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Updated: 23 min 23 sec ago

Rockies’ Kyle Freeland continues to struggle as he gets roughed up by O’s

5 hours 57 min ago

Kyle Freeland isn’t just missing spots.

He’s missing the jugular.

“Pitches (have) been fine,” the Rockies left-hander said late Saturday night after being torched for seven earned runs over four innings in Colorado’s 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Coors Field. “It’s just the locations of those pitches in the zone, in the heart of the plate.”

The Denver native was torched for 10 hits and while fanning two — and all seven Baltimore runs were surrendered with two outs. Freeland (2-6, 6.71 ERA) came into Saturday with opposing hitters posting an .807 OPS against him with two outs, up more than .200 points from the .586 clip they managed last season as the lefty emerged as a Cy Young Award contender.

“He’s just not making a critical pitch at critical times,” Rockies manager Bud Black said after the Rockies fell to 5-5 over their last 10 home contests. “(Is there) anything drastic that needs to be done? No. Anything magical? No.”

It was the fourth start out of 11 to open 2019 in which Freeland, who left the game after striking out to end the bottom of the fourth with the hosts facing a 7-4 deficit, was tagged for five earned runs or more. Perspective: That’s as many outings of five runs or more the portsider had given up over 61 career starts in the previous two seasons combined.

Black told reporters after the contest that he was sure of at least two things: One, that Freeland’s struggles weren’t between his ears. And two, the manager stressed, “I trust him.”

Freeland’s misery took some of the shine off a strong evening of run support, highlighted by Nolan Arenado’s 200th career home run, a three-run shot that gave the hosts a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third.

Arenado became the fourth-fastest third baseman to ever reach 200 career homers by launching a first-pitch fastball from Orioles starter Andrew Cashner over the fence along the left field corner.  Arenado took 925 games to reach 200, trailing only Troy Glaus (903 games), Bob Horner (882) and Eddie Mathews (779) among major leaguers who spent at least half their career manning the hot corner. In Friday night’s series opener, Trevor Story reached 100 home runs quicker than any shortstop in MLB history.

“We’re always going to battle as an offense, we’re always going to try to have quality at-bats,” the third baseman said. “But a loss is a loss.”

And the all-star’s big blow was matched by an even larger one from the Orioles’ Jonathan Villar in the top of the fourth. The Baltimore second baseman was locked into Freeland from the get-go, following a double in the first frame and a single in the third with a three-run shot that broke a 4-4 tie.

Still, the hosts continued to chip away, — tacking on runs via an RBI single from Arenado in the bottom of the fifth and on a solo homer by catcher Chris Iannetta an inning later, the latter pulling the Rockies within a run. That trickle of momentum was summarily plugged when Baltimore got two more back in the top of the seventh as Colorado relievers Seunghwan Oh and Jake McGee combined to surrender four hits, two earned runs and a walk in the frame.

Freeland came into the night with a 7.20 ERA in the first inning — up from a 3.00 mark in the opening frame a year ago — over his first 10 starts. Like a bad penny, the stumbles out of the gate turned up again: After surrendering a double to Villar, the game’s second hitter, and getting two outs, the lefty surrendered three straight singles, all of them rockets to left, as RBI knocks from Renato Nunez and Pedro Severino put the hosts in a 2-0 hole.

The former Thomas Jefferson prep star worked a scoreless second before the Orioles extended the lead to 3-1 in the top of the third. With two outs, Nunez golfed the first pitch he saw from Freeland 436 feet into the bleachers in left.

More than a quarter into the season, Freeland’s efforts to return to 2018 form have instead flashed two unfortunate constants: He’s been hit hard, and hit hard extremely quickly. Last season, the lefty saw opponents post a batting average of just .227 the first time through the order and only .223 the second time. Going into the weekend, those numbers in 2019 had shot to .284 and .286, respectively.

The Orioles entered Saturday with a team OPS of .689 and an MLB-worst 3-13 record against left-handed starters. If Baltimore couldn’t cure whatever’s ailing Freeland at the moment, you wonder where Black and pitching coach Steve Foster turn next to find something that will.

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Kawhi Leonard scores 27, Raptors advance to first NBA Finals

May 25, 2019 - 8:41pm

TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard had 27 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors into the NBA Finals for the first time with a 100-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.

The Raptors overcame a 15-point deficit to win the series in six games and will host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

Pascal Siakam scored 18 points, Kyle Lowry had 17 and Fred VanVleet 14 for the Raptors, who used a 26-3 run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to turn the game in their favor.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but the NBA’s top team in the regular season saw its bid for a first finals berth in 45 years come to a disappointing end with a fourth consecutive defeat.

Down 76-71 to start the fourth, the Raptors tied it with an 8-2 run while Leonard and Antetokounmpo were both on the bench. Ibaka’s dunk with 10:32 to go tied it at 78.

Antetokounmpo returned after a timeout, but Leonard kept sitting. That didn’t matter to Toronto, with Siakam’s basket giving the Raptors an 80-78 lead, their first lead since it was 6-3.

Leonard’s one-handed slam after Lowry’s steal gave Toronto an 87-79 lead with 6:46 to go before the Bucks responded. George Hill answered with a layup, Brook Lopez converted a three-point play and Antetokounmpo scored to cut it to 87-86 with 5:19 to go.

Lowry and Lopez swapped baskets before Gasol’s 3 put the Raptors up 92-88 with 3:50 left. After another basket by Lopez, Leonard made a 3 to push Toronto’s lead to 95-90 with 3:04 to play. It was Leonard’s first 3 after missing his first seven attempts of the game.

Toronto made 12 of 27 3-point attempts, including four of eight in the fourth quarter.

Siakam, who missed a pair of free throws late in the fourth quarter of Toronto’s double-overtime win in Game 3, hit one to make it 98-94. Leonard grabbed the rebound on the second and was fouled. He made both, putting the Raptors up 100-94 with 3.9 seconds to go.

Brogdon and Middleton each made a pair from long range as the Bucks shot 6 for 9 from 3-point range in the first and closed the quarter with 10 unanswered points to lead 31-18. Toronto shot 6 for 19 in the opening quarter, missing six straight twice in the first 12 minutes.

The Bucks extended their lead to 38-23 on a 3 by Ersan Ilyasova with 7:46 left until half. Toronto cut the gap to 46-43 on a 3 by VanVleet with 1:07 left in the second, but Eric Bledsoe answered with a 3 and Antetokounmpo split a pair at the line, giving the Bucks a 50-43 advantage at the intermission.

The lead went back to 15 in the third before Leonard finished the period with a flourish. He had eight points in the final 2:01 and Toronto closed with a 10-0 run, cutting a 15-point deficit to 76-71.


Bucks: Milwaukee shot 4 for 16 in the second but three of its made baskets were 3-pointers. … The Bucks had six points in the paint in the first half. … Coach Mike Budenholzer was called for a technical foul on Milwaukee’s first possession of the second half. Leonard missed the free throw. … Antetokounmpo shot 5 for 10 at the free throw line.

Raptors: Danny Green, who missed all three of his field goal attempts in 16 minutes in Game 5, had another rough night. Green shot 0 for 4 in 14 minutes. … Leonard’s 17 rebounds were his most in any game this postseason. … Lowry had eight assists.


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Raptors fan and ‘global ambassador’ Drake sat in his regular seat adjacent to the Toronto bench. The rapper wore a black hoodie with ‘KAWHI ME A RIVER’ printed on the back.


The NBA Finals comes to Canada for the first time when the Raptors host the Warriors on Thursday night. Toronto swept Golden State in the regular season.


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Rapids score late to defeat Columbus Crew, winning second consecutive game

May 25, 2019 - 8:30pm

COMMERCE CITY — Many say three is a lucky number.

In the last 10 minutes of Saturday night’s game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Rapids had three set pieces—the most advantageous of situations for any offense in soccer. The first ended with the attack ending on the post. The second went by the wayside easily. The third finished with a strike into the net by Nicolas Mezquida for a game-winning goal.

Three was the lucky number late for interim head coach Conor Casey in Colorado’s 3-2 victory against the Columbus Crew. Rookie Andre Shinyashiki did not like where Mezquida was lining up for the last minute corner, so he took strategy into his own hands. Just before Jack Price got the ball for the corner kick, Shinyashiki moved Mezquida to the edge the box.

“He said, ‘You have to be here,’ ” Mezquida said. “You have to be outside the box in the corner.”

Price pounded a corner into the center of the box that was defended away easily by Columbus. But the ball found Mezquida just outside the box.

“It was perfect, a perfect sight for me,” Mezquida said. “It was just perfect to shoot.”

He calmly settled it, smacked it and spun it into the net.

It was the third time that Shinyashiki directly changed the outcome of a game in the last 10 minutes.

“Please don’t lose it,” Kellyn Acosta remembered what he thought when he saw Mezquida get the ball. “The shot was sublime.”

Mezquida’s shirt came off, as did the mark of four straight losses by the Rapids in Colorado. The 3-2 victory was Colorado’s (2-9-2) second win of the season — in a row, too — and first in front of home crowd, which totaled 16,843.

The scoring started in the 23rd minute when Price delivered a perfect corner to the center edge of the 6-yard box, where Tommy Smith headed it into the net. It was the center back’s second goal of the year, tying ties him for second-most on the team,

Not but five minutes later the Crew created a flurry within the Rapids’ 18. A bouncing cross from the far side that was not tracked between the back line, and the defensive midfielders found the foot of Pedro Santos on the near side. Undefended Santos dribbled into the center of the box, causing chaos, and lifted a left foot strike cross-body past Tim Howard to equalize the game at 1-1. The goal ended a streak of 242 minutes without a goal for the Crew.

Yet two minutes before the halftime break, the recently acquired Jonathan Lewis, who has dazzled with his speed, finally scored. On a counterattack brought upfield by Sam Nicholson, the ball found Lewis inside the box, where he hammered a left-footed shot into the cage. It was Lewis first goal as a member of the Rapids and put Colorado ahead at halftime for the first time this season.

The lead once again did not last long. Eight minutes into the second half, Federico Higuaín placed a ball firmly into the Rapids box that found the foot of Gyasi Zardes. Columbus’ striker tied the game at 2-2.

