Archive for January, 2018

Amid gun glut, ‘This is Colorado’ says too much and too little

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said, “This is Colorado. Everybody has a gun.”

Seven words that create a mural. Should they be added to our license plates and the signs that welcome motorists entering the state?

You could hear it on the trains at the airport.

I would prefer almost anything else, but maybe Spurlock nailed it in the sad aftermath of the horrific, sad and depressing incident at the Copper Canyon Apartments in Highlands Ranch on Dec. 31.

One news agency reported, “Another mass shooting in Colorado.”

Of course, everybody doesn’t have a gun. I don’t.

We all make choices. I make my own, and generally I am the odd man out. I am neither better or smarter. I just don’t want a gun in the house.

That old Second Amendment doesn’t keep me feeling safe and warm at night. Luck does.

Bullets came through a common wall at Copper Canyon, and wounded neighbors who were minding their own business.

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I hear that over and over.

Jennifer and I talked about the shooting and about the sheriff.

The national spotlight was turned on and it was aimed at him.

He did a commendable job of sorting through the known facts, acknowledging all of the fallen officers, while showing both objectivity and compassion.

And in the middle of it, he said, “This is Colorado,” and the rest.

The reality is more guns than people.

Someone else, maybe my next-door neighbors, make up for me. My arsenal is made up of words.

I wish Spurlock could have said, “This is Colorado. Everybody has a dictionary.”

Or, “This is Colorado. Everybody owns an original work of art.”

I am not living in a dream world. I am trying to survive in a country that has a state (Michigan), that has a town, that has a bank, that offers a rifle if you open an account.

I have never been to Nucla, Colorado. I have been tempted because of its name. Take away the “N” and what do you have? My alma mater.

It has something else: a law that requires everyone in town to own a gun.

(Except for those who can’t afford them, conscientious objectors, felons, and those with mental or physical disabilities.)

Wouldn’t it be better if everyone in town were required to own a copy of Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony”?

Save your exasperations with me over this. I’ve heard it.

“Freedom of” and “freedom from” are two different things, and we have both in Colorado. For now.

I had a cap gun when I was a kid. I liked the smell after I shot a cap.

(Do they still sell cap guns?)

Replica guns are sold, and they are supposed to have distinguishing orange tips. But they have been used during criminal activities. If you use a toy gun or a replica gun during a crime in Chicago, you are treated just like you would be if you had used a real gun.

There’s a new makeshift memorial every day. It’s an industry. It’s a reality.

I know someone who knows someone who was the first person shot in Las Vegas. She survived.

Was it fate? God? I think it was luck.

Orson Welles said, “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at

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To make the greatest investments, focus on your people and yourself

Throughout the year the community is always so responsive to this column, and I really do appreciate you all so much and I am also grateful for all of the emails and questions that come in each week. As I have shared before, many of those emails and questions become the inspiration for this column, so thank you all and please keep those emails and questions coming.

One of the questions that comes in frequently, especially around this time of year as people prepare to make changes or improve personally or professionally, is this: “I am looking to possibly make some changes and take my company to the next level. What is the best investment I can make to help grow my business?”

There are so many possible ways to answer this question. And in each situation, I would ask more questions to uncover more about the business, research the industry, and ask about available resources, priorities, initiatives, products, services, the overall strategy, marketing and advertising campaigns, and the goals and objectives as well as what is driving those goals and objectives.

But the one area that I find more often than any other, and the place where significant gains can be made in any company, is the people. The greatest investment that anybody or any business can make to see improvements in performance is an investment in themselves and in their people.

Whether you are trying to grow a business, get yourself in shape, break a bad habit, elevate morale, eliminate complacency, improve employee retention, expand market share, increase profitability, change the culture, or anything else that you are hoping to expand, improve, or increase, anything else at all where you are trying to move the needle in a positive direction, the very best investment that you can make is an investment in yourself and in your people.

Many of the questions have come from entrepreneurs who have built a great business on their passion but never really knew how to manage or lead others. An investment in management training or some level of executive coaching for themselves would go such a long way. The salesperson who has done well but is not making the numbers they or their company really need them to make — without a doubt an investment in a personal development program or sales training program is an investment they can make for themselves or the company should make for them.

The emails I receive come from people in human resources or company administrators too. Many times, investments in people or staff seem to go toward the salespeople or revenue generating personnel. What about the customer care teams, the product teams, accounting, operations, and everyone else? Every team member deserves an investment in training and an opportunity to participate in the success of the company and improve the morale and attitude as well. And investments aren’t just about money, are they?

Investments in people include gratitude and appreciation, communication, collaboration, and making everyone feel like they are a part of the team and the success of the organization.

