Entries in Colorado (158)


Colorado Fire No Longer Heading Towards South Fork, Officials Say

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SOUTH FORK, Colo.) -- A shift in the winds Friday night has fire officials sounding more optimistic about the fate of the tiny Colorado town of South Fork.

The tourist town in southwestern Colorado is threatened by the “West Fork Complex,” a combination of two giant wildfires which have already scorched 42,000 acres of land. The flames were headed directly towards the town, but a change in the weather turned the flames away.

South Fork is also lucky because the behavior of the fire has changed due to the type of forest it has encountered. The blaze initially exploded in size because it was burning in dead, dry, beetle-killed forests, but officials say it's now burning living Ponderosa and Aspen forests where the fire doesn't burn as hot.

The fire is currently 3 to 5 miles outside of South Fork, and firefighters are standing by in case the weather changes again.

The town’s 400 residents and hundreds of tourists have already been evacuated, and no homes have been destroyed.

“We’re still here,” South Fork Police Chief James Chavez told ABC News.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Evacuation Orders in Colorado Wildfire Will Be Slowly Lifted

Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Authorities are placing the containment figure on the Black Forest fire at 45 percent, saying that evacuation orders will begin being slowly lifted.

The wildfire has destroyed nearly 500 homes and is being considered one of the most destructive in Colorado history. Nonetheless, officials are urging residents not to attempt to get around the evacuation orders. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said, "When it is safe and we can open it up, we want to open it up."

Fire crews got a major break Friday after thunderstorms cooled the area down. Decreased winds have also helped to calm the situation, but fire officials say there are still hot spots that could be the catalyst for another fire to burn if drier conditions continue.

Police on Thursday began investigating the deaths of two people found within the fire zone as the wildfire turned deadly.

Two bodies were found in their garage near their car with the doors open Thursday. It appears they were loading last-minute items and had waited too long before evacuating, according to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who says friends told police they had just talked to the couple who died trying to escape the flames.

"They could see a glow to the West. They were packing their personal belongings to get out," Maketa says friends of the couple told authorities.

Though Maketa has given no indication that the fire was intentionally set to the home, the police have started a criminal investigation into the pair's deaths.

More than 40,000 people were under mandatory orders to evacuate on Thursday, some of which were lifted Friday. During early evacuations, some people refused to leave the area, prompting fears that more bodies could be found.

Sheriff Maketa said Thursday that approximately 38,000 people and 13,000 homes have already been evacuated or affected by the evacuations.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


President Obama Committed to Helping Colorado Deal with Wildfire

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama spoke with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper Friday to reaffirm his commitment to helping Colorado as it deals with the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

The White House said Saturday that Hickenlooper updated the president about the current conditions on the fire just outside Colorado Springs.

President Obama expressed his concern for the damage that has been caused by the fire that started Tuesday and gave his condolences to the families who have lost relatives.

Nearly 500 homes have been destroyed and two people were killed preparing to flee from the wildfire.  Authorities have lifted some evacuation orders and thousands of people are expected to return to their homes Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Colorado Sheriffs Suing Over Gun Control Laws

iStockphoto(DENVER) -- Colorado’s recently approved gun control laws, passed in response to the Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., massacres, are being challenged by a delegation of sheriffs who say the laws are unconstitutional.

In March, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed off on some of the toughest gun control legislation in the country, including a law mandating universal background checks for the purchase of firearms and another restricting the size of high-capacity magazines.

A lawsuit was filed on Friday in Colorado’s U.S. District Court on behalf of 54 of the state’s sheriffs in an effort to block the laws from taking effect.

“This lawsuit is for your rights and for your safety,” Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said at a news conference on Friday.

“These bills do absolutely nothing to make Colorado a safer place to live, to work, to play or to raise a family. Instead these misguided, unconstitutional bills will have the opposite effect because they greatly restrict the right of decent, law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, their families and their homes,” he said.