“We’ve been allowing a lot of goals this season,” Smith said. “But we’re still playing as a team.”

On the second goal, Deklan Wynne caught an earful from Howard, as he did on the first goal. Wynne got the start alongside Smith at center back because Lalas Abubakar was unable to play. Abubakar was acquired on loan from Columbus a few weeks ago, and MLS rules stipulate that a player on an intra-league loan cannot play against the team that loaned him. The conflict of interest without question impacted the Rapids due to Abubakar’s phenomenal play in his first two games.

“I thought they were very good,” Casey said. “Tommy (Smith) had a big voice, and Deklan did a good job in what wasn’t his natural position.”

Mezquida subbed on after the goal. His boots were speeding around the field for 23 minutes before the right one calmed a loose ball into a spot shooters dream of and gave the Rapids their first back-to-back wins.

“It’s a big win, we wanted to give the fans something, we knew how thirsty the fans were for this, “Casey said. “We’re so pleased with the players tonight.”

COACH CONOR: The Rapids are now 2-2-0 since Conor Casey was appointed interim head coach.

“He’s implemented a competitive edge,” Acosta said of Casey. “He’s added a winning mentality and he’s let us play freely.

BIG PICTURE: The Rapids have snapped their four-game home losing streak which tied a franchise worst. Colorado has powered to two straight wins after beginning the season without a victory for 11 games.

UP NEXT: For the first time this season the Rapids will play twice in a week. On Wednesday they are in Pennsylvania to take on the East Conference’s best Philadelphia Union. Then Colorado returns home for a Saturday night hosting of the East’s worst FC Cincinnati.

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President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe golf amid U.S.-Japan trade tensions

May 25, 2019 - 7:13pm

MOBARA, Japan — Golf never seems to be far behind whenever President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe get together.

So on Sunday, during a four-day state visit to Japan, the president jumped aboard Marine One in Tokyo and flew south to the Mobara Country Club for a steamy morning round with the Japanese leader.

Abe is Trump’s closest friend among world leaders and it’s the fifth time they played golf together since Trump took office. Abe’s strategy is to keep his country out of Trump’s crosshairs amid U.S.-Japan trade tensions and the continued threat North Korea poses to both nations.

Later in the day, Abe will introduce Trump to Japan’s ancient sport of sumo wrestling. The president will sit ringside at a championship match in Tokyo featuring the oversized athletes. He’ll also present the winner with his own “President’s Cup” trophy.

A motorcade of golf carts ferried Abe to meet Trump. They exchanged a warm handshake and patted each other on the forearms and posed for a throng of journalists. Abe wore white pants and a dark blue sport coat. Trump wore a red half-zip pullover with a white shirt and dark pants.

Trump tweeted that he was “Going to play golf right now with @AbeShinzo. Japan loves the game. Tremendous fans of @JackNicklaus, @TigerWoods, and @PhilMickelson.” All three are famous American golfers. Trump said he asked about South African professional golf Gary Play and “they said we love Gary too!”

Abe told reporters as he left for the country club that Sunday’s weather was great for golf and “it seems we are in a good mood for sumo.”

Neither leader spoke at the club before they climbed into a golf cart with Abe at the wheel. Trump ignored a shouted question from a U.S. reporter about whether he believed North Korea had violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Earlier Trump downplayed North Korea’s recent series of short-range missile tests. He tweeted that the tests weren’t a concern for him — even though they are for Japan.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump wrote in a message that appeared to contradict his national security adviser, John Bolton, who told reporters Saturday the tests violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Trump said he “has confidence” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will keep his promise to me.

The president also sought to manage expectations that he and Abe will make significant headway on trade issues when they hold formal talks on Monday. Trump has been seeking a bilateral trade agreement with Tokyo since he pulled the U.S. out of the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement two years ago, though analysts expect no breakthroughs during Trump’s visit.

Fox News Channel’s White House Correspondent John Roberts tweeted that Trump telephoned him Sunday morning in Tokyo and told Roberts that he intended to wait until after Japan’s parliamentary elections in July to push for a deal.

Trump had told business leaders after arriving in Tokyo on Saturday evening that the U.S. and Japan were “hard at work” negotiating a new bilateral trade agreement that he said would benefit both countries.

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“With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove barriers to United States exports, and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship. And we’re getting closer,” he said.

The Trump administration has been threatening Japan with new tariffs on imports of autos and auto parts on national security grounds. Trump has suggested he will impose tariffs if the U.S. can’t wrest concessions from Japan and the European Union. In April Japan’s trade surplus surged almost 18% to 723 billion yen ($6.6 billion).

Trump also embraced Kim’s verbal attack on Joe Biden, one of Trump’s Democratic presidential rivals. Trump misspelled Biden’s name in a tweet in which he said he “smiled” when Kim “called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”

After Biden called Kim a tyrant during a recent speech, North Korea labeled Biden a “fool of low IQ” and an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being”

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Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon on his right calf: “I’m not 100 percent unavailable”

May 25, 2019 - 6:45pm

Charlie Blackmon might have tweaked his right calf. But that hasn’t stopped him from tweaking reporters in the Rockies clubhouse.

“I’m not 100 percent unavailable,” Colorado’s all-star outfielder told The Denver Post late Saturday afternoon before Colorado hosted the Baltimore Orioles at Coors Field. “I’m just not starting.”

The Rockies’ 32-year-old right fielder injured the back of his right leg after fouling a pitch off the calf last Thursday in Pittsburgh. He then aggravated the injury while running in the field during the bottom of the third inning of the 14-6 loss to the Pirates.

Manager Bud Black kept Blackmon, who’s hitting .333 with a 1.126 OPS over 18 games this month from the leadoff position, out of the starting lineup for a second straight game Saturday. Black elected to open with David Dahl in right field and left fielder Raimel Tapia at the top of the order.

“He’s feeling better than he did (Friday),” the Rockies’ skipper explained about Blackman. “And we through some activities (Saturday) in the training room and the weight room, some activity that our trainers are encouraged with.

“So, again, no timetable. But we’re all encouraged that Charlie’s feeling better and that his activity level stepped up (Saturday).”

Black said he wasn’t going to test Blackmon in the field Saturday but could, “potentially,” for Sunday’s series finale.

Blackmon said during pregame that his calf felt “pretty good” but admitted “we’re (still) day to day right now.”

• Black digs Rodgers’ enthusiasm: Rookie Brendan Rodgers violated one of the oldest and firmest of baseball’s cardinal rules Friday night when he was thrown out attempting to steal third base to end the bottom of the eighth inning in a tie game.

But even if conventional wisdom says you should play it safe rather than risk making the last out at third base, Black said he would prefer to see Rodgers keep testing the odds.

“I’d rather have that than the other way,” the Rockies manager said of Rodgers, who was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque during the club’s East Coast swing and made his home debut Friday night. “Big picture, that’s what we talk about a lot, because of the pressure it creates on the opposition’s defense is felt each and every game. And it’s felt from the advance scouts who watch us play.”

• May Days: The Rockies haven’t had a losing May at Coors Field since 2015, when they posted an 4-8 mark for the month. And after a furious rally in an 8-6 win over Baltimore late Friday night, shortstop Trevor Story said he expects to keep that streak going.

“This game can so big on momentum,” said Story, whose two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, his second of the game, was a walk-off winner that pushed the Rockies’ home record to 5-4 in May. “I think having a game like (Friday), where we kind of come back and steal a game where we were down early, is huge. And I think that can hopefully (propel) us in the rest of this homestand.”

On Deck
Orioles RHP David Hess (1-6, 6.75 ERA) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (5-2, 3.38)
1:10 p.m. Sunday, Coors Field
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 850 AM/94.1 FM

Hess has been torched in his last three outings and is perhaps the weakest link in the worst rotation in all of baseball. In that trio of starts, he has yielded 16 runs across 15 innings with nine walks and nine home runs. The second-year right-hander has never faced the Rockies, and opponents are hitting .371 with runners in scoring position against him. Meanwhile, Marquez is coming off eight solid innings of shutout baseball in Pittsburgh, but has sputtered a bit at home this season with a 5.34 ERA in five starts.

Trending: Colorado is in the middle of the pack in terms of bullpen ERA (4.01), but where the Rockies relievers have truly excelled this season is in keeping the ball in the yard. Entering the weekend, the bullpen had allowed a combined 17 homers, which is tied for the fewest in the National League.

At Issue: In addition to ranking last in the NL in collective ERA (5.69) and opponent batting average (.277), the Colorado rotation continues to struggle to go deep in games. The Rockies only have 16 quality starts on the season, which ranks 12th in the NL

Upcoming pitching matchups

Monday: Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (6-2, 2.89) at Rockies RHP Jon Gray (4-4, 4.62), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Tuesday: Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly (4-5, 4.75) at Rockies RHP Antonio Senzatela (3-4, 6.21), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM
Wednesday: Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (3-1, 3.25) at Rockies RHP Jeff Hoffman (0-1, 8.10), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM

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Kiszla: In baseball city built on homers, Trevor Story destined to be biggest Blake Street Bomber of ’em all

May 25, 2019 - 5:40pm

Down on Blake Street, the history of the Rockies is told one home run at a time. When it’s all said and done, after he has finished wrecking pitchers’ egos and denting hoods of sports cars in the Coors Field parking lot, Trevor Story is going to be the biggest Blake Street Bomber of them all.

The career record for home runs by a Colorado batter is 369, set by Todd Helton during the course of 17 major-league seasons. I predict Story will not only shatter that mark but make a run at joining the 500 Club, reserved for the greatest long-ball hitters of all time.

The story of baseball in Colorado has been written large and loudly by powerful hitters fondly known as the Toddfather and CarGo, the Big Cat and Cousin Vinny. But Story is the strongest man ever to step in the batter’s box wearing a Rockies uniform.

“The power and the explosiveness, how fast he is. He’s got some tools I don’t have,” said Nolan Arenado, the Rockies’ $260 million man. “He does some things that I wish I could. I wish I could run like him, and I wish I could flip the ball to right-center with power. He does things that are crazy.”