An investment in ourselves is not just about business either. We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else. Too often people miss this opportunity. Instead of investing in themselves they let stress, work, to-do lists, and being on the go dictate their schedules. If this is you, stop it. Stop and take the time for you. What is it you really want to be, do, or have? An investment in ourselves is the ultimate productivity vehicle.

What does an investment in ourselves look like? Well it could be a gym membership or a membership in a massage program. Could be a personal coach — many times people think coaches are only for athletes or business people, but personal coaches are a great place to start. Enrolling in a seminar or training program. Time, an investment in time for ourselves to read, write, think, meditate, pray, or just walk. But scheduled and focused “me” time is essential to true growth. An investment in a college class, a cooking class, or a dance class or in any other hobby or passion that we might have also inspires growth and creativity.

Do you want to grow personally or professionally? Do you want to see your company grow? I have a very simple solution for you, a personal recommendation for you … invest in yourself and in your people.

So how about you? Are you right where you want to be, or do you wrestle with the same question about where to make the best investment to grow yourself or your business? Either way I would love to hear your questions and your story at And when we remember to make the right investments in both our personal and our professional life, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the former president of the Zig Ziglar Corporation, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.

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Law enforcement, schools have strong partnership

There is a drumbeat in Douglas County. It is a rhythm that is present in all of us — many days, it is background noise that blends in with the other sounds of our lives. There are days, though, when the drumbeat reaches full volume.

The drumbeat is what ties us all together — the partnerships and friendships that make a county of 850 square miles seem small, warm and comfortable. Recent events involving our local law enforcement partners have raised the drumbeat to a level that is nearly impossible to ignore. In times like these, we all put our differences and disagreements aside to come together as a community and family.

The support and love shown by our county in recent days is the reason I live and work in Douglas County. Here in the Douglas County School District, we partner with four different law enforcement jurisdictions: the Castle Rock, Lone Tree and Parker police departments, as well as the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Did you know your school district is in contact with our law enforcement partners every day? The deputies and officers in Douglas County work around the clock to ensure our students and staff are safe at school. It truly is a community effort. At our high schools, you will find our School Resource Officers. They are law enforcement employees who are assigned to one high school to provide security and support. At our elementary and middle schools, our School Marshal Officers make multiple unannounced visits to the schools each day. They are also law enforcement employees who visit and patrol our schools.

If there is a concern in one of our 89 schools, students can send a text from their cell phone. The Text-A-Tip program is completely secure and anonymous. We also utilize the Safe2Tell program in DCSD. Anyone can call and submit an anonymous report about anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family or your community.

DCSD works closely with our police and sheriff’s teams to ensure we have the best possible protection for our children. While they may assist with a law enforcement issue at our schools, they are also building relationships. It is incredibly heartwarming to see our deputies and officers interact with our kids, and even go the extra mile to make sure they are successful in school!

I am incredibly proud of DCSD’s relationship with our four law enforcement partners. It is a strong relationship that typically goes unnoticed.

The drumbeat is loud and strong these days in Douglas County as we continue to support and pray for the family and friends of Zackari Parrish, as well as all of the deputies, officers and civilians so greatly impacted by this recent tragedy.

On behalf of the Douglas County School District, I want to thank each and every one of our law enforcement partners. Every day, you put yourselves in harm’s way to serve and protect all of us. I also want to thank the families of our men and women in blue — I can only imagine the waiting and the worrying you experience, knowing that your loved one may be in danger. You all have our deep appreciation and respect for your service to our students and our community.

Douglas County, thank you for hearing the loud drumbeat and supporting one another during this time.

Together, we are stronger.

Erin Kane is the interim superintendent of the Douglas County School District.

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High school athletes take time to help team of fourth-grade girls

It’s easy to notice Makena Prey’s talents on the basketball court or the golf course.

However, the Golden High School senior has also been an influence in the classroom with a 4.66 weighed grade-point average, and she is helping coach a fourth-grade girls basketball team.

Prey, Golden boys basketball standout Adam Thistlewood and Prey’s teammate Mia Johnson were asked by their calculus teacher Shannon Garvin if they would drop in once in a while to help coach her daughter’s team.

One practice session with the young team has led to many others whenever the schedules of the players allow.

It’s been enjoyable and a learning experience coaching the youngsters.

“We have fun with them when we go to the gym,” said Prey. “I’m definitely learning that the way you say things matters because it clicks differently with other kids. It has definitely made me more patient with players on my team because it is definitely going to click with them eventually, just not as fast as it does with me. Or just the opposite, it might not click with me as it does with some of the other girls on the team.

“We are just trying to get them to make layups and make the easy baskets because as fourth-graders they don’t score that much in their games. So every little bucket counts. We focus on making layups and ball handling.”