All but 10 of the state’s 64 sheriffs, who are elected officials, signed their names to the lawsuit.

Tom Sullivan, who lost his son Alex Sullivan in the Aurora movie theater massacre, told ABC News’ Denver affiliate he didn’t understand the backlash to the laws.

“I do not understand why these politicians are picking guns over people,” he said, “and why they want to make it easier for criminals to get guns and for other families to go through what we did.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Five Snowboarders Killed in Colorado Avalanche

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOVELAND PASS, Colo.) -- The bodies of snowboarders killed in an avalanche Saturday near Loveland Pass in Colorado have been recovered, officials tell ABC News.

Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger said that early Saturday afternoon, a group of six snowboarders ventured into an out-of-bounds zone above the Loveland Pass ski area, about 60 miles west of Denver.

The snowboarders triggered an avalanche that measured more than 200 yards wide and nearly 400 yards long, Krueger said. One snowboarder survived, but five others were trapped under about eight feet of snow.

The snowboarder who was rescued was only partially buried, and was able to get himself out and call for help, the sheriff said. The man had no outward signs of injury, was hospitalized, and went home, Krueger said.

The sheriff declined to release the name the survivor, who he said had told officials he was not ready to talk to the media, or the deceased, whose names will not be released until next of kin are notified.

Another snowboarder was killed after triggering an avalanche on Vail Pass on Thursday.

Saturday's avalanche was the second deadliest in the nation since 1950. The worst was in 1962 at Twin Lakes, when seven people were killed, according to statistics compiled by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, or CAIC.

Rescue teams were on the scene into the evening trying to reach the snowboarders, but were up against a heavy snowstorm in the Loveland Pass area, Krueger said.

Avalanche forecasters at the CAIC had predicted “considerable” danger on Saturday in the area where the slide took place, with warnings to carefully evaluate snowpack conditions, choose routes carefully and make conservative decisions before venturing out.

Before Saturday’s incident, nationwide 19 people have been killed this season by avalanches, according to the center.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Colorado Gov. Sympathizes With Parents of Gunman

Colorado Dept of Corrections(Monument, Colo.) -- The parents of Evan Ebel, who signed his name "Evil Evan" and is a suspect in two murders, had a "bad streak" that his parents "tried desperately to correct," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper is a friend of Ebel's father Jack Ebel, whose son is the prime suspect in the killing of a pizza delivery man and Colorado's prisons chief Tom Clements, a murder that brought Hickenlooper close to tears this week.

A shootout with Texas cops that killed Ebel Thursday came despite efforts by his parents that literally spanned the globe to curb an increasingly paranoid and violent son.

A blog maintained by Ebel's mother, Jody Mangue, documented a son troubled from youth who was sent to behavioral programs in Jamaica, Samoa, Mexico and Utah.

Even when he was prison, his parents tried to rescue him. Jack Ebel testified in March 2011 before a committee of the Colorado Legislature regarding a proposal that would require inmates to spend time outside of solitary confinement before leaving prison.

"What I've seen over six years is he has become increasingly ... he has a high level of paranoia and [is] extremely anxious. So when he gets out to visit me, and he gets out of his cell to talk to me, I mean he is so agitated that it will take an hour to an hour-and-half before we can actually talk," Jack Ebel told lawmakers.

The governor on Friday issued a statement that sympathized with his friend Jack Ebel whose son may have killed his other friend, Clements.

"Jack is one of the most kind and generous people I know. His son had a bad streak that I know he tried desperately to correct," Hickenlooper said.

"Although Jack loved his son, he never asked me to intervene on his behalf and I never asked for any special treatment for his son," the governor said.

Ebel dropped out of school, where he had been in a special education program for "severely impacted" students. Friends said he "lost it" when his sister, Marin Ebel, was killed in a car crash as a teenager in 2004. The death seemed to set off a string of criminal behaviors and jail stints for Ebel.