RELATED: WATCH: Trevor Story hammers 100th home run, fastest shortstop in MLB history to that mark

When a ballplayer inspires awe in a fellow major-leaguer, it means something, especially when that hitter is Arenado, who has led the National League in home runs during three of the past four seasons.

Story speaks softly and carries a big stick. So don’t expect him to brag on any of his homers, whether the long ball wins a game or travels 500 feet. With the image of Bamm-Bamm Rubble from “The Flintstones” in my head, I asked Story if he was born a big swinger, crushing home runs from the time he was a young kid in Texas.

“I was more a pitcher when I was younger, because I could throw the ball hard,” Story said. “But I really found a liking and love for hitting.”

No shortstop in major-league history has reached 100 homers faster than Story, who reached the milestone Friday. Let that sink in for a minute. Not Ernie Banks, not Nomar Garciaparra, not Alex Rodriguez.

What makes it all the more remarkable is those three iconic shortstops retired from the game with a combined 1,437 home runs credited to their famous names.

“To be part of that group is truly special,” Story said.

This is how the legend of the biggest Blake Street Bomber of them will grow: One massive homer at a time.

With a flick of his wrists, Story can hit a walk-off bomb to the opposite field, as he did in a comeback victory to open a weekend series against Baltimore. We’ve seen him circle the bases after a swing that caused him to fall to the ground in the batter’s box. And Story can launch a ball as far as any man on earth, as evidenced by the 505-foot blast to left field field he crushed at Coors in September 2018, causing teammate Carlos Gonzalez to marvel: “As soon as it came off the bat, I said: ‘Oh, man, that’s going to hit the scoreboard and it’s going to go straight to my Lamborghini in the parking lot.’”

And know what’s really cool about the development of Story as one of the game’s most-feared power hitters? The way it happened. When the 6-foot-1, 210-pound shortstop debuted with the Rockies in 2016, Story swung so hard so often it seemed his only two options in the scorebook were: HR or K.

“His first couple years, there were a lot of swing and misses, a lot of over-swings,” Arenado said. “And, now, (Story) is still an aggressive hitter that takes his hacks. But he has slowed the game down and realized he doesn’t have to do so much to make things happen. His power is incredible, and I think he has realized he doesn’t have to do so much to show that power.”

By learning to relax a little with a bat in his hands, Story has actually given pitchers more reason to be nervous.

At the entrance of the press box at the ballpark in LoDo, there’s a photograph of the original Blake Street Bombers walking out of home-plate entrance at Coors and into the baseball city they built one big swing at a time. In the photo, Ellis Burks, Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla are all carrying bats and wearing big smiles.

It’s a legacy celebrated every time Story goes deep and touches ’em all.

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Hate makes a comeback in the Pacific Northwest

May 25, 2019 - 2:51pm

SPOKANE, Wash. — Nearly two decades after the Aryan Nations’ Idaho compound was demolished, far-right extremists are maintaining a presence in the Pacific Northwest.

White nationalism has been on the rise across the U.S., but it has particular resonance along the Idaho-Washington border, where the Aryans espoused hate and violence for years.

The neo-Nazi group was based near Hayden Lake, Idaho, starting in the 1970s, and eventually was bankrupted in a lawsuit brought by local activists and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its compound was seized, and supporters dispersed.

But a series of incidents in recent weeks show far-right sentiments never really left the conservative region. In the county that is home to Hayden Lake, for instance, Republicans last month passed a measure expressing support for U.S. entry of a prominent Austrian far-right activist who was investigated for ties to the suspected New Zealand mosque gunman.

In 2018, at least nine hate groups operated in the region of Spokane and northern Idaho, including Identity Evropa, Proud Boys, ACT for America and America’s Promise Ministries, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center does not track how many members belong to each group.

Keegan Hankes, a researcher for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the number of hate groups is growing across the U.S., driven in part by a toxic political culture. The human rights group counted 784 active hate groups in the U.S. in 2014 and 1,020 in 2018.

In particular, white supremacist groups are growing because of fears that the country’s racial makeup is changing. “That drives a ton of anxiety,” Hankes said.

These new far-right activists are more scattered than the ones who used to gather at the Aryan Nations by the dozens, experts say.

“It is no longer necessary to go to a compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho,” said Kristine Hoover, director of the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies in Spokane.

With the proliferation of social media, groups “form in dispersed locations” and gatherings are “more covert,” she said.

In late April, a self-described “American Nationalist” named Brittany Pettibone appeared at a meeting of Kootenai County, Idaho, Republicans to ask for help to bring her boyfriend, Martin Sellner, to the country from Austria. Pettibone, 26, said Sellner wants to marry her and live in Post Falls, Idaho.

Pettibone was a big promoter of the hoax known as “Pizzagate,” telling her online followers Hillary Clinton and other high-profile Democrats were involved in satanic rituals and child sex trafficking tied to a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant.

Sellner is a leading figure in the extremist “identitarian” movement, which espouses a white nationalist ideology and has swept over Europe amid an influx of migrants and refugees. He has confirmed he exchanged emails with the suspected New Zealand shooter, who donated money to Sellner’s group. But Sellner denies involvement in the attack.

Despite his background, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee passed a resolution urging the federal government to allow Sellner into the United States. The resolution said the government revoked Sellner’s travel privileges “for political reasons,” and demanded those privileges be reinstated.

Faced with criticism for giving Pettibone a platform, Kootenai County GOP Chair Brent Regan blamed the press. “In its lust for scandal, the media has stretched the committee’s simple act of kindness into headlines that are too bizarre to be fiction,” he wrote in a recent op-ed.

Also last month, The Guardian published internet chats from 2017 in which a Washington state legislator and three other men discussed confronting “leftists” with a variety of tactics, including violence, surveillance and intimidation.

The messages prompted Washington House Democrats to demand that the Republican lawmaker, Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane Valley, be reprimanded for a history of far-right speech and activities. While Shea did not propose violence, he did not speak up when violence was proposed, Democrats said.

House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm responded that Shea should not be punished before investigations are completed. The House, led by Democrats, will conduct an independent investigation of the lawmaker.

Shea, who rarely speaks to reporters, did not return numerous messages from The Associated Press.

He has served in the state House since 2008, introducing bills to criminalize abortion and roll back gun laws and pushing for eastern Washington to secede from the rest of the state. The military veteran attracted international attention in 2018 after a document he wrote laid out a “biblical basis for war” against people who practiced same-sex marriage and abortion, and instructed: “If they do not yield, kill all males.”

In a third case, a nationwide arrest warrant was issued in May for a Stevens County, Washington, man who allegedly tried to extort members of his right-wing militia group through anonymous written threats backed by insinuations they came from a Mexican drug cartel.

James “Russell” Bolton, 51, faces at least six charges of extortion and attempted theft after he was arrested recently in West Virginia.

Bolton has led a militia group called the Stevens County Assembly.

Stevens County detectives believe he was responsible for a series of anonymous threatening letters delivered to members of the group. The letters purported to come from a Mexican cartel and demanded large sums of cash in exchange for protection.

Hoover, the Gonzaga professor, said it is a mistake to consider all of the above as separate incidents.

“These are movements,” Hoover said, noting participants are not doing this alone. “They have interconnectedness over the internet.”

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Young homebuyers scramble as prices rise faster than incomes

May 25, 2019 - 2:39pm

SALT LAKE CITY — For millennials looking to buy their first home, the hunt feels like a race against the clock.

In the seven years since the housing crash ended, home values in more than three-quarters of U.S. metro areas have climbed faster than incomes, according to an Associated Press analysis of real estate industry data provided by CoreLogic.

That gap is driving some first-timers out of the most expensive cities as well as pressuring them to buy something before they are completely priced out of the market.

The high cost of home ownership is also putting extreme pressure on 20- and 30-somethings as they try to balance mortgage payments, student loans, child care and their careers.

“They do want all the same things that previous generations want,” said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist for the brokerage Redfin. “They just have more roadblocks, and they’re going to have to come up with more creative solutions to get the homes that they want.”

A Redfin analysis found these buyers are leaving too-hot-to-touch big-city markets — among them, San Francisco and Seattle, where the tech boom has sent housing prices into the stratosphere. The brokerage found that many millennials are instead buying in more reasonably priced neighborhoods around places like Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and Raleigh, North Carolina. That, in turn, is driving up housing prices in those communities.

Jake and Heather Rice, both 35, moved to Utah last year from Mountain View, California, where the biggest employers are tech giants such as Google, Symantec and Intuit and the median home price is a dizzying $1.4 million or so.

The couple and their three children settled into a 4,500-square-foot house in fast-growing Farmington, just far enough away from Salt Lake City to feel rural but minutes from a major shopping center and Heather’s sister. They did not disclose the purchase price for the sake of privacy, but they said their monthly mortgage payments will be $3,000, roughly the same as the rent for their former two-bedroom, 1,000 square-foot apartment in Mountain View.

“We didn’t expect to stay in California because of how ludicrous the prices had become,” said Jake, a mechanical engineer who works in the medical device sector.

Nationally, home prices since 2000 have climbed at an annual average rate of 3.8%, according to the data firm CoreLogic, while average incomes have grown at an annual rate of 2.7%. And in the metro areas with the strongest income growth — for example, parts of Silicon Valley — home prices have risen even faster.

The Salt Lake City area is among the hottest spots for first-time buyers in part because of a staggering burst of home construction and a surge of high-tech jobs. The suburb of Lehi, which served as a film location for the 1984 Kevin Bacon movie “Footloose,” about a rural town that banned dancing, is in what is now known as “Silicon Slopes” because Adobe, eBay and Microsoft have opened offices there.

Of course, the influx of people from unaffordable cities is contributing to the very problem they were trying to escape: Home prices in the greater Salt Lake City area surged 10.8% in the past year, while average incomes rose only 3.9%, according to figures from CoreLogic and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Scott Robbins, president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors, sees the price growth as having changed the habits of first-time buyers. They are putting less money down and carrying more debt. And some first-time buyers are looking at condos and duplexes instead of houses.

There is also more pressure on families to earn two incomes, rather than letting one choose to be the stay-at-home parent. This could be a particular challenge in the Salt Lake City area, where families are generally larger, mostly because of the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and about 28% of the population is under 18, compared with nearly 24% nationwide.

