All posts by Kurtis Lee

Organizers say state GOP scoffed at recalls of Sens. Morse, Giron

At a gathering of county Republicans inside a Pueblo public library in June, organizers behind the effort to recall Democratic Sen. Angela Giron met for the first time with the leader of Colorado’s GOP.

Furious that Giron had pushed for stricter gun laws, the group had collected signatures to force a special election and were just days away from having it certified by the secretary of state.

They were confident, but the private conversation with Chairman Ryan Call did not go well.

“He scoffed at us. He told us we didn’t have a shot at getting the recall signatures certified and that what we were doing was just wrong,” said Victor Head, a Republican and leader of the group, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, which took the initial steps to have Giron recalled. “He did not care to listen to what was going on with the grass roots in Pueblo, and that’s a problem with leadership in the Republican Party.”

Read more at The Denver Post

Colorado online voter system could play role in future recall elections

Victor Head sits in his Pueblo home Tuesday, surrounded by the phone, laptop and tablet he used to gather signatures for a recall petition. Head used the technology to access voter registration information available online.
Victor Head sits in his Pueblo home Tuesday, surrounded by the phone, laptop and tablet he used to gather signatures for a recall petition. Head used the technology to access voter registration information available online.

The way Victor Head accomplished what may have forever changed how petitions are gathered — and what stunned Colorado’s political landscape this summer — originated with an iPhone and a 4-year-old voter law.

Those were the tools, along with a mix of tablets and laptops, the 28-year-old plumber from Pueblo and a little more than 80 organizers utilized as they scoured parking lots and sat perched at folding tables outside businesses collecting petition signatures to recall Sen. Angela Giron, a Pueblo Democrat, from a heavily Democratic- leaning district.

“From the smartphones, we had the secretary of state’s voter registration website locked in and at the ready,” Head said. “In 30 seconds, we were able to punch in a name, ZIP code and birth date and confirm that people signing were actually registered and lived in the district. We even registered some people that wanted to sign.”

Read more at The Denver Post

Guns become a way of life for many in rural Colorado

Howllowpoint Gun Shop Owner Erin Jerant helps mount a scope on a hunting rifle for Justin Noga, right, as friend Ricky Kelly looks on in Walsenburg. Jerant says she has known the two since they were young enough to sit on the store's countertops. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
Howllowpoint Gun Shop Owner Erin Jerant helps mount a scope on a hunting rifle for Justin Noga, right, as friend Ricky Kelly looks on in Walsenburg. Jerant says she has known the two since they were young enough to sit on the store’s countertops. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

OTERO COUNTY, Colo. — Mac Holder takes a seat on the bench of a weathered wooden shooting table roughly 50 yards in front of a silver beer can impaled upright by a stake.

Here at the firing range of his family’s pheasant and quail ranch on the outskirts of Rocky Ford, dozens of spent shotgun shells litter the parched ground around him. But on this recent afternoon, in his grip is a black Rock River AR-15 outfitted with a 30-round ammunition magazine. Holder pulls back and releases the charging handle, pushing a round into the chamber. He then tucks the butt of the semiautomatic gun into his left shoulder and leans forward, staring down the scope mounted on top. Nine ear-splitting shots pierce the gentle breeze.

“It’s a fun gun. It has low recoil. If you just like to shoot for practice, it’s a great gun,” says Holder, 28, after firing the weapon. “I’ve had it for nine years, keep it locked up and never had any problems with it.”

Far from the gold dome of the state Capitol, and the state’s more populated Front Range, generations of Colorado families like Holder’s have grown up with firearms.

Read more at The Denver Post

Gary Flakes, convicted in 1997 deaths of two teens, running for Colorado Springs council

Gary Flakes, who was convicted of being an accessory to murder in the 1997 shotgun slayings of two teenage boys in the Cheyenne Meadows neighborhood, announced he is running for Colorado Springs City Council. (Christian Murdock, The Gazette)
Gary Flakes, who was convicted of being an accessory to murder in the 1997 shotgun slayings of two teenage boys in the Cheyenne Meadows neighborhood, announced he is running for Colorado Springs City Council. (Christian Murdock, The Gazette)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Two pairs of teenage boys who didn’t know each other crossed paths the night of Valentine’s Day 1997.

It was a little after 11:30 that night when Andy Westbay, 13, and Scott Hawrysiak, 15, started their walk of less than two blocks along Canoe Creek Drive to Hawrysiak’s home after playing video games at a friend’s house.

Meanwhile, a white Mazda hatchback carrying Gary Flakes, 16, Jeron Grant, 17, and a loaded 12-gauge shotgun drove down the quiet residential street on Colorado Springs’ southwest side.