In an undated post on her blog when Ebel was still in prison, his mother hinted at the responsibility the parents felt for his criminal life.

"Some people may blame us for what has happened to Evan. I can only say that his dad and I had to make hard decisions when he was younger hoping to avoid where he is now," she wrote.

Jack Ebel released the following statement on Saturday:

"I am profoundly saddened by the recent events involving my son, Evan Ebel, and offer my most sincere condolences to all of those individuals and families who have suffered from his actions. I ask for privacy for me and my family during this time as we grieve for the loss of life that has occurred and for all of those affected."

A private funeral for Clements is taking place Sunday, followed by a public memorial on Monday at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs at 10 a.m.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Parolee, Saudi National Eyed as Possible Suspects in Colorado Shooting

Colorado Department of Corrections(MONUMENT, Colo.) -- Law enforcement authorities in two states are investigating whether a parolee who was gravely wounded Thursday after a high-speed car chase in Texas is connected to Tuesday night’s shooting death of Colorado prison chief Tom Clements.

The 28-year-old suspect, Evan Ebel, served time in Colorado and was reportedly a member of the Brotherhood of Aryan Alliance. He was driving a vehicle that matched a similar description of a dark “boxy” car that was spotted in Clements’ neighborhood in Monument, Colo. at the time of the shooting.

According to Texas police, the suspect led them on a high-speed chase through two counties after being stopped in Montague and seriously wounding a deputy. The chase ended in Decatur, 100 miles outside of Dallas, when his Cadillac was struck by an 18-wheeler. After the suspect exited his car, he continued shooting and was hit by bullets when cops returned fire.

Doctors later said that the suspect was brain dead and is being kept on life support to potentially harvest his organs.

Days before he was shot dead at his home, Clements denied the request of a Saudi national convicted of false imprisonment and sexual assault to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence in Saudi Arabia.

Detectives investigating the murder were also investigating that as a possible lead as the manhunt for the 58-year-old's killer continued on Friday.

Just a week before being gunned down, Clements wrote a letter to convicted Saudi national Homaidan al-Turki, stating that he was denying his request to complete his sentence in his home country.

Al-Turki, whose company Al-Basheer Publications & Translations sold CDs of speeches by Islamic militant Anwar al-Awlaki, had complained during his trial that the prosecution was the result of a government conspiracy. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

In his letter to al-Turki, Clements cited the convict's refusal to participate in sex offender rehabilitation programs due to conflicts with his Islamic faith. As a result, Clements denied the requested transfer to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Turki was convicted in 2006 of the sexual assault of his Indonesian housekeeper. According to an affidavit, al-Turki and his wife kept their housekeeper as a virtual slave, allegedly paying her $2 per day and forcing her to sleep on a mattress in his basement.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Texas Shootout Suspect 'Evil Evan' Dies From His Wounds

Colorado Dept of Corrections(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- The man identified as the shooter who opened fired at police in Texas when they pulled him over during a traffic stop Thursday died from his wounds Friday.

Evan Spencer Ebel was involved in a high speed car chase and shootout in Texas, and police were eyeing for the murder of Colorado's prisons chief and a pizza deliveryman earlier in the week. Ebel is a paroled Colorado inmate and white supremacist gang member who signed his name "Evil Evan," sources tell ABC News.

Ebel shot one deputy three times and then started a 100 mph car chase across two Texas counties while continuing to shoot at police on Thursday. The chase ended when the driver was hit by an 18-wheel truck. Ebel emerged from the wreck and kept shooting at cops until he was cut down by return fire, according to Wise County Sheriff David Walker.

Ebel was flown to a hospital in Fort Worth and where he was put on life support. He was pronounced dead Friday. Police and medical examiners are performing an autopsy on Ebel's body.

Ebel, 28, has been in and out of jail the last 10 years, and was a part of the white supremacist prison gang 211 Crew, his friends told ABC News.

He had the word "hopeless" tattooed on his body and signed his name "Evil Evan."