“The one thing that really would make it even more sustainable is if wages would increase,” Robbins said. “Whereas before you could have a young couple buy a place and only one of them would work. Now, you need both of them to work.”

Andy and Stacie Proctor made a bid on a house in the Salt Lake City suburbs, only to rescind it upon learning there were 13 rival offers. At one point, they almost decided not to buy a house just yet, figuring the bubble was going to burst eventually, said Andy, a 35-year-old who hosts the podcast “More Happy Life.”

But there was also the opposite risk: “There is the question about whether it’s going to keep going up,” his 31-year-old wife said.

The couple ultimately made a successful offer on a three-bedroom house for $438,000 in Vineyard, Utah. It includes an apartment that could be rented out to defray their mortgage payments. That will make it easier for them to afford starting a family.

Roughly 1 in 6 homes sold in the Salt Lake Valley since 2004 have been in a 4,100-acre development called Daybreak, being built on land once owned by mining giant Rio Tinto. About 5,500 homes have been constructed, with an additional 14,500 units planned — enough in total to house roughly 65,000 people.

The homes range from $180,000 to $1 million. One of the guiding principles is that homeowners can upgrade or downsize without having to move out of the neighborhood.

But that cycle of upgrading might not continue as it did for past generations. Home values need to rise for people to build equity that they can use to buy a new house. Yet if they rise too fast, it will become too expensive for many people to move up.

Parry Harrison, a 26-year-old divorced father of two small children, bought a townhouse in Daybreak for $309,000 in March. His down payment came in large part from selling his previous home, which appreciated a robust 25% in the two years he owned it. He hopes to upgrade again in five years, when his children might need more space.

“It’s definitely not a forever home,” he said. “It’s a lot more convenient if I have move-up opportunities that are right next door.”


Follow Josh Boak on Twitter at

Categories: All Denver News.

Hawaii woman missing for 2 weeks rescued from Maui forest

May 25, 2019 - 2:22pm

WAILUKU, Hawaii — A Hawaii woman has been found alive in a forest on Maui island after going missing more than two weeks ago.

Amanda Eller was found injured in the Makawao Forest Reserve, the Maui News reported Friday.

Family spokeswoman Sarah Haynes confirmed she spoke with Eller’s father, John. Eller was airlifted to safety.

“I was crying tears of joy,” Eller’s mother, Julia, said. “I never gave up hope for a minute. I knew that we would find her.”

The physical therapist from the Maui town of Haiku went missing on May 8. Her white Toyota RAV4 was found in the forest parking lot with her phone and wallet inside.

Hundreds of volunteers have searched for her since. Eller’s parents had offered a $10,000 reward to encourage people to find her.

Javier Cantellops said he was searching for Eller from a helicopter along with Chris Berquist and Troy Helmers when they spotted her about 3:45 p.m. near the Kailua reservoir, according to Maui Police Department spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Cantellops told the newspaper that she was in the bed of a creek with waterfalls on either side.

He told CNN he saw Eller waving her hands at the helicopter.

“It was unbelievable, dude,” Cantellops said. “Seeing her for the first time in a long time was just unbelievable. It was nothing short of elation.”

Eller was in an area with thick vegetation, he said. “That vegetation is so thick, it’s a miracle that we saw her,” Cantellops told CNN.

The Maui Fire Department brought Eller to a hospital for evaluation, Okamoto said in a statement.

Her mother told the Maui News that Amanda Eller survived by staying near a water source and eating wild raspberries and strawberry guavas. She even ate a couple of moths, Julia Eller said.

Her daughter tried to catch some crawfish, but she was “not very successful,” Julia Eller said.

“She lost quite a bit of weight, as you can imagine, being lost for that amount of time,” Julia Eller said. “But she was able to survive it. She had the right skills and did the right things to buy time so that we had a chance to find her.”

Amanda Eller suffered a leg fracture, abrasions on her ankles and a severe sunburn, but Julia Eller told the Maui News that her daughter’s spirits were good.

“And all of those things are treatable,” Julia Eller said.

A photo was posted to a Facebook page tracking the search, showing a smiling Eller with what appeared to be injuries to her face and dirt on her clothing. The photo shows Eller surrounded by Cantellops, Berquist and Helmers.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said he’s grateful for the efforts of family, friends, volunteers and first-responders.

“This search and rescue was truly a community collaboration of Maui County first responders, family, friends and community volunteers,” Victorino said in a statement. “I extend my deepest appreciation for everyone involved in searching for and locating Amanda. Your work, determination and sacrifice has helped return her to her loving family. God bless them all.”


Information from: The Maui News,

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State abortion bans may hand Democrats a political weapon

May 25, 2019 - 2:11pm

WASHINGTON — A flood of laws banning abortions in Republican-run states has handed Democrats a political weapon heading into next year’s elections, helping them paint the GOP as extreme and court centrist voters who could decide congressional races in swing states, members of both parties say.

The Alabama law outlawing virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, is the strictest so far. Besides animating Democrats, the law has prompted President Donald Trump, other Republican leaders and lawmakers seeking reelection next year to distance themselves from the measure.

Their reaction underscores that Republicans have risked overplaying their hand with severe state laws that they hope will prod the Supreme Court, with its ascendant conservative majority, to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. It also illustrates the way that those statutes are forcing the GOP to struggle over how to satisfy its core anti-abortion supporters without alienating the vast majority of voters averse to strictly curbing abortion.

The Alabama law is “a loser for Republican candidates in Colorado, without question, and in many other swing parts of the country, because it’s extreme,” said David Flaherty, a Colorado-based Republican consultant who’s worked on congressional races around the country. “It’s only going to widen the gender gap.”

Brian Fitzpatrick, a Vanderbilt Law School professor and former aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said there are many “women, moderate women who are going to be scared that this right that they thought they had for the last 40-some years is going to be shelved” and they will be motivated to vote.

GOP Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Susan Collins of Maine, both seeking reelection next year, said the Alabama ban goes too far by eliminating exceptions for pregnancies involving rape or incest. A 2005 survey by the Guttmacher Institute, which backs abortion rights, found about 1% of women said they had abortions because of rape or incest.

Democrats see the statutes as a way to weave a broader message about Republicans.

“You use it as an example of what they do when they’re unchecked,” said Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., a leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ campaign organization. “I think it drives moderate Republicans away from their party.”

Democratic presidential contenders are competing to lambast the Alabama law, which allows exceptions when the mother’s health is endangered. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called it an “existential threat to the human rights of women,” while former Vice President Joe Biden said GOP hopes of striking down Roe v. Wade are “pernicious and we have to stop it.”

Campaign Facebook and Twitter accounts of Democrats seeking reelection next year, such as Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, are littered with posts attacking the harsh restrictions. “The people of Alabama deserve to be on the #rightsideofhistory — not the side of extremists,” Jones tweeted.

Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio have enacted or neared approval of measures barring abortion once there’s a detectable fetal heartbeat, which can occur in the sixth week of pregnancy, before a woman may know she is pregnant. Missouri lawmakers approved an eight-week ban.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that of the 638,000 abortions it tallied in 2015, almost two-thirds were performed within the first eight weeks of pregnancy. About 1% were performed during or after the 21st week.

Spotlighting the perilous political territory Republicans are navigating, an April poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans support Roe v. Wade by 2-1. A Gallup poll last year found that 57% of adults who described themselves “pro-life” nonetheless said abortion should be legal if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

The focus on the state measures has also stolen GOP momentum on abortion. Until now, congressional Republicans had spent much of this year forcing Democrats onto the defensive, goading them into blocking bills aimed at curbing the rare abortions performed late in pregnancies and misleadingly accusing them of supporting infanticide.

“Obviously, the attention has shifted,” said Sarah Chamberlain, president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which represents dozens of moderate GOP lawmakers. She said while her group doesn’t think Democrats’ focus on the harsh laws has gained traction, “We are talking about that and how it’s going to play in our districts.”

Some Republicans say the Democratic drive will have minimal impact because the abortion issue drives relatively few voters from each party. Others say GOP candidates should accuse Democrats of extremism by opposing bills restricting abortions late in pregnancy and, if they wish, cite their support for exempting rape and incest victims.

Democrats have “never seen an abortion they don’t like,” said David O’Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee.

Added Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP campaign arm: “We’re not Alabama state representatives, we’re United States senators. And each of us has to make our positions known.”

Yet the laws have generated energy among abortion-rights groups, which held more than 500 demonstrations and other events this past week. “We will power this movement into 2020. There will be political consequences,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., distanced themselves early last week from the Alabama statute. They were joined Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who told The Associated Press, “My position remains unchanged for 25 years. I’m opposed to abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother” being in jeopardy.

Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Elana Schor contributed to this report.

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Chambers: The Stanley Cup might cometh to Colorado this summer — just not for the Avalanche

May 25, 2019 - 1:52pm

There’s an excellent chance the Stanley Cup will return to Colorado this summer.

Too many direct or indirect Mile High bloodlines and familiar names are playing in the upcoming Cup Final for Lord Stanley’s Cup not to make a visit to the Centennial State in the coming months.

The list begins with Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo, who is from Colorado Springs. Carlo, 22, played youth hockey in the Springs before commuting north to Littleton to join the midget triple-A Colorado Thunderbirds. If the Bruins defeat the St. Louis Blues in the Final — Game 1 is Monday night in Boston — the Cup will certainly spend a day or two in the Springs.

The Bruins also have Danton Heinen, 23, a third-year forward who starred at the University of Denver as a freshman and sophomore from 2014-16. Heinen is a Canadian from Langley, British Columbia, but Denver is where his hockey career took off and where many of his best friends still reside.

On the Blues’ side, veteran center Tyler Bozak — another former DU star — lives in the Denver area in the offseason. Like Heinen, Bozak is a Canadian who spent two seasons with the Pioneers before turning pro. If St. Louis wins the upcoming series, Bozak might spend a day with the Cup in Denver and another in his hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Bozak, 33, is perhaps the late-bloomer of all late-bloomers — at least of what I’ve seen in the hockey world. He joined the Pioneers as a 21-year-old freshman in 2007 and became the NHL’s hottest college free agent during and after his injury-plagued sophomore season of 2008-09.

