Weekly Round-up: A new sheriff in town?

On Friday, Sheriff Joe Pelle announced his intention to run for a fourth and final time as sheriff. Pelle has been serving as the county’s sheriff since 2002.

The death of a young woman in early September has been ruled a homicide by the Boulder County coroner. 18-year-old Premila Lal was hiding in the family home, hoping to jump out and scare Nerrek Galley. Upon hearing noises, Nerrek Galley armed himself and fired a shot into Lal’s chest.

A Denver man has been accused of providing two teens with marijuana-laced cookies in early November. Davirak Ky faces charges of child abuse, assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

 

Weekly Round-Up — Nov. 7

By Kendall Brunette

HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

Earlier this week, High Country News published an article about commuters across the U.S.  The article was in response to an August report released by the USPIRG Education Fund, which found that people in all but seven states drove less in 2011 than they did in 2005.  Specifically, Colorado decreased their daily driving by 11.4 percent.  The article credited the expansion of Denver’s light and commuter rail services during the six-year time period as a significant contributor to Colorado’s decreased daily driving.

DAILY CAMERA

Boulder police arrested a 19-year-old CU student Wednesday after he admitted to killing a raccoon with a bat.  According to the Boulder Daily Camera, the student told police that he killed the raccoon for its hide.  Jace Robert Griffiths did not say what he planned to do with the raccoon hide, but he could be charged with aggravated animal cruelty.

THE DENVER POST

Trader Joe’s, the specialty grocery store chain, announced its debut in Colorado on Thursday.  According to The Denver Post, the chain plans to open a store in Boulder at the Twenty Ninth Street mall in February.  Denver and Fort Collins will also receive new Trader Joe’s stores.  The chain will host a Grand Opening in Boulder on Valentine’s Day 2014.

Trail closures hit Boulder hiking community hard

By Gloria Dickie

When flood waters ripped through Boulder’s open space in mid-September, lacerating the landscape, pockmarking pathways and gashing open gulches, 28-year-old Boulder resident Kyle Green* couldn’t stay away.

An avid hiker bent on getting his weekly fix, Green managed to wait exactly seven days before venturing back into the great outdoors to assess nature’s toll on his wild playground, nonplussed by public warnings, flimsy barriers and ravaged roads.

“I saw the destruction in the city, and I wanted to see what it looked like in a natural setting,” Green explained.

According to the City of Boulder’s Open Space & Mountain Parks rangers, he wasn’t alone. Between Sept. 11 and Oct. 21, 2013, rangers issued a total of 43 citations for trespassing — more than one a day. Fines ranged from $100 for walking on Bluebell Road to $325 for climbing the Third Flatiron.

Joe Reale, OSMP’s ranger supervisor, said most hikers were aware of the closure and many admitted to climbing over or pulling down barriers. Such actions have highlighted a growing divide in public opinion on trail closures, with citizens lamenting the closures at public council meetings, and others turning to the Internet to voice their opinions through Facebook groups like OPEN OSMP.

“I don’t believe all the OSMP closures were completely justified,” Robert Gibbons*, an engineer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and hiking enthusiast, said. “My stance is that open space is nature — there is inherent risk that we should all be aware of in an ever-changing landscape.”

But Green, who has since hiked the trails meandering through Bear Canyon, Bear Peak, NCAR, Mesa and Chautauqua twice, expressed concern about the safety of Boulder’s open space.

“I saw more mudslides than I’ve ever seen before,” he said. “At times the water dug so deeply into the ground that it exposed electrical wires.”

During one of his hikes through Bear Canyon, Green observed foot-deep mudslides that had overtaken the trail “every 50 feet.”

“Larger mudslides left up to four feet of mud on the trail and destroyed entire sections of trees around the creek,” he recalled. “The creek bed itself was unrecognizable.”

When the trail turned to cross the creek, Green admitted defeat.

“That entire section was washed out for 15 feet. I got across but soon realized I would be completely unable to get to the top of the mountain safely, and turned around.”

Others weren’t so lucky.

On the evening of Oct. 2, 22-year-old Joshua Selden set out from his home in Boulder to hike the Royal Arch Trail under the cover of darkness. With no flashlight in hand, no warm clothing, and no food or water, Selden soon found himself in a severely washed-out portion of the trail, loose boulders at every turn. It was then Selden plunked himself down and waited for sunrise. But as temperatures dropped in the lower montane forest, Selden began to rethink his plan. Facing exposure and hunger, he dialed 9-1-1 shortly before dawn.IMG_5588

Within five minutes OSMP rangers, Rocky Mountain Rescuers, the Boulder County’s Sheriff Office, AMR Ambulance Company and the Boulder Fire Department had converged on the scene. Forty minutes later, they located the lost youth and escorted him down to Bluebell Shelter. Selden’s case is currently set for arraignment on Nov. 19.