Walker said Friday that police are still investigating whether Ebel committed the Tuesday murder of Colorado prison executive Tom Clements, and are searching through Ebel's vehicle for evidence that might tie him to the Colorado killing.

Clements, 58, was shot and killed at his home. Neighbors told police they saw a black, "box style" car in the neighborhood at the time of the murder. Ebel was driving a black Cadillac with Colorado license plates that match the "box style" description.

Walker said that there is no clear motive for the Texas shootout, but they believe the Cadillac was pulled over as part of a drug stop. They are looking into his affiliation with the prison gang 211 Crew to help explain why he was in Texas.

Police are also investigating whether Ebel was involved in the murder of a pizza delivery man in Denver on Sunday. Texas authorities said evidence found today in the suspect's car -- including a Domino's pizza uniform jacket and a cardboard pizza box -- may link him to the unsolved murder of Nathan Leon, 27, who was killed delivering pizza near Golden, Colo.

Friends of Ebel, who grew up in Wheat Ridge, Colo., told ABC News that he had been depressed and on edge for years. He had been in prison on an assortment of assault, robbery, and menacing charges dating back to 2005, according to jail records.

"He was depressed a lot," Ryan Arici, a friend of Ebel's from Wheat Ridge, told ABC News. "And he was a dark person. His walls were painted black and his windows were blacked out."

Ebel dropped out of school, where he had been in a special education program for "severely impacted" students, and friends said he "lost it" when his sister, Marin Ebel, was killed in a car crash as a teenager in 2004. The death set off a string of criminal behaviors and jail stints for Ebel.

"Everyone was always afraid of Evan. Even the hardest kids were afraid of Evan," one friend told ABC.

Ricky Alengi, another friend from Wheat Ridge, said that Ebel had been doing better upon his latest release from prison. Alengi said he was shocked to find out about the shootout in Texas.

"I thought he was getting better," Alengi said. "He was writing books in prison. His mom and I were going to see him soon."

His father, attorney Jack Ebel, once testified on his behalf in front of the Colorado legislature about prison conditions for mentally ill inmates. He did not immediately return calls for comment.

His mother, Jody Mangue, who now lives in Costa Rica, was distraught over the news of her son, friends said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Colorado Fugitive Newest Addition to FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted' List

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A man with connections to a violent international gang and wanted for the brutal murder of a Denver man will be the latest to join the ranks of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list, ABC News has learned.

The fugitive is 28-year-old Edwin Ernesto Rivera Gracias, identified by three law enforcement sources who would not speak on the record ahead of an official announcement planned for Thursday morning.  Officials fear Rivera Gracias, who says he is from El Salvador, may have fled the United States.

Rivera Gracias is wanted for first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 63-year-old Denver resident Richard Limon.  On Aug. 17, 2011, a cyclist discovered Limon's half-naked body on Lookout Mountain in Jefferson County, Colo.  His mouth and nose were covered in duct tape, and investigators believe Limon was already dead when his body was thrown from the side of a mountain road, tumbling down a rocky slope through bushes and weeds.  A broken-off blade from a steak knife was found lodged in his chest.

According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Russell Humphrey, Rivera Gracias "expressed his desire to kill" Limon to an acquaintance about a month before Limon died.

Rivera Gracias was angry because his girlfriend told him that Limon had molested her as a child and had twice sexually assaulted her mother, according to an unverified claim in the affidavit.

With the help of another man, the affidavit said, Rivera Gracias allegedly attacked Limon as he was lying on a couch, wrapping duct tape around his nose and mouth as the victim called for help.

"After wrapping the duct tape around [Limon]'s head, [Rivera Gracias] began beating him about his face and head with his right fist.  Between 10 and 15 minutes elapsed without [Limon] dying," the affidavit stated.

Rivera Gracias, the affidavit added, left and soon returned armed with a six-inch-long knife that he allegedly used to "rapidly" stab Limon five or six times.