The fourth-grade girls are lucky to have two of the state’s best basketball players in Prey and Thistlewood tutoring them.

Prey, a 6-foot forward, led all Class 4A players in scoring with a 24.9 average after eight games, was sixth with 11.6 rebounds a game, and was the state leader with 76 field goals. She was shooting 67 percent from the floor. She was second with 45 made free throws while making 70 percent of her attempts.

Thistlewood, a 6-7 senior who has signed to play at Drake, was third in the state with a 23.6 scoring average and was first with 76 field goals. He has made 78 percent of his free throws, with his 46 put free throws ranking him second in the state.

“I like teaching the next generation how I was taught to play basketball,” Thistlewood said about coaching. “We definitely try to teach them the fundamentals. They have a bundle of energy.”

Prey comes from an athletic, competitive family. Her father, Hank, played basketball at Colorado School of Mines. Older sister Sydney was a Golden standout who is now a freshman golfer and redshirt freshman basketball player at Colorado Mesa. Younger sister Haley is a sophomore on the Demons’ girls basketball team.

“The competition kinda made me the player I am today since I was always having to go against my older sister who is very competitive,” said Prey. “I was always trying to beat her in basketball, golf or school. We pushed to be the best. We do that with everything.”

That includes playing pickup games against boys at the recreation center.

“I’ve been doing that for a little less than a year now and at first nobody would want me to play because I’m a girl,” said Prey. “Once they found out I was actually pretty good they started to let me play more and I could beat some of them. Now I know most of them and they put me on a team when we play.”

Bound for South Korea

Rosters for the United States men’s and women’s Olympic hockey teams were announced and two local players will be competing Feb. 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Troy Terry, a 20-year-old University of Denver junior from Highlands Ranch, is the youngest player named to the men’s team. Green Mountain alumna and Lindenwood University graduate Nicole Hensley will be on the women’s team.

Terry scored four shootout goals in the semifinal and title games to help Team USA win the World Junior Championship last January.

Douglas County girls sports luncheon

The Foundation for Douglas County Schools and Douglas County School District will hold their annual Girls and Women in Sports luncheon to honor select coaches, current and former athletes and other guests on Jan. 12 at Chaparral High School.

Each high school will select five girls and each middle school picks seven girls to be honored.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at or at 303-566-4083.

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Newly released footage sheds more light on fatal shooting of deputy

Douglas County deputies were attempting to place the man who killed Deputy Zackari Parrish on a mental health hold while he reportedly was going through a “manic episode,” according to a newly released video from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The agency released a video statement on Jan. 8, which includes audio recordings and excerpts from body camera footage of the Dec. 31 incident in which the suspect, 37-year-old Matthew Riehl, opened fire on authorities. It unveils new details about the shooting that left Parrish dead and four officers and two civilians injured. Riehl was shot to death by a regional SWAT team before the incident concluded after about two hours.

The wounded officers were Deputy Michael Doyle, 28; Deputy Taylor Davis, 30; Deputy Jeffrey Pelle, 32; and Tom O’Donnell, a Castle Rock police officer. Each was released from local hospitals by the night of Jan. 1, except for Pelle, who was expected to make a full recovery.

The video, narrated by Sheriff Tony Spurlock, shows the deputies responding twice to Riehl’s Highlands Ranch apartment before the shooting took place — first on noise complaints and again on reports of a domestic disturbance.

“There’s a lot of information out there. I would like for you to hear from me about what happened,” Spurlock says in the first few minutes of the YouTube video.

The video does not include any audio or clear video of Riehl, but does show deputies interacting with him both through closed doors and face-to-face.

The body camera footage begins by showing deputies approaching Riehl’s apartment at the Copper Canyon complex. Officers were first called to the apartment at 3 a.m. on a noise complaint, Spurlock said. They did not find evidence of a crime at the time, but are heard discussing Riehl’s emotional state.

“I’m going to try and figure out how to calm him down,” a deputy is heard saying.

The next clip shows a deputy speaking to a shadowy figure, presumably Riehl, sitting on the stairwell leading to Riehl’s apartment, whom the officer addressed as “Matt.” The individual’s face is completely silhouetted.

“We’re here because we want to make sure you’re OK,” the deputy says. “Do me a favor though, Matt. Next time, if you ever call us, try not to scream.”

Then at 5:17 a.m., officers responded again to Riehl’s residence on a domestic disturbance call, which they identified as a mental health call after arriving, Spurlock said.

“It’s Deputy Parrish, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Hey Matt, it’s Zack,” says Parrish after deputies knock on Riehl’s door.

The video explains officers spend several minutes trying to assist Riehl before Parrish makes the call to detain Riehl on an “M-1.”