Since the incident, rangers have amped up their efforts to keep adventure junkies off of Royal Arch. Phillip Yates, a spokesperon for OSMP, confirmed rangers cut down two large, healthy trees last week to block off access— a move that drew much ire from the hiking community.

“If you are gonna go to the effort of bringing a chainsaw back there, why not go another few hundred yards up the trail and clean some up some of the dead, stripped trees?” wrote Stefan Griebel in a Facebook post Friday afternoon.

However, Reale explained that, at this time, most of the closures still in place concern the protection of natural resources.

“The bigger threat to the system is the damage caused by large numbers of visitors wandering off of trails and creating new paths through the system,” he said.

With rangers performing patrols on closed trails and trailheads, volunteers stationed in the field to inform the public of closures and information signs on all major trailheads, OSMP is doing its best to keep would-be trespassers off the land.

But for people like Green, such measures don’t make much of a difference when it comes to the question ‘to hike, or not to hike?’

“It’s kind of like going 10 miles over on the highway,” he explained. “You’re speeding, and aware of it, but it’s easy to compartmentalize away.”

*Last name changed for anonymity.

Weekly round-up October 25: Something wicked this way comes?

By Gloria Dickie

National media once again converged on Boulder this week with the release of a 1999 indictment naming John and Patsy Ramsey on two charges in relation to their daughter JonBenet’s death in 1996.

In an op-ed for The Daily Camera, staff writer Charlie Brennan explained why he fought for the release of the sealed indictment. “The courts belong to the people, and transparency of the courts is a central pillar on which our system is based. There was no transparency — until today — surrounding the Ramsey grand jury’s final days and ultimate decision,” he wrote.

And, on Friday, the body of a missing Thornton teenager was found near Sixth Street and Baseline Road. Police are still investigating.

Boulder County Coroner Emma Hall: From Hawaii to a murky backroom storage

By Lars Gesing

Emma Hall is Boulder County’s coroner since 2011. Under the Flatirons’ Lars Gesing visited her in her office in Boulder’s justice center last week. She told him how badly the recent floods caught her flat-footed and explained why her office had to do a lot of overtime hours ever since. He also learned that the surge of water deeply affected Hall’s personal life, too. Here is his report.

Audio Transcript

(Narration 1) Emma Hall learned early in her life to search for answers to questions that others avoided.

(Emma Hall 1) When I was four years old, there was a woman who was murdered, very close to my home, just a few miles up the canyon.

(Narration 2) Hall’s whole family was troubled. Who was that woman? Where did she come from? And who had killed her?

(Emma Hall 2) As a child, I had all these questions and my biggest thing was I wanted to make sure that all her family’s questions were answered. It was just something that always stayed with me.

(Narration 3) Hall is now Boulder County’s coroner. Answering questions has become her job. In mid-September, Hall took a few days off to vacation in Hawaii. Meanwhile, 3-thousand miles east of her all hell broke loose along the Front Range. Hall became a key player in answering puzzling questions during the recent floods. In the middle of the night of September 12, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle called her cellphone.

(Emma Hall 3) I picked up the phone and he said: “You know, we are getting really worried.” And I’m going, all senses of time away, like what is he worried about? What’s wrong? And he said: “We need to get your team together. We already have one confirmed death.”

(Narration 4) That moment, Hall learned that her hometown of Lyons and pretty much all of Boulder County faced a devastating flood. While she tried to get on the next plane home, Deputy Coroner Dustin Bueno was her man on the ground.

(Dustin Bueno 1) Initially, there was a whole lot of reported missing people, which obviously made us very nervous. At the time, it was very unknown what those numbers meant. So we had to bring our staff up here and we had to get as much equipment as possible, mobile.

(Narration 5) Bueno led Hall’s team of 10 investigators in tracking down those persons who had been reported missing to the Sheriff’s office. Meanwhile, Hall waited for a flight back home and began her very own investigation.

(Emma Hall 4) One of the things I started noticing on Facebook was my fifth grade teacher was missing. I knew exactly where he lived. His family was all over Facebook, pleading for someone to go to their home and look for him. And I knew, with the position of his home in the canyon and how it sat by the river, I just knew it couldn’t be good.