Bozak had 26 NHL teams interested in signing him at the time. He settled on the Toronto Maple Leafs, with whom he played nine seasons until becoming a free agent last summer and choosing St. Louis.

In his first year with the Blues, Bozak has often played on a line with Jaden Schwartz, the former Colorado College star from Wilcox, Saskatchewan. Schwartz, 26, is St. Louis’ leading scorer in the playoffs and a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate as NHL playoff MVP.

Among all players in the postseason, Schwartz ranks second in goals (12) and is tied for third in points (16), and is first and second, respectively, among those still playing (Boston’s Brad Marchand has 18 points).

Two prominent former Avalanche members are in the series. St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly led the Blues with a career-high 77 points in the regular season, and former Avs head coach Joe Sacco is an assistant coach with the Bruins.

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O’Reilly’s first four years in the NHL coincided with Sacco’s four years as Colorado’s coach. O’Reilly produced his career-high 28 goals — matched this season with the Blues — in 2013-14 when Patrick Roy replaced Sacco as the Avs’ head coach.

To my knowledge, the Stanley Cup — the real Cup, not a replica — was last seen in Colorado with a player in 2004, when Tampa Bay Lightning backup goalie John Grahame hoisted it in Denver, his hometown.

Grahame, the son of University of Denver athletic director Ron Grahame and longtime Avalanche special assistant Charlotte Grahame, is the second member of his family to have his name engraved on the Cup. His mother’s name is included with the Avalanche’s 1996 and 2001 Cup-winning teams.

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Saunders: What are the best MLB ballparks for architecture, food and fans?

May 25, 2019 - 1:42pm

PITTSBURGH – I am, I willingly admit, a baseball park geek.

The perfect infield diamonds, manicured emerald grass, quirky angles of outfield walls, giant scoreboards, kids wearing miniature jerseys of their big-league heroes, smorgasbords of ballpark eats, seat colors, organ music, public address announcers, in-game promotions and tradition … I take it all in.

Little wonder that my recent trip back east — through Boston’s Fenway Park, Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park — was a little slice of baseball heaven.

Earlier this season, I made my first trek to Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, and I also ventured inside Tropicana Field for the first time in many years. I must say, “The Trop” wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered.

Now, there are only two big-league parks remaining on my bucket list: The “new” Yankee Stadium and the Rodgers Centre in Toronto.

A few years ago, I wrote a column ranking the National League Ballparks from worst to first, with PNC finishing No. 1. This time around, I’m taking a different approach.

Let the tour begin:

Best architecture: PNC wins, hand down. The beautiful stonework and steel trusswork perfectly capture the essence of Pittsburgh and its bridges.

Best view: PNC, again. Are you sensing a trend? With downtown rising like Gotham City beyond center field, and with the Roberto Clemente Bridge spanning the Allegheny River, it takes my breath away every time.

History: It has got to be Fenway or Wrigley Field, the two oldest ballparks in the majors. Tough choice here, but I’ll go with Fenway because it still feels like I’m watching a game from the 1920s. One of the excellent, subtle touches? The scoreboards at Fenway have all the moderns bells and whistle, but they blend in seamlessly with the soft green walls.

Best food. If we’re talking press box food for talking heads and ink-stained wretches, it’s got to be Philadelphia. If we’re talking concourse food for the fans, it’s San Diego’s Petco Park. It serves up traditional fare, but also has seafood, fish tacos, carnitas and the excellent Gaglione Brothers cheesesteak shop.

Neighborhood. I’m sure I’ll get trashed by Cubbies fans for not going with Wrigleyville. And the Gas Lamp Quarter in San Diego is cool, but I’ll stick with LoDo. I’m constantly amazed at how vibrant the area around Coors Field remains. It’s the heartbeat of Denver.

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Sunsets. Purple, pink, orange and gold mixing with deep gray thunderheads as the sun sets behind the Rockies. Coors Field is the choice.

In-game races. A lot of teams attempt to entertain fans with “mascot races.” The Rockies, of course, have the “Tooth Trot,” which has absolutely no connection to Colorado’s heritage. But the “Famous Racing Sausages” at Milwaukee’s Miller Park and the “Presidents Race” at Nationals Park are genuinely fun and organic. But if I had to pick one race, I’ll take the giant Brat, Polish, Italian, Hot Dog and Chorizo sausages that romp in Milwaukee.

Fans. An Uber driver, referring to no-nonsense sports fans, called Philly “The Unfiltered City.” He was right, but that grittiness doesn’t make them the best baseball fans. Nope, the best fans reside at Busch Stadium in St. Louis where you’ll find a mixture of knowledge, passion, and an appreciation for the best players in the game, even if they play for the other side.


Categories: All Denver News.

Wyoming cities, towns see more population declines

May 25, 2019 - 12:18pm

CASPER, Wyo. — U.S. Census Bureau data shows the populations of Casper, Worland, Rock Springs and many other Wyoming cities and towns decreased last year.

The Casper Star Tribune reports that Casper saw the biggest drop in sheer numbers, losing 351 people. Thermopolis had the largest drop as a proportion of its population, losing 3 percent of its residents.

It’s part of a trend that included about three quarters of Wyoming’s larger cities and towns, census estimates show.

Cheyenne’s population grew by more than any other city of town in Wyoming, gaining 370 new residents, or a little over 1 percent.

Wyoming has the smallest population in the U.S., and it began to shrink after the 2015 energy bust brought downturns in the coal, oil and natural gas sectors.

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Kickin’ It with Kiz: How Nikola Jokic can surpass Alex English and Dan Issel as the greatest player in Nuggets history

May 25, 2019 - 11:09am

Every one of the other four players on the All-NBA first team would rather play alongside Nuggets center Nikola Jokic than Joel Embiid of Philadelphia. It’s not about points or blocks, but the chemistry established by making your teammates better. As a point center, Joker has rewritten the rules for his position.

Bill, chillin’ in Costa Rica

Kiz: Being named the NBA’s best center is Jokic’s first step in a long, long journey to the Hall of Fame. Down the road, can he surpass Alex English or Dan Issel as the best player in Nuggets history? If Joker can become the first player to lead Denver to the NBA Finals, the answer is a resounding yes.

Kiz, I love the boldness with your talk about the Nuggets trading for Anthony Davis from New Orleans. It’s a great conversation to spark thinking outside the box. But are the Nuggets finally reaching a point where Jokic and Jamal Murray can attract a superstar free agent? I would much rather take that route than the risk presented by trading for Davis, who could become a free agent after next season.

Scott, driving the bus

Kiz: My fear is Denver management has grown so enamored with this young core that the team largely stands pat after a successful season. How’s that strategy working out for the Rockies in 2019?

What about free agent Kawhi Leonard for the Nuggets? In many ways, Leonard would be an even better fit with Jokic than Davis.

George, Westminster

Kiz: Would the Nuggets like the look of Leonard in a Denver uniform? Of course. For me, Leonard is right there with Steph Curry and Jokic as the most outstanding performer in this year’s playoffs. But I expect that either Los Angeles or Toronto will be Leonard’s basketball home next season.

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DJ LeMahieu should never have been traded. What we have now at second base is worthless. Shame. Shame.

Carol, disgruntled fan

Kiz: Here’s the thing about Brendan Rodgers. He’s got as much, or more, pop in his bat than LeMahieu ever did. But will the new second baseman’s glove ever be golden? I doubt it. Enduring bumps in the learning curve of a young infielder tests the patience of everyone, from teammates to the manager. The additional challenge here? Rodgers is replacing a fan favorite, so fans are often quicker to grouse at the television or fire an angry email to a knucklehead sports columnist than to give the kid a chance.

And today’s parting shot is a friendly reminder to Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. that to be insulted by a salary of nearly $9 million per year doesn’t always play well with the working-class stiffs that cheer for him on football Sundays.

I’ve never understood athletes — like Harris, among others — who develop out-sized egos. Pro athletes should feel lucky that thanks to our country’s misplaced values, they can make millions playing a game. Instead, we have all this posturing about how underpaid they are and how disrespected they are. You have my sympathy being around these babies all the time, Kiz.

David, resident of the real world


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Man dies from fall after parking car along Highway 7

May 25, 2019 - 9:45am

A 70-year-old man died Thursday after he fell off a cliff on the shoulder of Colorado Highway 7 near Allenspark, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

First responders were called around 5:45 p.m. by the man’s wife who went looking for him after he failed to return to their vehicle. She reportedly told detectives that her husband got out of the vehicle to stretch his legs and never came back.

The wife found him at the bottom of a 30-foot drop-off, a short distance from the vehicle and called for help. The 800 Block of Highway 7 Business Route south of Allenspark sits below where they had parked.

Investigators noted that grasses and pine needles made the edge of the cliff slippery, according to the sheriff’s office. No foul play is suspected.

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Reader Pick: “Death of Celilo Falls” shows ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances

May 25, 2019 - 7:00am

For thousands of years, Pacific Northwest Indians fished, bartered, socialized, and honored their ancestors at Celilo Falls, part of a nine-mile stretch of the Long Narrows on the Columbia River.

Death of Celilo Falls (University of Washington Press)

Although the Indian community of Celilo Village survives to this day as Oregon’s oldest continuously inhabited town, with the construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957, traditional uses of the river were catastrophically interrupted.

Most non-Indians celebrated the new generation of hydroelectricity and the easy navigability of the river “highway” created by the dam, but Indians lost a sustaining center to their lives when Celilo Falls was inundated.

Death of Celilo Falls is a story of ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances, as neighboring communities went through tremendous economic, environmental, and cultural change in a brief period.

Katrine Barber examines the negotiations and controversies that took place during the planning and construction of the dam and the profound impact the project had on both the Indian community of Celilo Village and the non-Indian town of The Dalles, intertwined with local concerns that affected the entire American West: treaty rights, federal Indian policy, environmental transformation of rivers, and the idea of “progress.”

Geoffrey Bateman of Denver is an associate dean and associate professor at Regis University.