An “M-1” is a mental health hold approved by the Colorado Department of Behavioral Health that officials, including law enforcement, can use when “an individual’s behavior is so risky that they need to be held in a hospital against their will,” according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“He’s going through a manic episode,” Parrish says in the recording while a man’s frantic voice can be heard in the background. “We’re going to take him.”

Between 5:35 a.m. and 5:57 a.m. deputies worked on a plan to provide medical and mental health aid to Riehl, Spurlock said.

“At 5:57, this is what took place,” Spurlock said. The video then cuts to audio of gunfire and multiple people yelling.

“Back up, back up, back up, back up, back up,” a man is heard yelling over other voices and gunshots.

Spurlock explains as Riehl opened fire at the deputies, Parrish was shot and fell in a doorway, where he remained until the shootout concluded at about 7:30.

Davis went out a window “head first” and deputies Doyle and Pelle were hit “immediately,” but were able to leave the apartment through the front door. This is when the mental health call evolved into a crime, and Riehl became a suspect, Spurlock said.

“They made an attempt to get back in but the volley of gunfire was too much,” Spurlock said of Doyle and Pelle before the video shows the two deputies running from the apartment.

“I’m shot in the chest,” one deputy says after lying on the ground between neighboring apartment buildings.

“I’m shot in the arm and the leg,” says the other while assisting his colleague on the ground. He’s heard telling another individual that Davis is still inside.

A gunshot then rings out in the background.

“He’s shooting out the window,” a deputy says.

The deputies then run to another location where another gunshot pierces the air. For the next 90 minutes, Spurlock said, the suspect continued shooting and injured two civilians in adjacent apartments.

The next video clip shows an armed officer standing at the base of the stairwell to Riehl’s apartment, looking up, when there is an explosion of rapid gunfire.

“Parrish, can you hear me,” a man later yelled toward the apartment unit, to no response. More explosions of gunfire followed. It is not clear where the gunfire comes from.

At 7:30 a.m., Spurlock says, officers went into Riehl’s apartment in an effort to rescue Parrish. Officers shot and killed Riehl in self-defense during that raid, Spurlock said, and also rescued the two injured civilians.

In a news conference the day of the shooting, Spurlock said doctors told him Parrish was shot multiple times and “had no ability” to survive his injuries.

A spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said several officers were placed on paid administrative leave following the incident.

Riehl also livestreamed a Periscope video of himself in the hours leading up to and including the shootout with law enforcement. The sheriff’s office spokeswoman said the video was taken down at the request of the sheriff’s office and is now evidence in the case.

“I’m very proud of the officers and the men and women that were on that call that night. They did exactly what they were trained to do. They provided aid, they provided service, they provided care and compassion and unfortunately it turned violent. But I assure you,” Spurlock said in his closing remarks, “we are committed to do whatever we can to (address) the mental health issues in the county and whatever we can do anywhere in this state.”


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Castle View coed cheer team takes state championship

Castle View High School’s coed varsity cheer team had an unusual season this year. The team didn’t win a single competition until the week before state championships. That’s uncharacteristic for them, said head coach Heather Acampora, who along with some of her athletes spoke candidly about the slow start to their 2017 season.

“It took us all that time just to finally get them to work as a team. And it wasn’t for lack of ability, it just takes that long to get a routine that difficult and hit it. We could have dumbed it down, we just didn’t much,” Acampora said.

Losing, although a bitter experience, humbled the team, she said, and became the motivation they used to perfect their performance.

In the end, it paid off.

This year for the fourth year in a row, Castle View High School’s coed varsity cheer team won the Class 4A/5A state championship. The competition was held at the Denver Coliseum on Dec. 8 and 9.

Amanda Campbell, whose son Lucas, a 15-year-old sophomore, is in his first year on the team, said the arena went wild as Castle View performed during finals.

“It wasn’t perfect,” she acknowledged, before adding, “When Castle View got up, I mean, the crowd, you should have heard the crowd.”

The attention came from friends and family of the athletes, but also from other teams at the competition, the team said. Seating reserved at the Coliseum for supporters of whichever team is currently performing filled up early, Campbell said. Not all Castle View families could get spots.

“It’s really nerve-wracking because you just walk in and, having Castle View on your chest, you know that people are looking at you,” said 17-year-old senior Lizzi Jung, who explained the team’s winning streak at state has gained them name recognition within the cheer world.

“I feel like that puts a lot of pressure on the team,” she said.

Athletes said this year they went from people staring at them because they made noticeable mistakes during regular season performances to people staring at them, and congratulating them for nailing their state routine.

Acampora said things turned around when the team learned to focus not on winning, but on performing their best. “Hitting” a routine, or performing without mistakes, became the goal, athletes said.

“That feeling felt better than winning,” said Gracelyn Petrauskas, a 16-year-old sophomore.