(Narration 6) Hall started contacting her colleagues at the detectives unit and initiated a search and rescue mission. A couple of days later, they recovered the body. Her former teacher was one of five Boulder County flood victims, all of whom went through the coroner’s office. Every year, Hall’s team deals with 1-thousand 500 to 1-thousand 800 deaths. The masses of collected evidence go into a narrow, murky back-room storage that not everyone has access to.

(Natural Sound 1 Hall: “I need to grab my badge..” Steps.)

(Narration 7) In the storage room, Hall opens the door of a large cabinet and pulls out a bag filled with medications from a shelf.

(Emma Hall 5) When we go to a scene, we collect prescription medications. There is quite a bit of information we can get off of them.

(Natural sound 2 pulling a bag of prescriptions)

(Emma Hall 6) So there is the doctor, the date of the prescription, how much they were prescribed. And then we can count to make sure they weren’t overtaking or undertaking their meds. We have a lot of suicides by overdosing.

(Narration 8) While Hall talks about her investigation methods, all too familiar pictures come back. C.S.I., Hawaii Five-O, Law and Order, you name it.

(Emma Hall 7) I think TV makes it quite glamorous. They are running around in their high heels at the scene and their cases get solved in a half hour and they got all this big, beautiful technology and instruments.  

(Narration 9) Still, Boulder County Coroner Emma Hall loves her job.

(Emma Hall 8) No matter how long you have been in this position, no matter how long you have been in this field, there is always something you don’t know. It is just trying to answer the questions as much as we can because sometimes we just can’t answer every single question. But we do our best.

(Narration 10) Lars Gesing, Under the Flatirons.

Boulder law enforcement officials investigate two recently reported sexual assaults

By Lars Gesing

According to a Daily Camera report, Weld County Judge Robert Lowenbach ordered Boulder County District Attorney Stanley Garnett on Thursday to show why a grand jury’s secret indictment in the ongoing case regarding the 1996 death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey should be kept exactly that: secret. Daily Camera reporter Charlie Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had filed a lawsuit seeking release of the un-prosecuted document under the Colorado Open Records Act. Every new twist in the unsolved death case still draws local, regional and national media attention.

***

Boulder County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 31-year-old Kyle Swanson on suspicion of a sexual assault early Thursday morning and took him to the Boulder County jail. A 54-year-old woman had reported a sexual assault during which she said she had been hit in the head with a rock multiple times. According to a press release by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, the incident occurred near the 700 block of Gold Run Road in rural Boulder County.

***

October is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The University of Colorado Boulder pointed out on its website several places where victims of domestic violence can get help, such as the Office of Victim’s Assistance for CU students, staff, and faculty; the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and local safe houses.

***

The Boulder Police Department is currently investigating another alleged sexual assault. Officers were dispatched to University Avenue just after 5 a.m. on Saturday morning after a 22-year-old female reported that she had been sexually assaulted by an unknown male inside her home. The suspect, a 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall man with a “smaller” build and a “narrow” face, is currently searched for, according to a BPD press release.

Boulder’s police Latino Liaison officer Lorenzo Gibson a dedicated minority advocate

By Lars Gesing

Lorenzo Gibson was on a mission to help when he went to Los Angeles in 1972. Two years down the road, he knew that help wasn’t just a passion out of necessity, but a profession. His profession.

Back in 1972, the 23-year-old Canada-born Gibson hadn’t even made plans yet to become a police officer when he arrived in California. A prior two-month Spanish language course in Utah had provided him with the requisite know-how to move to the West Coast and to work for the Mormon church as a volunteer missionary in a Latino-dominated part of Los Angeles. At least, young Lorenzo Gibson thought he was prepared.

It didn’t take him long to find out he was wrong.

Boulder Police Department Latino Liaison officer Lorenzo Gibson (photo: bouldercolorado.gov)

Latino Liaison officer Lorenzo Gibson (photo: bouldercolorado.gov)

“I sometimes went for weeks without speaking to anyone in English,” Gibson recalled what it meant to work on health, immigration and education concerns within Los Angeles’ Latino community back then.

Those days would ultimately prove to be the most valuable asset to his professional and personal resume more than three decades later as Boulder’s police department liaison officer to the Latino community, a job he’s had since 2006.