"The final stab wound was to [Limon's] heart and resulted in the knife blade breaking off within his body," Agent Humphrey wrote in the affidavit.

After Limon stopped breathing, Rivera Gracias and another man allegedly wrapped Limon in a blanket and put his body in the back of a pickup truck for the drive to Lookout Mountain, the affidavit said.

Three acquaintances of both Limon and Rivera Gracias were arrested on murder charges shortly after Limon's body was found, but Rivera Gracias has been on the run ever since.  Investigators believe he was using a cellphone that was traced to the Los Angeles area about two weeks after Limon was killed.

The FBI launched an international manhunt to find Rivera Gracias.  A federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest in 2011 for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Rivera Gracias claims to be a member of Mara Salvatrucha, a notorious street gang also known as MS-13 that began in Los Angeles and has roots in Central America.  Officials said he has "MS-13" tattooed across his back and "503" -- the country telephone code for El Salvador -- on the back of his left arm.

MS-13 now operates in at least 42 states and counts between 6,000 and 10,000 members nationwide, according to an FBI threat assessment.

Thursday is the 63rd anniversary of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list.

Nearly 500 people -- all but eight of them men -- have been on the list since it began in 1950, according to the FBI.  The first fugitive to make the list was Thomas James Holden, accused of murdering his wife and her two brothers in Chicago.  He was captured in Beaverton, Ore., in 1951.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Missing Colorado Woman's Roommate Refuses to Meet with Police

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Authorities in Colorado are hoping to interview the roommate of a Colorado bank employee who has been missing for nearly two weeks.

Police in Wheat Ridge, a western suburb of Denver, said there wasn't evidence to suspect foul play in the disappearance of Leann "Annie" Meyer, 52, however, they're perplexed that her roommate, Melissa Miller, is unwilling to meet police in person.

"We certainly think Melissa Miller has information that would be useful to us. We don't know if she knows where Annie is, but we would certainly like to speak with her," Wheat Ridge Police Cmdr. Dave Pickett said. "We don't have a criminal case at this point. We have no crime scene, no one telling us Ms. Meyer was in danger. This is still very much a missing persons case."

Authorities can't pinpoint the exact date Meyer -- or her two vehicles-- disappeared.


Miller called in sick for her roommate, who is employed by U.S. Bank, on Feb. 22, Pickett said. The next day, a friend reported speaking with Meyer on the phone. And on Feb. 25, a text message was sent from Meyer's phone to her employer, letting her employer know she would not be coming into work.

"She's real responsible. She's been at the same job for the last 15 years, never misses work. This is very unlike her to not have spoken to anyone," Meyer's friend, Luann Joecken, told ABC News. "I have no reason to believe [Melissa] would harm Annie in any way, but the fact she is not coming forward makes me suspicious."

On Thursday, authorities searched the women's shared residence for a third time. Miller has not returned to the home she shared with Meyer since police became involved on March 4, Pickett said.

She told authorities over the phone that her roommate left with a woman named Cathy, police said, but Joecken said she was skeptical.

"I've known her for 28 years. She has never once mentioned this Cathy person to me," Joecken told ABC News. "I've been talking to people for the past four days, and no one has ever heard of her."

Meyer's absence is particularly stinging for her friends, who would have celebrated her 52nd birthday with her Friday.

Instead of a birthday celebration, they are organizing search parties. Joecken and a group plan to search the area on Saturday for signs of their friend, and to hand out flyers, if bad weather does not get in the way.

"It's extremely stressful. I just wish there was something I could do," Joecken said. "We're having a search for her tomorrow, but we're expecting bad weather, so it may be delayed. I'm very upset."

ABC News could not reach Melissa Miller for comment.

Meyer's missing silver Rav4 has a Colorado license plate 975-YUH. Her missing Toyota pick-up trick has the Colorado plate 688-DJH.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Wheat Ridge Police Department at 303-235-2947.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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