State results available online show Castle View five points ahead of the state runner-up, Mountain Vista High School, despite a two-point deduction.

Next, the 23 varsity athletes will compete in the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 10 and 11.

Acampora has entered the team in three divisions at nationals — the Medium Varsity Coed Division; the Game Day Division, which simulates cheering for a real-life game day; and the World High School Cheer Division, an international competition where Castle View has competed against teams hailing from as far away as China and Ecuador.

Castle View has gone to nationals eight out the sport’s 12 years running at the school, Acampora said, and was a national finalist four of those times.

She called Douglas County one of the most competitive areas in the country for high school cheer and dance, which gives them good practice competing against high-level teams ahead of nationals.

Castle View’s preparation for nationals truly begins with team tryouts in April. Once the varsity athletes are set, they start working on their routine in June and attend a master’s camp where coaches from across the country instruct teams.

Their choreographer provides Castle View with a national-level routine right from the start, Acampora said. Learning that routine means practices four to five days a week in addition to covering the school’s games and town events, plus weekly tumbling practice at a Parker gymnastics facility.

“So in other words, this team has no life outside of cheer,” Acampora said. “It’s a big commitment.”

Campbell said she’s been impressed the accountability and high standards coaches hold the cheerleaders to.

“The time that they’re putting in, it’s serious,” Campbell said. “You do not miss practice unless you’re really injured or you’re really sick.”

Heidi Petrauskas, Gracelyn’s mother, said it’s “virtually impossible” for the cheerleaders to hold down a job on top of cheer and school, but like Campbell, believes the team has a solid support system to help the cheerleaders handle the commitment.

“I think they have a really great team,” Petrauskas said. “They’ve very accepting. I don’t know what you call it but they’re kind of like a family.”

Campbell said she’s gained a greater appreciation for cheer now that she has a child in the sport. She was an athlete too, she said, and Lucas plays baseball in addition to cheer, but there hasn’t been any sporting event like the state tournament she witnessed Dec. 8 and 9, she said.

Campbell, her husband and one of her daughters will travel to Orlando to watch Lucas compete in nationals.

“We wouldn’t miss it,” she said.

At nationals, some athletes are hoping to win a division. Some are just hoping to “hit” their routine. Regardless, Acampora said she’s proud of the team’s progress this season, and hopes the momentum continues at nationals.

“This is the biggest cheer championship,” Acampora said, “in the country.”

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Castle View grad brings steer to National Western

The walls of the barn at the National Western Stock Show Complex echoed with the whine of clippers and the hum of blow driers as Douglas County resident Charles Granie and 39 other Catch-a-Calf exhibitors stabled and began preparing their animals for judging that will complete their year-long project.

“I caught a calf at last year’s stock show and now I am here so they can judge how well I did the job of raising the animal,” Granie said. “You don’t keep the calf you catch. They deliver one to you about May. I actually got a calf from South Dakota because the calf I was supposed to get got out of the pen and ran away.”

The Castle View High School graduate said the calf he raised was a big baby and it took two to three months before he was able to establish a good relationship and friendship with his calf that he named Bubba.

Granie, a member of the Douglas County 4-H, worked with Bubba at least an hour a day and frequently for several hours a day on the weekends.

He said he grew up on a ranch so raising a calf wasn’t new to him. He said he spent long hours grooming and feeding the calf that is now a steer that weighs between 1,500 and 1,600 pounds. He said he was pleased with all he did to raise Bubba. He said if he could change anything he would feed the animal more so it would weigh more for the show.

“It is always hard not to get really attached to the steer because you spend more hours with the animal than most people spend with their dogs,” he said. “I have had experience as I have raised and sold four steers at National Western so I know the feeling when time comes to part with the animal. But it will be hard to see Bubba go.”

He has plans for the future that begins when he starts classes Northwestern Community College. He said he isn’t sure about a major but is sure it will be in the agriculture field.

Catch-a-Calf candidates come from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming to compete in National Western Stock Show’s longest-running program of practical beef cattle management. Young men and women 12 to 18 years old from the four states are eligible to apply to the program.

During one of four rodeo performances, candidates seek to catch one of the 10 calves released in the corral. Each year 40 calves are released and this year there are 52 candidates so not every candidate catches a calf.

Successful participants catch a calf, then later get a calf that they feed and raise, and return with the animal one year later as a market steer. The market animals are judged on rate of gain, quality of fitting, and carcass quality. The exhibitor is judged on showmanship, their record book, and a personal interview.

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Citizen Advisory Committee members named; meeting scheduled for Jan. 9

Town Council is moving forward in the process to implement the will of voters and establish a process for Castle Rock’s elected at-large Mayor. While the 2017 Special Election changed the overall structure of Town Council, the original citizen-initiated petition did not identify a few critical elements. Now, a Citizen Advisory Committee has been established to advise Council on next steps.