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Denver Weather: Expect a warm, sunny weekend with a chance of rain on Memorial Day

May 25, 2019 - 5:54am

Travelers and those staying home this Memorial Day weekend should expect warm, breezy weather and mostly sunny skies.

The temperature along the Front Range could hit a high of 76 degrees Saturday with the possibility of some late afternoon and evening thunderstorms in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service forecast office in Boulder.

A little warmer today, breezy this afternoon. Isolated late afternoon and evening thunderstorms possible. #cowx

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) May 25, 2019

Sunday should be about the same as Saturday, but Memorial Day itself could be a little wetter. There’s a statewide chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms, according to NWS.

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What does it take to be one of Colorado’s 15 kids headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee? Ask these wordy whiz kids.

May 25, 2019 - 5:00am

Don’t be fooled by the Hello Kitty mouse pad sat next to Lauren Guo’s fingers as they galloped across her keyboard on Friday. The 13-year-old’s business at the computer was not child’s play.

It’s crunch time for the Arvada eighth-grader who is among Colorado’s 15 whiz kids headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland next week.

“I’m pretty competitive, but with spelling, it’s not so much about that,” she said. “For me, it’s more about learning, I suppose. I generally just want to improve.”

Lauren feels at home parked in a magenta swivel chair poring over online spelling programs of words upon words upon words, some of which just might be called out at the national bee.

Multi-colored notebooks stacked next to her are tightly-packed with words that have tripped her up scrawled out in tidy handwriting.

Lauren’s hands are encased in protective gloves while she types to stave off strain.

“I tend to overwork myself with the typing,” Lauren said. “I tend to pressure myself really hard with everything — academic, spelling, all of that. I just kind of expect a lot of myself most of the time.”

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostLauren Guo, a 13-year-old at Wayne Carle Middle School, practices her spelling on her computer in advance of competing in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee at her home in Arvada on May 23, 2019.

She needs those fingers nimble as she mimes writing out words while orally spelling — a trick many professional spellers use to help stay on track. Lauren demonstrated, digging her pointer finger into her couch as she spelled aloud her favorite word, “szaibelyite,” — a mineral composed of basic magnesium borate, of course.

Lauren got hooked on spelling bees in elementary school and applied the same sort of laser-focus to them that she exercises in most areas of her life. Cello and piano make the list of the Arvada teen’s talents, along with honor roll-worthy grades.

Monday begins Lauren’s second time at the Scripps bee, having spelled her way into the top-20 of the 516 participants in 2018.

A smoked pork sausage — “cotechino” — was her downfall.

The loss didn’t crush Lauren’s love for the bee. Taking a short break from her studies Thursday to talk about the competition, Lauren affectionately stroked a bumble bee pendant dangling from her necklace.

“I’m not always that confident about things, but I just feel more confident on stage than I normally do in other places,” the Wayne Carle Middle School student said.

When asked what she does to relax, Lauren admitted, “Usually, I don’t have that sort of time. I’m still studying on the weekends and stuff. I focus a lot more on my academics than my social life, but I like it that way.”

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostLauren Guo, a 13-year-old at Wayne Carle Middle School, is one of Colorado’s 15 spellers headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She is pictured at her home in Arvada on May 23, 2019.

Thanks to a 2018 bee rule-change, more wunderkinds than ever before have a shot at the coveted gold trophy and $40,000 prize. Instead of just allowing kids who won their regional spelling bee make the trek to National Harbor, now spellers who have previously competed at the Scripps National Spelling Bee or who won a school or community bee can join the fun — with a $1,500 participation fee.

Before the switch, the bee featured about 275 kids and has since more than doubled to 565 students this year.

The 14 additional Colorado spellers headed to the big bee include:

  • Zachary Long, Denver
  • Maria Ciobanu, Denver
  • Henry Stauch, Niwot
  • Bryson Browning, Denver
  • Bhavya Surapaneni, Castle Pines
  • Vikram Raju, Aurora
  • Brody Krause, Thornton
  • Angelina Holm, Denver
  • Cameron Keith, Boulder
  • Grant Weibe, Denver
  • Cheyenne Trujillo, Westminster
  • Rohan Jamtgaard, Fort Collins
  • Bella Brown, Boulder
  • Lily Hersch, Salida

The extra competition hasn’t phased Colorado’s contestants, who were probably too busy studying to care.

Cameron reviews spelling words four to six hours a day.

The 13-year-old from Boulder is a Scripps bee veteran, with Monday marking Cameron’s fourth time at the fierce competition. Cameron made it to the elite final rounds in 2018 — the farthest of any Colorado contestant that year. He got out on “chausses” — a synonym for “pantaloons.”

Cameron called “bee week” the highlight of his year.

“It’s fun, but then there’s also a lot of stress,” Cameron said. “It’s a great community of people.”

A perfect score on a second-grade spelling test was the spark that ignited Cameron’s passion for spelling. The feeling of walking on stage and nailing a word has him hooked.

“You realize all your hard work paid off right in that moment, and it’s the best feeling,” Cameron said.

Sylvie Lamontagne, 16, still chases that high.

Stepping up to the microphone to spell is almost an ethereal experience for the Lakewood High School student who twice secured a top-10 spot at the national bee.

“There are all these things running through your head beforehand — will I get it right? Will I accidentally say the wrong letter? But once you get to the microphone, there’s nothing else that exists in the universe besides you on the stage, the judges and the word,” Sylvie said. “It’s like nothing else I’ve experienced.”

When Sylvie aged out of the competition after the 2016 battle, she was immediately plagued by a bee-shaped hole in her life.

“The day after national finals, I went to get ice cream with my friends, and then I came back to my hotel room and flopped on the bed and realized I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Sylvie said. “I felt like I needed to study. Right then, I opened my notebook and wrote the diagnostic I use to test kids, and it’s still the one I use today.”

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Sylvie coaches Lauren, Cameron and a number of students across the country. She took on so many that her website notes she wasn’t able to add any more kids for the 2018-2019 session.

Cameron’s mom, Synte Peacock, said the coaching aspect is important for introducing human interaction.

“It can get difficult when you spend all this time by yourself just interacting with a computer, so coaching brings back that element and with someone who you can bounce your stresses and questions off of,” Peacock said. “Sometimes when you say you have a spelling coach, people are like, ‘what?!’, but it has become a little industry of its own, definitely.”

Linda Tarrant, founder of notable spelling coach enterprise Hexco, offers 16 sessions of spelling coaching including one-one-one sessions for $3,450. Tarrant is the main author of most of the company’s spelling materials, written from her experience training her three daughters who all participated in the bee in the 80s and 90s.

“This gives the kids a project that is bigger than they are,” Tarrant said. “It’s more like a life-learning skill. You’re not going to learn all the words, but you’re going to try.”

Sylvie assesses her students’ strengths and weaknesses and then tests them on language patterns and root words, coming up with words they need to study.

She said coaching fulfills the ache to spell competitively she’s had since dominating her fourth-grade spelling bee.

“I fell in love with winning,” Sylvie said. “I miss being on stage, but it’s so rewarding to watch my kids go on stage and show everything they learned. I’m always really proud.”

Unable to stay away from the allure of the spelling stage, Sylvie will again head to Maryland to root for her students and be reunited with her wordy ilk.

“It’s so close-knit and everyone knows everyone,” Sylvie said. “I’ve made some of my closest friends who I’m in contact practically every day. I don’t know what my life would look like without the spelling bee.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Colorado’s mentally ill cycle in and out of jails, prisons

May 25, 2019 - 5:00am

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — They miss medication doses, sinking further into psychosis as their symptoms take hold.

They try to kill themselves and sometimes succeed.

They lash out at staff and fellow inmates in the midst of mental breakdowns, at constant risk of lengthening their sentences.

Mentally ill people are wasting away in Colorado jails and crowding the state’s prisons, paving the way for disasters by making correctional workers de-facto practitioners in what critics say is perhaps the worst possible environment to treat psychiatric issues.

The faulty system is so “starved for care” that it keeps those who need help cycling from captivity to the streets and back to cinder blocks and steel bars, said John Snook, executive director of the national nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center.

“You have jailers who are not medical professionals who are completely at their wit’s end,” Snook said. “And you have tragedies, over and over again, that could be easily averted if you were providing mental health care.”

The resulting dysfunction comes at a high cost to taxpayers. Penal institutions face security risks and threats of multi-million dollar lawsuits as they perpetuate a system that mental health advocates and criminal justice experts compare to modern-day warehousing.

“Instead of keeping people in mental institutions, we’re keeping them in jails and prisons,” said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, a vocal critic of a criminal justice system that’s become a “last resort” for people with mental illness. “Our jail is the largest inpatient mental health facility in Boulder County. It’s not supposed to be.”

In the decades since the “deinstitutionalization” movement attempted to shift mental health care from vast, state-run mental asylums and into communities, correctional facilities have become default mental health care institutions in Colorado and across the country. Yet, even as this hellish situation has become the norm, few solutions have emerged.

Data provided to The Gazette by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Department of Corrections show that:

Last year, about one-third of the more than 22,500 inmates booked into the El Paso County jail reported having mental health issues during psychiatric assessments. Nearly 6,300 of them had “mental health alerts,” flagging them as suicide risks or noting a mental health diagnosis or history.

Suicide prevention resources
  • Colorado Crisis Line: 1-844-493-8255, Chat online or text TALK to 38255.
  • Mental Health First Aid: Get trained to recognize the signs and how to respond.
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Join one of their upcoming walks for awareness in Colorado.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text 741741 from anywhere in the nation to reach a counselor.
  • Second Wind Fund: Links students to mental health professionals and pays for up to 12 counseling sessions.

Today, one out of every three men imprisoned in Colorado — and four out of every five women inmates — say they have some type of moderate to critical mental health need, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections. The number of inmates with mental health needs in Colorado’s prisons has steadily risen in the past two decades, from about 4,500 in 1998 to about 10,700 last year.

More than 300 of the state’s prison inmates have tried to complete suicide from the beginning of 2014 through the end of 2018. Thirty-four people killed themselves. Another 62 people incarcerated at the El Paso County jail attempted to take their own lives, but none were successful.