Aurora council approves money to fund theater response review

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The scene outside the Century 16 theaters on the morning of July 20, 2012. (Karl Gehring, Denver Post file)

AURORA — Facing criticism for ambulance delays to the mass-shooting scene at the Century Aurora theater, City Council on Monday gave initial approval of almost $250,000 for a contract to an out-of-state firm that will conduct a comprehensive review on the response effort.

TriData, which has conducted so-called “after-action reports” in the wake of mass shootings at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University, will review thousands of radio and dispatch transmissions and interview hundreds of first responders, which include police officers, firefighters and ambulance drivers.

The independent Virginia-based firm offers research and analysis of emergency medical services, prevention and preparedness and was picked over six other firms vying to conduct the theater- shooting report.

Century Aurora theater reopens with ceremony, showing of “The Hobbit”

Tom Sullivan, left rear, whose son Alex was slain in the Aurora theater shooting, watches the reopening ceremony with family members Thursday in Auditorium I, the remodeled Theater 9 of the Century Aurora theater. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)
Tom Sullivan, left rear, whose son Alex was slain in the Aurora theater shooting, watches the reopening ceremony with family members Thursday in Auditorium I, the remodeled Theater 9 of the Century Aurora theater. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Seated toward the front of Auditorium I, Pierce O’Farrill pointed to the walkway a few feet in front of him. “That’s around where a SWAT team guy found me and then dragged me to safety,” he said.

It had been almost six months earlier to the day, and O’Farrill returned to the renovated movie theater where he was shot three times in a mass shooting.

“This is weird, man,” said O’Farrill, his eyes glancing around. “I’m glad to be here, and, obviously, I’m glad to be alive.”

Cinemark will reopen Century Aurora 16, letter to mayor says

The Century16 Theater of Aurora on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post (THE DENVER POST | AARON ONTIVEROZ)
The Century16 Theater of Aurora on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post (THE DENVER POST | AARON ONTIVEROZ)

The neon lights at Century Aurora 16 were dimmed Friday night, but they won’t be off for long.

Cinemark, based in Plano, Texas, said Friday that the theater complex, where 12 people were killed and 58 others were injured, will be renovated and reopened, perhaps by the end of the year.

Cinemark president Tim Warner said in a letter to Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan that “it will be our privilege to reopen the theater. We pledge to reconfigure the space and make the theater better than ever.”

Read more at The Denver Post

Aurora officials survey city on future of Century Aurora 16

Sisters Rachel and Heather Meyer, of Port Washington, Wis., stop on their way to California to photograph the Century Aurora 16 theater complex Tuesday. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post
Sisters Rachel and Heather Meyer, of Port Washington, Wis., stop on their way to California to photograph the Century Aurora 16 theater complex Tuesday. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

When is the time right to have a discussion about what should be done with the Century Aurora 16 theater? It’s a question on the minds of many in this community who continue to grieve a month after the suburban theater became the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

For leaders in the city of Aurora, now is the appropriate time to begin talking about the future of the building, where 12 people were killed and 58 injured in an early-morning attack carried out during the premiere of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

This week, Aurora officials launched an online surveyasking people to give their thoughts on the future of the theater. City leaders then plan to share those comments with officials at Cinemark — the company that owns the theater — for consideration in the decision-making process.

Angela Giron recall effort moves forward with signatures certified

Angela Giron of Pueblo (Denver Post file)
Angela Giron of Pueblo (Denver Post file)

The votes cast by state Sen. Angela Giron in support of tougher gun laws now have the Pueblo lawmaker faced with a looming fall election date as organizers Monday amassed enough valid signatures in their recall effort.

Only about 6 percent of the signatures submitted in Giron’s recall effort were deemed invalid by the Colorado secretary of state’s office — a striking percentage that her opponents said showed strong support for their cause.

Organizers with Pueblo Freedom and Rights submitted more than 13,400 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state’s office and had 12,648 verified. They needed about 11,300 verified for a recall election and outpaced that figure by about 1,300.

Colorado Senate President John Morse recall petitions certified

Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, has received thousands of dollars to help fend off a recall effort. (Colorado Springs Gazette file)
Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, has received thousands of dollars to help fend off a recall effort. (Colorado Springs Gazette file)

The effort to recall Colorado Senate President John Morse charged forward Tuesday with the secretary of state’s office announcing that organizers submitted more than enough valid signatures to produce the first-ever recall election of a lawmaker in the state.

Secretary of state officials said that organizers with the El Paso Freedom Defense Committee’s effort obtained 10,137 valid signatures from the roughly 16,200 signatures the group turned in earlier this month. To spark a recall, they needed just 7,178 verified, and they outpaced that figure by about 3,000 votes.

But supporters of Morse argued Tuesday the petition language used was incomplete and the recall effort should be set aside.