However, back in Los Angeles in 1972, Gibson found himself immersed in a new, unknown, and at times bewildering life. He had lived among solely Spanish-speaking people. He had eaten, shopped and done laundry within the boundaries of that community. He came to appreciate that “those poor and humble people were descendants of a rich, proud, and powerful people that previously occupied Mexico, Central and South America.”

“There were portions of Los Angeles where you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between them and Mexico,” Gibson remembered.

Today – with an accumulated 34 years of service as a police officer – the 63-year-old married father of five grown-up children is once again working closely with a Latino population, though he traded the world famous beaches of Santa Monica and Venice Beach for the Flatirons.

Boulder’s first Latino Liaison Officer

Gibson had long left Los Angeles and had found a new home in Boulder then, with career stops at the Longmont Police Department, the Arapahoe Sheriff’s Department and the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department along the way. He came to the Boulder Police Department in 1981 and finally settled down.

In all those years, Gibson never lost his dedication to and care for the concerns of the Latino Community. Working for the detectives unit in 2006, he was the first to be offered the new job as Latino Liaison officer by Chief Mark Beckner. It didn’t take Gibson long to decide.

Since Jan. 1, 2007, through today, the Latino community within Boulder has had its own officer assigned to it, a go-to-guy, an interface between law enforcement and the community’s needs.

“My goal was to deal with issues, concerns and complaints within the community before they reached a level of being more unmanageable,” Gibson said, outlining his job description.

“The Latino Liaison Officer is a crucial position at the police department because he helps to build trust within the community and overcome languages barriers,” said Mexico-born Jorge de Santiago, executive director of the Latino advocacy group El Centro Amistad.

De Santiago is one of the many Latino community leaders in Boulder that Gibson added to his network over the years.

Martina LaGrave, a Boulder Police Department victims’ advocate, is another one.

“Officer Gibson is an amazing personality. He is very knowledgeable about Latino communities. He has a genuine interest in the wellbeing of others,” she said.

How to deal with getting cut back

It is among Gibson’s primary tasks as a Latino Liaison Officer to reduce resentment against police.

“There are some understandable reservations among people coming from countries in Latin America about going to the police for assistance when that didn’t use to get them anywhere close their desired goal in their home countries,” Gibson said.

Based on the 2010 American Community Survey, Boulder’s Latino and Hispanic community accounted for 10.4 percent of the city’s total population. Today, three years later, that number is 13 percent, according to the Boulder 2013 Trend Report.

It is because of that growth that many Latino community leaders were taken by surprise when they heard that the Boulder Police Department cut back Gibson’s full-time job as a Latino liaison officer on Jan. 6, 2012, making it a collateral assignment while shifting him to the traffic enforcement division.

“I firmly believe that every city in our nation should have a full-time Latino liaison officer dedicated to provide ample information to the Latino community, conduct outreach campaigns as a way to solidify police relations and do so with a focus on building trust that leads to the closure of violent crime in the community,” BPD victims advocate Martina LaGrave said.

Gibson believes the decision within the department was economic because of what he called “limited resources and sometimes infinite numbers of needs.”

Though cut back, he still spends about four hours of the work week on his collateral assignment as Latino liaison officer.

Carmen Atilano is the community relations and human rights manager at the City of Boulder.

“It is unfortunate that the police department had to cut back that position, but we find new ways to compensate this loss,” Atilano said in a phone interview, referring to the city’s Immigrant Advisory Committee and the Human Relations Commission. Those aim – among other things – on helping the needs of the Latino community in Boulder.

While Gibson was forced to split his professional focus between the Latino community and traffic enforcement, his innate care for others is still very much alive and still setting the moral compass for his everyday work approach.

“Doing this job has become an issue of trust. That trust has to be earned by putting yourself out there,” Gibson said, “and I take every opportunity to jump in and help.”

Audio Transcript

Shootout – with BPD Officer Lorenzo Gibson   

(Gesing) Under the Flatirons challenged Boulder’s Latino Liaison officer Lorenzo Gibson to a shootout. The rules: Each side had three bullets, but no time. We had three questions – he had three answers. Ready?

(natural sound cocking a gun)

(Gesing) Fire! What was your dream job as a kid?

(Gibson) I think I wanted to live in the jungle like Tarzan, live in a tree house.

(Gesing) One down. What’s your favorite police show on TV?

(Gibson) Used to be Hill Street Blues. Maybe Cops?

(Gesing) Two down. Last shot. Where do you like to hang out?

(Gibson) There’s a Thai food restaurant on Canyon and 28th – Aloy. It’s very good. I love that place.

(natural sound dropping cartridge case)