“What the system does to everyone involved — it’s devastating, really,” said Stephanie Gangemi, the jail’s former mental health care director. “It’s trauma, day in and day out.”

High stakes for mentally ill inmates

In the six months that Mikolaj Warszawski spent in solitary confinement at the El Paso County jail last year, his grandmother feared that his zombie-like psychosis was worsening.

Georgianna Warszawski worried that Mikolaj was being pushed around “like a rag doll” by fellow inmates and correctional officers. His mental illness has made him an easy target — a 12-year-old in a 27-year-old’s body, she said.

She dreaded, too, that he might be driven to kill himself.

“When somebody is mentally ill, you worry, ‘They could die in here,'” said Georgianna Warszawski, showing off photos of her grandson as a child — before schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental health problems overtook him as a teenager, triggering a pattern of arrests and suffering.

When mental health diagnoses go unattended at the El Paso County jail, the consequences can be dire.

Last year, an inmate twice tried to commit suicide by jumping off the top of a bunk bed after she went without her anti-psychotic medication, her mother told The Gazette. A Colorado Springs man lost part of his leg to gangrene when a dog bite he suffered during his arrest festered while he was in the haze of psychosis.

It’s difficult for officials to accurately gauge exactly what percentage of the jail’s inmates have mental health problems because the Sheriff’s Office relies on them to self-report the issues.

A past detention bureau chief estimated in 2017 that 60% to 75% of the inmates in the overcrowded facility had some sort of mental health issue.

Often, a trip to jail starts with uncontrolled symptoms.

A manic state may drive irrational and unsafe behavior. Paranoia may give way to a violent outburst at an authority figure who’s trying to help.

“The majority of individuals with mental health issues who end up in jail — if they did not have the mental illness, they wouldn’t be in the system,” said Gina Shimeall, a Colorado criminal defense attorney who serves on a legislative task force focused on mentally ill people in the criminal justice system.

Once in jail, people with mental health issues often stay there for longer. They wrack up additional charges when crucial mental health needs go unaddressed, fueling aggressive or irrational behavior.

And in the militant environment of a correctional facility, there’s no room for error, Shimeall said.

“You follow rules, you don’t cross the line — that’s how jails are run to keep people safe,” she said. “When you have somebody who is psychotic, those don’t register . It’s not that they don’t follow the rules. They’re not able to follow the rules.”

The ruthless cycle

For Mikolaj, a downward spiral often begins when he forgoes his prescribed medication for recreational drugs, his grandmother said.

“He gets out on the streets, and people take advantage of him,” Georgianna said.

It’s a common story, advocates say.

People with mental health issues might not receive any attention for their conditions when they’re behind bars, said Vincent Atchity, executive director of the Denver-area nonprofit The Equitas Project, devoted to “disentangling mental health and criminal justice.”

And when the mentally ill are released from correctional facilities, they’re not connected with the resources they need to become more stable, Atchity said.

Instead, they often resort to getting high or drunk. The countdown to their next arrest begins.

“They end up cycling in and out of jail repeatedly, at great cost to the community, without any fruitful outcome, because the health care is not there,” Atchity said.

Mikolaj’s mental health problems have been exacerbated by a tumultuous family life. He lost one of his brothers to a gunman in a Walmart store and his father to a heroin overdose.

Mental illness runs in the family, Georgianna said.

One confrontation with authorities began when his grandmother called the police in 2016 when he was experiencing a mental episode. He allegedly hurled a rock through a police station window, and was struck by a car while fleeing on a scooter, according to an arrest affidavit.

Later, he punched an officer and spit on a nurse at an area hospital, the affidavit states.

The breakdown resulted in charges including two counts of felony assault and one count of felony criminal mischief.

More charges came in April 2018.

Police found him toting what appeared to be an orange and green shotgun at the Fountain Creek Nature Center with a glass pipe full of methamphetamine in his pocket, according to another arrest affidavit.

The gun was a toy, he said.

Once in jail, he grew more psychotic.

Mikolaj, who has since been released, recalled his “bad days” in an interview with The Gazette — the ones he spent sobbing, missing his family, constantly looking over his shoulder and pacing his cell.

He tore up the daily letters that Georgianna wrote him, flushing the scraps down the toilet. He was afraid someone would read them, he said.

He made threats and ignored deputies’ orders, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby said in an email.

Cells were flooded, mattresses destroyed and emergency buttons broken as his “disruptive behavior” intensified, Kirby said.

He was no longer allowed to speak to his family after he was moved to solitary confinement, where he spent six months alone in a cell for 23 hours a day.

By then, Georgianna was able to glean little from the conversations they had during visitation.

He wasn’t making sense, she said.

Going unmedicated

Providing someone who’s incarcerated their prescribed medications frequently becomes a struggle, defense attorneys and criminal justice experts say.

Concerned family members often make phone call after phone call to correctional facilities, only to be referred to another staff member, asked to jump through another bureaucratic hoop, or blocked in the name of patient confidentiality.

It can be even more of a challenge if a family member doesn’t have a current prescription, or if the medical staff is limited to a formulary of specific medications, Shimeall said.

Meanwhile, the loved ones they’re trying to reach wrestle with unbridled symptoms.

El Paso County jail’s inmate medical contractor, Miami-based Armor Correctional Health Services, declined to arrange an interview with the facility’s current mental health director. Instead, a public relations representative asked The Gazette to submit a list of questions and provided a written response.

More than 150 inmates in the El Paso County jail had been identified as “chronically mentally ill patients” as of the first quarter of 2019. About a quarter of those patients were on psychotropic medications in February, according to a statement from jail Mental Health Director Tanya Belknap.

She noted the figures are “not all-encompassing.”

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If someone who is booked into the jail says they are taking medications for a mental health condition and intake staff can verify the prescription, the person is then scheduled to see a provider, she said.

But the jail’s medical team often face obstacles in administering medication, Belknap said.

State law prohibits staff from forcibly medicating an inmate — even if the inmate’s symptoms have made them a danger to themselves or others, she said.

For those who enter the jail with severe substance abuse issues, the medical team’s first priority is to help them detox and avoid withdrawal symptoms, Belknap said. Any mental health needs that those inmates report come second.

When tragedies become legal battles

Travis Bickford thought his wife, Jacqueline, would be safer at the Summit County jail than at home after she was arrested in April 2016.

She hung herself with a bedsheet at the facility five days later.

The 31-year-old mother had threatened to commit suicide and repeatedly asked jail staff for her prescribed antidepressants, according to a federal lawsuit that her family has filed against the Summit County sheriff.

In addition to paying the high cost to provide health care for mentally ill inmates, governments often face another hefty expense: Legal settlements.

These claims often arise when “terrible things” happen in facilities that lack adequate resources and staff, said Nastassia Walsh, who manages a National Association of Counties initiative that aims to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails.

Jacqueline Bickford’s death came as the mental health issues she’d experienced since she was seven were worsening with bouts of postpartum depression, her husband said.

But he couldn’t get her a bed at a local inpatient treatment program. So he didn’t pay her $1,000 bond.

She was arrested on suspicion of child abuse and neglect after she was found halfway conscious at their Breckenridge apartment.

Her blood alcohol level was more than .35 — roughly four times the legal threshold for being charged with driving under the influence in Colorado– and her infant son was nearby.

“The whole system failed her, completely. The mental health system, the jail system — they failed me and they failed her son,” Travis said.

El Paso County, too, has paid for mishaps that have occurred when people with mental health problems are in its custody.

A $675,000 payout from the county’s insurer — the largest on county record books — went to a woman who was in the midst of a mental health crisis when jailers ripped her legs out from under her and forced her to a cell floor in 2014.

Philippa McCully’s ACL was torn, her knee fractured and her body bruised all over.

The takedown happened just after the then Colorado College junior was arrested for erratic behavior that her attorneys blamed on the mix of psychiatric drugs she was prescribed for depression and anxiety.

In 2017, the county agreed to a $15,000 payout after an inmate claimed she was nearly choked to death in a 4th Judicial District Courthouse holding cell by a woman who was mentally ill.

Ryan Partridge sued Boulder County Sheriff Pelle after he ripped his eyeballs from his head in the midst of a psychosis-induced rage while being held at the county jail in 2016.

Partridge, who is now blind, also broke his back when he attempted suicide by jumping head-first from the jail’s top tier, alleges the lawsuit, pending in U.S. District Court in Denver.

But the harrowing claims that make it to court are only a small window into the widespread dysfunction that occurs when people with mental illness are in correctional facilities, Denver civil rights attorney David Lane said.

“The cases that get filed are cases resulting in extreme outcomes, like Ryan Partridge,” said Lane, who represents Partridge. “Most people who are psychotic don’t even understand that they need to reach out and ask for help.”

The new asylums

When America moved to “de-institutionalize” mental health care and shutter primitive psychiatric hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s, the intention was a positive one: To get people with mental illness the treatment they needed while allowing them to live in the community.

But the funding to support the transformation never followed, advocates say.

Instead, taxpayer dollars have bankrolled the construction of jails and prisons, and people with mental illness have increasingly found themselves lost in the criminal justice system.

Now, Colorado’s prison system has evolved to resemble a mental health care institution.

The number of inmates with mental health problems in state prisons has steadily risen since the late 1990s, according to data from the Department of Corrections.

In 1998, nearly one-fourth of the state’s roughly 19,300 inmates had mental health needs. Last year, almost 40% of the roughly 29,000 people imprisoned in Colorado had mental health needs.

That rise is likely due to societal change in attitudes that’s made people more accepting of seeking help for mental health problems, Department of Corrections Deputy Executive Director Kellie Wasko said.

“Fifty years ago, it was not socially acceptable to say that you had mental illness or to say that you were hearing voices,” Wasko said.

But advocates blame a lack of treatment options, from a shortage of state hospital beds to a dearth of other facilities and programs that would allow people with mental illness to recover in the community.

Instead, the mentally ill people are trapped in a system that’s incapable of delivering the long-term care that many of them need, said Maureen Cain, legislative and policy director for the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office.

“We keep people in the criminal justice system to get treatment because there isn’t the right treatment in the community,” Cain said.