The committee was authorized at Town Council’s Dec. 5 meeting. Since then, applications have been received and interviews were conducted. Seven community members have been selected to serve on the committee.

The members of the Citizen Advisory Committee are:

•John Lamb
•Siegfried Guentensberger
•Michael Hays
•Kathie Shandro
•Randy Reed
•Linda Baumann
•Michael Waggoner

Additionally, three alternates were appointed: Tim Arvidson, Max Brooks and John Berry.

The committee’s purpose will be to advise Council on certain necessary changes to the Town Charter and a transition plan for Castle Rock’s new Town Council structure. Because any changes to the Charter require voter approval, another election will be required. Before a special election is outlined, the committee will review and advice Council on:

•Qualifications for Mayor, such as age, voting status, duration of residency in Castle Rock and the number of signatures required to get on the ballot
•Election date the Mayor will first be elected
•The timing to complete the necessary re-districting to six Council districts

The committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Town Council Chambers to discuss their recommendations. This will be a public meeting. Download the agenda at

Due to community interest, there will be time for public comment. That public comment will be limited to 1 hour, and each speaker will be allowed 4 minutes to address the committee. Following it’s meeting, the committee will present a formal recommendation during the regular Town Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Town Council welcomes questions about this and any other Town topic at Keep up with the process, or sign up for email updates, at

The Town Charter is the Town’s foundational document. It defined the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the Town. Any changes require voter approval. Council is expected to plan a special election in the spring to finalize these elected mayor details.

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Details of killer’s past point to recent spiral

The man who killed a deputy and injured four officers and two civilians on New Year’s Eve in Highlands Ranch had a history with law enforcement in Colorado and Wyoming, was estranged from his family and reportedly was living with mental health issues.

Matthew Riehl, 37, was killed in a Dec. 31 shootout with authorities. Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said Riehl used a rifle to fire at least 100 rounds at officers during a two-hour standoff before a regional SWAT team killed the suspect.

Deputy Zackari Parrish, 29, a husband and father of two, died in the early morning incident.

It remains unclear why Riehl began shooting at officers, but details of his past continued to emerge in the days after the New Year’s Eve incident.

Riehl was well-known to law enforcement in both Wyoming and Colorado.

The University of Wyoming police department began investigating Riehl after he made a series of “alarming” social media posts concerning the university’s law school and its professors, university spokesman Chad Baldwin said. The school increased security, warned students, staff and faculty and contacted the police department in Lone Tree — where Riehl lived after leaving Wyoming — about Riehl’s behavior.

Lone Tree incidents

The Lone Tree Police Department released a timeline on Jan. 2 outlining the agency’s interactions with him.

Lone Tree police first encountered Riehl when responding to a family disturbance in June 2016, when Riehl was in an altercation with his father. The family did not press charges.

In another incident, Riehl was issued a citation for careless driving for a traffic accident he was involved in on Feb. 18, 2017.

On June 8 of last year, police conducted a welfare check on Riehl at the request of his mother, who had concerns about his mental health. Officers spoke with Riehl for nearly 15 minutes through a closed door because he would not let them in. Riehl stated he was not a danger to himself or others. Police provided mental health service information to Riehl and his family, but they denied services, the department said. 

Police conducted another welfare check in August after Riehl reported his mother and brother had formed a suicide pact. Police determined that information was not true.

On Nov. 10, a Lone Tree police officer issued Riehl a speeding ticket, which resulted in a court summons. Later that month, Riehl began sharing social media posts and YouTube videos about the traffic stop, alleging the officer lied to him and conducted an “illegal” stop. The Lone Tree Police Department said his behavior “escalated to include harassing emails directly to LTPD police officers.” Because Riehl had moved to Highlands Ranch by then, police contacted the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to investigate, according to the department’s timeline.

On Nov. 14, a detective with the University of Wyoming Police Department contacted Lone Tree police regarding their investigation into Riehl’s comments toward the university.

“Given that this remains an ongoing investigation, additional details may not be available. However, throughout this time period, LTDP has fully collaborated and cooperated with DCSO, the University of Wyoming Police Department and the suspect’s family on each incident involving Riehl,” the timeline said.

Guns, livestreamed tirades

A University of Wyoming Police Department report obtained by the TV station/news website Denver 7 and reported on by several media outlets shows family and friends told police Riehl suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, was bipolar and was off his medications. He was also estranged from family in recent weeks and had mental breakdowns, the report said, although police did not find evidence Riehl had threatened violence toward others.

