sometimes meets in area garages.

Duran was involved with "five or six groups," Gutierrez adds. "When Frank was in jail, he changed from being a Catholic to a pagan. Frank had his own ideas. He talked a lot about revolution, but I never took him seriously."

Not then, at least.
At one point Gutierrez met some of Duran's new friends. "They came by his house," he says. "I was there. A bunch of these buddies were there. They talked about fishing gear, and those guys bragged their gear was better. Frank wanted me to go to this crazy meeting, but I didn't.

"He had a lot of crazy books. He gave me one with a red cover, a scale of justice, Lucifer and a snake around the scale...it was something about justice biting you like a snake." Gutierrez says he's familiar with some Patriot literature, such as Cheque Mate: The Game of Princes and The Unseen Hand; the books Duran was reading fit that profile.

Gutierrez is a member of the National Rifle Association and the Colorado Firearms Coalition; he says he's concerned about Congress eroding the right to bear arms. But unlike Duran and other militia members, he says, "I believe that my vote counts...these guys don't even vote."

But they certainly talked--and about much more than influencing the political process at the ballot box. "Frank was impressed by the man who crashed his plane near the White House," Gutierrez says. "He couldn't understand how the guy missed the White House itself, and he was convinced someone was making a lot of money off of the incident."

According to Ingrid Duran, this summer her husband began disappearing without explanation for anywhere from several hours to an entire weekend. The couple was fighting over their five-year-old son, who'd begun exhibiting signs of emotional problems, and also over Duran's alleged affair with a local woman named Emily. Duran also had "pornographic pictures" of a woman he'd corresponded with while he was in prison, who'd "act out his fantasies," Gutierrez says. "He shouldn't have brought them home with him, but what could Ingrid say?"

After the Durans had a fight, Gutierrez adds, "he'd take off, go away and then he'd come back stoned. He wouldn't tell her where he was going, because she'd get mad. She had waited two and a half years for him to get out. How would you feel if you were her and your husband wanted to go off weekends?"

Ingrid Duran complained to friends about the family's finances, saying she'd been debt-free until Duran came home from prison. They'd "always had good credit," she says, which was how they were able to have two credit cards with high credit limits, as well as a cellular phone. Now Duran was buying guns and other paramilitary equipment.

On September 13, the day the Omnibus Crime Control Bill passed Congress, Duran purchased the SKS semi-automatic rifle he used in the assassination attempt from High County Wholesale Firearms. (The day he left town two and a half weeks later, he tried to buy a handgun at the same place but was turned down when the required check showed his arrest record.) Duran already had an extensive security system in his home; now he had Gutierrez help him install one in his truck.

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Leslie Jorgensen
Sherry Keene-Osborn