A challenge for correctional staff

In the El Paso County jail’s mental health ward for women, moods can change quickly — especially if inmates are refusing to take the medication that’s dispensed to them by the jail’s medical staff, Deputy Billie Mahan said.

But Mahan knows these women, she said.

She can help avert mental health episodes which might drive them to hurl their food trays, bang on cell doors or strip off all their clothes.

“You just have to learn your inmates. That’s the nice part about me being in that particular ward. I know what helps them, and I know what things can trigger them to have a bad day.”

In the jail’s mental health wards, jailers use “de-escalation” tactics daily, Sgt. Josh Seiter said.

Typically, it starts with a conversation.

Handcuffs, restraint chairs, and other uses of force are a last resort, he said.

Seiter often works in a maximum security ward, where one jailer is typically responsible for watching about 30 inmates, many of whom have mental health issues.

They wear “safety smocks” that can’t be fashioned into a noose.

“That, at the end of the day, can be very mentally challenging, very mentally draining — when you’re the person in there and you’re dealing with 80 other different personalities. But we do it,” said Seiter, who works 10-hour shifts, like all of the jail’s floor security personnel.

An estimated 85% of the 535 sworn staff members of the sheriff’s detention and patrol bureaus have taken an eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training course, meant to help law enforcement officers better understand and respond to signs of mental illness, said Kirby, the Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

Armor’s mental health staff includes six full-time behavioral health professionals who are counselors or social workers.

Those identified as having a mental illness during an initial health screening are referred to the mental health team, according to Belknap, the jail’s mental health director. Patients can also ask for therapeutic services by submitting an electronic request. Anyone with urgent medication needs is seen the same day, she said.

But multiple family members of former jail inmates have claimed that requests for vital psychiatric medication have gone unheeded for days, weeks, even months at the jail.

Falling victim

In the days after he was arrested for randomly killing an Air Force veteran in August 2016, Timothy Hagins attacked a nurse and two El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies.

The schizophrenic, who turned violent after going off his medications, was ordered to serve an indefinite commitment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo after a judge found that he was legally insane at the time of the killing and subsequent attacks.

His case illustrates the risk that mentally ill inmates can pose to corrections workers.

But, as experts point out, people with mental health problems are often victimized by other inmates or staff members in a jail or prison setting.

Mikolaj Warszawski has said he was brutally beaten by jail staff in March 2015.

The alleged takedown came shortly after he was arrested on suspicion of two misdemeanor counts that have since been dismissed.

He was taken into custody after he became “verbally belligerent” at the county’s detox facility, spit in a staff member’s face and punched a wall, according to an arrest affidavit.

Once in jail, he was “hit all over” and “slammed to the ground” many times, he wrote in a complaint to the Sheriff’s Office.

He told the jailers that he was mentally ill, but they continued to beat him, he reported.

The Sheriff’s Office has denied the allegations. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kirby said in an email that the accusations, including the claims of injuries, are “completely false.”

Georgianna Warszawski keeps Mikolaj’s complaint and other documents detailing the incident at the family business, “Kash’s Gems” thrift store on Platte Avenue. She recently spread the paperwork on a counter for a Gazette reporter to examine.

Mikolaj’s ACL and a band of cartilage in his knee had snapped, an orthopedic doctor concluded in medical records. He needed reconstruction surgery.

The incident left him with bruises covering most of his body and “strains and sprains” in his shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and spine, a chiropractor who examined him wrote in another report.

The Sheriff’s Office reviewed surveillance footage and documentation from the incident as part of an internal investigation, according to a November 2015 letter responding to his complaint.

But command staff concluded none of the jail’s policies or procedures were violated.

The force used by deputies “was both reasonable and proper,” a sheriff’s inspector wrote in the letter.

Data have shown that deputies at the jail frequently use force on mentally ill inmates.

From January 2015 to April 2016, jail staff used force about 280 times in the intake and release section, from handcuffing to hitting or kicking an inmate, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

Nearly 130 of those inmates had a mental health issue based on a mental health assessment, the report states.

No open beds

Mikolaj Warszawski spent months at the jail last year awaiting a spot at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.

There wasn’t a bed open for him when a judge ordered that he undergo competency restoration services at the hospital until he was deemed mentally fit to stand trial.

Hundreds of other people with mental illness have been left to suffer in Colorado jails due to the shortage of state hospital beds.

They go without medication and treatment, often “getting worse and worse,” said Terri Hurst, policy coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

Denver-based nonprofit Disability Law Colorado sued the state in 2012 over the plight of these inmates, who have been found mentally incompetent and often face minor, nonviolent charges.

Under a watershed agreement announced in March, the Colorado Department of Human Services pledged to hire new clinicians, tighten certain treatment deadlines and shift care for many criminal defendants from state psychiatric hospitals to community-based programs. If it doesn’t, the state could face fines of up to $10 million a year — a new measure to ensure the state keeps its promises after it broke the terms of two previous settlements in the yearslong legal battle.

A bill that Gov. Jared Polis is expected to soon sign will help implement many of the provisions of that agreement. Patients will be admitted to the Pueblo hospital based on need, rather than the order in which they were court-ordered to complete restoration services, said Disability Law Colorado Legal Services Director Alison Butler. The measure also requires that the Colorado Department of Human Services provide funding to jails for mental health care services, including medication, Butler said.

Under another bill that Polis is poised to sign, the state’s human services department will have five years to strengthen a safety net to help people with severe behavioral health disorders get the services they need in the community and avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, she said.

Since the beginning of October 2018, some criminal defendants have waited up to 186 days for a bed at the Pueblo hospital or another competency restoration program at Arapahoe County jail, according to data that Disability Law Colorado obtained from the state.

As of March 7, defendants in 150 cases statewide were awaiting competency restoration services, including 25 defendants in El Paso County, the data show. Some of those defendants have more than one case.

Mikolaj Warszawski was returned to the El Paso County jail in March after a three-month stay at the Pueblo hospital. He is now taking four different types of medication that were prescribed to him at the psychiatric facility.

“I feel stable,” he told The Gazette.

He was released from jail on a personal recognizance bond, or a written promise to appear in court, in April.

The struggles of release

Jackie often hears her 23-year-old schizophrenic son pacing like a captive animal on the carpeted floor of their Colorado Springs home.

He picked up the nervous habit in recent years during stints at the El Paso County jail, where the voices in his head intensified.

Without his medication, he became more and more paranoid. He felt safer on suicide watch, where he wasn’t such an easy target for his fellow inmates, who often bullied him and forced him to give away his meals, she said.

“He described it as being like PTSD when he got out. It was chaotic, it was crazy, it was never calm,” Jackie said. She declined to give her last name or her son’s name, citing concerns about identity theft and retaliation by law enforcement and others in the criminal justice system. The story of Jackie’s son was corroborated by court records.

When people with mental illness get out of jail, they often have to navigate complex bureaucracies to find counselors and psychiatrists, seek disability and medical benefits and access other services to help them stay out.

And, without a caring friend or spouse or family member, they’re on their own.

It’s a flaw in the criminal justice system that helps “feed the pipeline to jails and prisons,” said Nancy VanDeMark, interim president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado and former director of the state’s Office of Behavioral Health.

Jackie said her son had no prior criminal record before he was arrested on suspicion of harassment and disorderly conduct in 2015. Since then, he’s faced felony drug charges and more than a half-dozen misdemeanor counts.

But Jackie wants to help him break the cycle, so she spends hours each week doing what she can to help him.

She schedules doctor’s appointments and takes him to therapy.

She registers him for programs that will help him get his GED diploma and kick his substance abuse habit.

She helps him discern what’s real and what isn’t when the voices get louder.

“If you don’t have somebody to advocate for you here in Colorado Springs, you have nothing,” she said.


Information from: The Gazette,

Categories: All Denver News.

How often does Denver get “pool weather” on Memorial Day? It’s rarer than you think

May 25, 2019 - 5:00am

Above all else, Memorial Day is a remembrance of our fallen heroes. But because of the federal holiday’s date on the calendar — the final Monday in May — it’s also regarded by many as the unofficial start to the summer season. Maybe you’ve got plans to camp this weekend (just watch out for the mud and, er, snow up there), go for a hike or maybe you just want to lounge by the pool and kick it.

If you’re planning on grilling out by the pool, however, Mother Nature doesn’t always necessarily cooperate. According to the National Weather Service’s official records, Denver’s average high on Memorial Day is 75.4 degrees, with a fairly frosty average low of 48.5. Also, measurable rainfall has been observed in 25 of 81 Memorial Days in Denver.

And yes, back in 2011, Denver actually recorded a trace of snowfall on Memorial Day. It’s probably too soon to even joke about that one.

So let’s assume that your metric for “pool weather” would be a day with a high of 80 degrees and sunny skies. Pretty standard, right? This might come as a surprise, but only 28 of the past 81 Memorial Days in Denver have featured a high temperature of 80 degrees or above. That means that only about 34 percent of the time you’re looking at pool weather, or slightly more than one out of every three Memorial Days. At least if 80 degrees or above is your threshold.

One bit of good news in that stat, though, is that it’s almost always dry when it’s 80 or above in Denver. Only two of those 28 days with a high of 80 or above in Denver on Memorial Day have featured measurable rainfall. So in general, when it’s warmer, it also tends to be drier — likely due to the ridges of high pressure that often accompany late spring warmups along the Front Range.

If you bump that threshold down to 75 degrees or above, you’re probably in luck. Memorial Day’s average high, as you might recall, is 75.4 degrees. Additionally, 48 of 81 Memorial Days have had a high temperature of 75 degrees or above — good enough for a 59 percent chance to see a high up to 75 or more. So if you’re good with 75-degree pool weather (remember, that’s the high temperature), you’ll probably be in luck more often than not.

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Only 19 of the last 81 Memorial Days on record have featured a high temperature below 70 degrees. Unfortunately, that brings us to the current Memorial Day forecast.

The current forecast? A cooler-than-average day, with a high in the upper 60s and a chance for afternoon showers and storms, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.

Spring — let alone summer — continues to remain stubbornly elusive for Denver this year.

Chris Bianchi is a meteorologist for WeatherNation TV.

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Categories: All Denver News.