Colorado Community Media requested the report but it was not immediately made available. On Jan. 3, a spokesman for the university police department said the report has been placed under review — meaning some of the information in it could be redacted — while Colorado authorities continue to investigate the Dec. 31 shooting.

Multiple media outlets, including the Associated Press, have reported on the contents of a Periscope video shot by Riehl after news broke that he had livestreamed the New Year’s Eve shooting. The video, showed in part by local TV stations, appears to show Riehl making one of the two 911 calls that brought officers to his residence that morning.

During the livestream, Riehl tells dispatch he’d been drinking, owned guns and was the victim of domestic assault during an argument with his roommate. He also claimed he’d purchased more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Media later reported on police records showing Riehl allegedly purchased 11 guns at a Laramie, Wyoming, gun shop several years ago.

Recent firearm training

In recent months, Riehl sought firearm training with Kenaz Tactical Group, a shooting school based in Colorado Springs. In a news release from the business, owner Robert Butler said Riehl attended defensive firearms courses conducted by the company over the summer.

“Mr. Riehl’s demeanor during the training sessions was not alarming, he interacted well with other students and seemed proud of his military career. Mr. Riehl provided his own firearms during the training sessions,” the release said.

In speaking with Colorado Community Media, Butler said the company instructs a range of students, from civilians to first responders to military and other armed professionals. The defensive firearms course Riehl attended covers the “legal, moral and ethical use of” firearms specifically in self-defense, Butler said.

“We do talk about natural body responses to a threat,” he said. “We always encourage that fight is your last response.”

The company’s release said it is prepared to fully cooperate with authorities leading the investigation.

A former lawyer, veteran

Sharon Wilkinson, executive director of the Wyoming State Bar, confirmed to Colorado Community Media that Riehl was a licensed attorney in the state from 2011 to October 2016, when he voluntarily withdrew his membership. Riehl did not give a specific reason for leaving the bar, she said.

“It’s not uncommon for attorneys to withdraw their membership in the month of October,” Wilkinson said.

Membership fees are payable on Oct. 1 and due by the end of November. Attorneys who have moved out of the jurisdiction frequently withdraw if they know they will not practice in the area again, she said. The organization was notified Riehl changed his address to Lone Tree in July 2015.

Before withdrawing, Riehl practiced law with MacPherson, Kelly & Thompson LLC., a firm in Rawlins, Wyoming. A statement from the firm said Riehl was employed there from 2011-14 as an associate attorney.

“MacPherson, Kelly & Thompson, LLC has had no contact with Mr. Riehl, either socially or professionally, since he left the firm. MacPherson, Kelly & Thompson, LLC expresses its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families,” the statement read.

Riehl also opened his own private practice in 2014, Wilkinson said. The organization did not receive any complaints about Riehl while he was a practicing attorney.

“That’s about all we know about him,” Wilkinson said.

Deidre Forster, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming National Guard, also confirmed Riehl entered the Army Reserve in 2003 and the Wyoming National Guard in 2006. He was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2009 and was honorably discharged in 2012.

Ongoing investigation

A spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said several officers were placed on paid leave following the shooting that killed Riehl, although further inquiries were not immediately returned.

Colorado Community Media has not confirmed what the sheriff’s office did with the information provided by the Lone Tree Police Department or if deputies were told to take extra precautions when responding to Riehl’s home on Dec. 31.

Updates regareding the shooting investigation will be shared on the sheriff’s office’s social media platforms, the agency has said.

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Traffic, housing costs, retirement funds take spotlight

Democrats recently remarked that Colorado has “no shortage of unmet needs” — a comment that elicited a sardonic tone from Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock — and the 2018 legislative session, with its kickoff Jan. 10, is shaping up to bear out that claim.

Which needs it will meet is a different story.

Lawmakers will be pressed to find solutions for a state with a ballooning population clogging roads, an underfunded retirement-fund program and housing costs through the roof. With roughly $300 million projected in previously unforeseen revenues — a prediction that may double — the state has a small bit of breathing room to signal where its priorities lie.

Among other issues lawmakers have discussed in the weeks leading up to the regular session — the four-month part of the year when legislators pass bills — health-care costs have already risen as a key debate to watch for in 2018.

Amid elections, this year will offer no easy waters for bipartisanship — all 65 seats in the state House are up for election, as are 17 of the 35 state Senate seats, plus statewide races including the governor’s post. Here’s what both parties had to say about the flash-point issues this session.

‘Walking the walk’

Colorado landed itself in a $9 billion hole as of 2016, according to state projections of transportation-spending needs through 2025. Interstates 70 and 25 are in need of updates in several parts of the state, to say nothing of smaller roadways.

“We talk the talk — we have to walk the walk,” Neville said at the Business Legislative Preview event hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Competitive Council Jan. 4 in downtown Denver. He took cynical aim at the Democrats’ “unmet needs” comment from a Jan. 2 news release.

