DENVER – The first half of 2018 is coming to a close, and as CBS4 was Covering Colorado First these were the biggest news stories featured in our newscasts.
CBS4 covered various angles of all of these stories, and our reports featured interviews with many of the key people involved. And new developments in some of these stories came as recently as this week.
1. Three Colorado Deputies Shot And Killed
Colorado lost three deputies in the space of five weeks beginning on New Year’s Eve morning. Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish was one of four deputies, a police officer and two civilians shot at the Copper Canyon Apartments. The officers were there on a disturbance call. That suspect died at the scene after a shootout. The 29-year-old officer had a wife and two daughters, ages 1 and 4.
Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm was killed on Jan. 24 while responding to a call of an assault in Thornton. Dreion Dearing, 22, is charged with Gumm’s murder. The 31-one-year old officer was married and an avid hockey player.
On Feb. 5, El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick was one of several officers investigating a police car theft when the suspect opened fire. Three deputies, a police officer and a citizen were all hit, Deputy Flick died. That suspect was killed at the scene. The 34-year-old had a wife and 11 year old twins.
2. Deadly Denver Construction Fire
Two people were killed when a five-story apartment building under construction in North Capitol Hill erupted into flames on March 7. More than three months later, the cause was ruled “undetermined” while still an “active and open” investigation continues.
More than 50 construction workers were at “Emerson Place” at 18th Avenue and Emerson Place when the smoke and flames shot into the sky; some jumped from the second and third floors to escape. Roberto Flores-Prieto and Dustin Peterson, both working at the site, were killed. Six others were injured. The radiant heat from the blaze affected seven other buildings and damaged 45 vehicles. Ash and debris was found more than a mile away. Hundreds of people living near the construction site were forced from their homes during the investigation.
Just two months later, two buildings under construction near Broncos Stadium at Mile High were destroyed by fire. The townhomes were nearly complete, priced in the upper $600,000s to $700,000s.
3. U.S. Supreme Court Rules On Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
In 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood to make them a wedding cake. Phillips refused, saying it violated his Christian beliefs. The gay couple sued, saying Phillips discriminated against them and violated their civil rights. The case ended up before Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission, which ruled in favor of the couple.
The legal battle eventually made it to the United States Supreme Court. The justices heard arguments in December 2017.
On June 3, the justices ruled in favor of Phillips. In a 7-2 decision, the ruling said the said the Commission did not maintain neutrality when it ruled against Phillips. The high court’s ruling was specific to the decision from the Civil Rights Commision.
4. Westminster Road Rage Fatal Shooting
A woman, her two sons and another man were shot in a parking lot in Westminster after witnesses say the woman got into an argument with another driver.
Meghan Bigelow pulled over in the parking lot of a dentist’s office near West 80th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard on June 14. When she got out of the car, witnesses said a man fired multiple shots. Bigelow’s 13-year-old son was killed. Bigelow and her 8-year-old son were left with critical injuries. A man sitting in his truck nearby was also shot but survived.
The gunman fled the scene but police arrested 23-year-old Jeremy Webster a few hours later south of Denver. Police said Webster confessed to the shooting and blamed a change in his mental health medication for his actions.
5. Porter Adventist Hospital Sterilization
In April, CBS4 broke the news of a problem with sterilizing surgical instruments at Porter Adventist Hospital. As the details unfolded, we learned as many 5,800 patients could have been exposed to the instruments that had cleaning issues.
A state and federal investigation released in June revealed the instruments for orthopedic and spine surgery had not been properly scrubbed. In some cases the instruments had dried blood, bone and hair stuck to them. In some cases, patients reported having infections following the surgery.
The problem was blamed on insufficient staffing and improve oversight. The state health department is determining if there should be sanctions.
6. Colorado #MeToo
As the #MeToo Movement spread across the nation, Colorado dealt with its own series of high profile investigations. At the state capitol, an external investigation found sexual misconduct complaints made against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock were credible. That led to the House to vote to expel him, the first time Colorado lawmakers expelled one of their own members in more than a century. Lebsock denied any wrongdoing.
In the state senate, Republicans voted against expelling Sen. Randy Baumgardner. He was accused of inappropriately touching a former aide. An independent investigation also found those accusations credible. Baumgardner denied any wrongdoing but did step down as the head of a powerful committee. State house leaders have pledged to create a new policy to handle complaints.
In the city of Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock came under fire after acknowledging he sent inappropriate texts to Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise while she was on his security team. There were calls for an investigation and for him to resign. The Denver City Council eventually decided it did not have the power to investigate because it was not a judicial branch. Every council member did say the mayor’s conduct was unacceptable.
Wildfire season hit southwestern Colorado hard when the 416 Fire ignited a little more than 10 miles north of Durango. The fire started on June 1 and has since burned more than 35,000 acres. The fire forced thousands of evacuations, but miraculously, no structures were lost nor was anyone seriously hurt. Hundreds of fire personnel spent weeks fighting the blaze with low humidity and strong wind until the remnants of Hurricane Bud helped dampen the fire. The fire also forced the San Juan National Forest to shut down.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and other top level Colorado lawmakers visited the region. Hickenlooper commended the firefighters and emergency responders.
About a week later, the Burro Fire ignited only miles west of the 416 Fire. This fire tore through nearly 3,800 acres near the Gold Run Trail on the Dolores Ranger District. The amount of smoke put out from both fires created unhealthy levels of air quality for a sustained number of days. It’s not clear what caused either of these fires.
8. Colorado Primary Election
June brought an historic primary to Colorado, for the first time unaffiliated voters were allowed to vote in one the party’s primaries. It was also the first time in 20 years that the governor’s race was contested on both sides.
When the votes were counted on June 26, the November ticket came down to Democrat Jared Polis against Republican Walker Stapleton. If elected, Polis would be the first openly gay governor in Colorado. If Stapleton wins, he would be the first Republican governor since Bill Owens left office in 2007.
9. Teacher Walkouts
The fight over teacher pay reached a crescendo in the United States in 2018. That included a number of rallies in Colorado.
In April teachers held two days of rallies at the state capitol, calling for more money for schools and higher salaries. CBS4 research found a large disparity in pay between districts across the state.
Lawmakers agreed to give schools their largest funding increase since the Great Recession, in part by paying back funds the state had borrowed.
10. Amazon HQ2
In January a group of executives from Amazon came to Denver to meet with local leaders and discuss the possibility of having Colorado be the home of the tech giant’s second headquarters.
Amazon’s current headquarters are in Seattle. They named Denver as a finalist in January to be home of the company’s so-called “HQ2.” The new headquarters is expected to create as many as 50,000 jobs.
Since then there has been much speculation about whether Denver might actually be chosen for HQ2; it has generated lots of conversation both from folks who feel it would be great for business and the state’s economy and others who fear it would stretch our resources and drive up housing prices. Denver officials haven’t revealed the exact locations of the sites they proposed to Amazon for HQ2.