“They say we have unmet needs — well, isn’t transportation an unmet need?” Neville said. “I think it is.”

The Democrats did mention transportation as a priority, though, and state House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, supported an unsuccessful bill last year to increase sales and use taxes by 0.62 percentage point to raise more than $375 million per year for transportation projects.

“To be politically honest,” Neville said, “the citizens won’t pass a tax increase.”

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, supported that bill along with Duran.

Echoing Neville, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said $300 million in upcoming revenue would be appropriate to add for road-and-bridge projects. Asking voters to approve bond spending would be another opportunity, Holbert added.

With Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper willing to spend some of the added $286 million in projected revenue over the current and next fiscal year — a stronger-than-expected economy raised expectations, and the recent federal tax bill could raise more another $300 million on top of that in Colorado in the next fiscal year alone, state data said — the chances for some amount of transportation increase look safe.

The Colorado Department of Transportation garnered about a $1.4 billion budget in general for 2017, and lawmakers last session added nearly $2 billion for transportation projects specifically in coming years.

Unhappy with gentrifying

Colorado has to figure out how not to push out residents who have grown up here, said Duran, who referenced an Ink! Coffee location that displayed a sidewalk sign that read, “Happily Gentrifying the Neighborhood Since 2014.”

The advertisement became national news as salt in an open wound of changing demographics in metro Denver neighborhoods — it drew protests and an apology letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in November, the Associated Press reported — and politicians like Duran are still pushing for more affordable housing.

State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, is introducing a bill to “expand attainable housing programs,” Gidfar said.

Chances for such a bill passing are by no means certain, though — last year’s House Bill 17-1309 was projected to provide the state with $7.6 billion in fiscal year 2018-19 to fund affordable housing efforts, and it failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Republicans, for their part, say that more opportunities for first-time homebuyers could come if lawmakers changed state law that makes suing builders too easy. Entire multi-family developments can be pulled into one lawsuit that might only involve one or a few homes in it, Holbert said.

Condominiums and townhomes “are cost-prohibitive to build in Colorado” due to current law, Holbert said. “Last session, we passed House Bill 17-1272, which provided some relief,” he said, but “that bill was a first down, not a touchdown,” and we “should work toward limiting lawsuit abuse.”

State Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, said he’ll push for renewal and expansion of affordable housing-tax credits that incentivize private development of lower-income housing.

Finding affordable housing is an issue for middle-class residents, too, said state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood — and that includes teachers.

“Our education committee is looking at dealing with our teacher shortage,” Pettersen said. “Our teachers aren’t able to (continue to) live in communities they live in on their salary.”

What to do with PERA?

The Public Employees’ Retirement Association, Colorado’s public-pension system, is more than $30 billion underfunded, and that’s varying degrees of alarming depending on who’s talking.

The shortage “jeopardize(s) retirement security for many thousands of Coloradans as well as the fiscal health of the state,” Tate said. “To keep our promises to retirees as well as current workers, comprehensive pension plan reform is essential.”

The program manages about $44 billion for more than 560,000 current and former public employees — teachers, police, and other local- and state-government employees.

It’s a math problem, not a partisan issue, Tate said — but party leadership differed.

“It needs to be solvent,” Neville said. There “has to be structural reform.”

On the other hand, state Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, said the program is not on the verge of bankruptcy, adding, “I’m not sure we have to do (reform) this year.”

Some conservative critics argue that PERA should transition from its current structure as a defined-benefits plan — in which the employer guarantees a specific retirement amount and bears the risk of promising the investment will be available — to a defined-contributions plan, like a 401(k), in which the employee chooses to fund the plan, which takes the risk off the employer, or in this case, the government.

“I will not allow the retirees — their lives and their well being — to become a political football,” Duran said, advocating for a solution “where we don’t balance all of PERA on the backs of teachers and employees who have spent all their lives giving back to the state.”

Democrats want to keep the defined-benefits system, Guzman said Jan. 4 alongside Duran.

Hickenlooper recently proposed capping the annual cost-of-living increase to the retirement benefits as part of a solution.

Health-care issues

Lawmakers dealt in less specifics when discussing health care at the Jan. 4 event.

Some areas of rural Colorado only have one health-insurance provider, Grantham said, and Neville suggested moving into a “free market-based system” to address rising costs and lack of competition.

Democrats plan to push for a “public option” provider, which would essentially allow all Coloradans the ability to buy into Medicaid, Guzman said. That would improve access and also lower costs, she said.

Duran said Democrats want to tackle issues of transparency and costs related to health care, but when a moderator asked what those issues specifically were, Duran said Democrats are “still working on those.”

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