Welcome to Denver where you will be violently attacked and possibly die


How I feel the media describes it after seeing, reading or hearing a headline:

~Denver’s 16th street mall violence is growing to epic proportions

~The Sky is falling in Denver, it’s all out war down on the 16th street mall

~Man brutally beaten with pipe on the 16th street mall (I saw the video the guy that got hit had a laceration and the man     swinging the pipe was arrested)

~Welcome to Denver where you will be violently attacked and possibly die

~Denver police standing around doing nothing while people are viciously attacked on the 16th street mall

~Denver’s homeless smoking crack and shooting up in the allies

~Stay away from the 16th street mall folks, nothing to see here…unless you want to get beat up by a homeless person…and possibly die

Not to make light of it, but…why is it that the media always over sensationalizes every little thing?

The 16th street mall and I am a native of Colorado has always had a problem with transients, some years are better than others. Back in the early 90’s Denver had a problem with transients being aggressive and passing out all over, in front of clubs, restaurants, shops etc.

They normally fight and attack each other more often than not, now they are going for people who might actually have something worth some value that they can take and then try to sell.

Denver, Colorado

Denver tried a few years back to create a “no-solicitation zone” along the 16th street mall which gave the ACLU the opportunity to get involved and win an injunction that prohibited the city from implementing that ordinance.  

The reason being was simple of course. The ACLU’s argument was that it is really hard to regulate speech in public spaces without running into the first amendment.

If memory serves, Denver doesn’t have a loitering ordinance, but even if they did, all the police can do is ask people to move along, away from the mall. If you look at it from a constitutional aspect, that law even more difficult to enforce because then you get into things like “selective” enforcement of the law, which can lead to other issues such as profiling etc.

A few years ago I lived right on 16th Ave a walk out the back door and I was on the 16th street mall. When the police politely tried to encourage the transients away from the mall, they ended up in my neighborhood full of houses, condo’s and some schools. A residential area.

Long story short is that, even that became problematic for the police. Homeowners feared going out after dark, most don’t have a garage when living in the city and some day’s you have to park a good distance away from where you live…that was a scary walk or two through the jungle.

Across the street from my place was a plastic surgery center and next to it was a vacant home. The plastic surgery center would allow for those of us in our condo’s to park in their parking lot at night and on the weekends.

Well, that vacant home became prime real estate to the transients, I lost track of how many times the police showed up to get them off of that property, and from camping out at it. In the end however, our cars were broken into several times, neighbors and I were harassed going to and from our cars, some people were shoved, hit, pushed and what not. Some mornings when heading out to work, we’d call in late after having found a homeless person asleep on our doorstep, some were so violent you didn’t dare wake them, you either called the police or hoped something would rouse them sooner or later so that you could get to work.

In February of this year, the DPD were called out to the now closed plastic surgery center because as luck would have it, someone broke into the vacant building, through the roof.

The point of that little story is simply contrary to what the Mayor said roughly 5 days ago where, he stated that part of the violence problems down on the mall are due to the legalization of cannabis, it’s not, it’s been on it’s way to escalation since before cannabis legalization happened.

From 2008-2013 when I finally begrudgingly moved out of the downtown area I noticed the transient population growing and becoming more and more aggressive.

But I do love the effort to blame the legalization of cannabis…without having any proof of that being even part of the reason as to why people are being attacked whilst strolling down the 16th street mall.

Denver is however, very tolerant of the transient community and always without fail has been, when those individuals behave and are non-aggressive.

Denver has tried many different avenues in an effort to curb the problem as well as the aggressive behavior that come along with a transient community living in parallel to a working society.

I do see a lot of blame being thrown at the DPD’s feet for lack of having “enough” officers at the mall at all hours of the day and night. Trust me, as far as the world is concerned, you are never going to please everyone and so…the police could not possibly have enough officers at the 16th street mall in someone’s eyes.

At the same time it really isn’t fair to blame the police department either. They cannot be everywhere at all times. And District 6 does have officers already assigned to the mall, they patrol it all the time.

Pulling officers from other active areas throughout the city creates potential problems in whatever area the officers were pulled from.

Approving OT is a great idea but officers can’t work 24/7 nonstop they do need a break from time to time as well.  Additionally, does DPD have a plan to hire more officers for that part of town or…

The other problem is that yes, sure the police can arrest the problem children, but guess what they do get out of jail eventually and where do you think they end up? Yes our courts can fine them but they aren’t working currently I’m guessing they are not going to be enticed to try to find a job just to pay a court ordered fine either.

When the transients do get money, they tend to spend it on alcohol, well store owners can consider refusing to sell them any, the store owners know the homeless community much better than the police do after all.

OF course that could also enrage the transient and cause a small issue in the store.

The 16th street mall could be privatized or the city could enforce the aggressive panhandling ordinance, in either case it only moves the problem away from the mall and over to another highly populated area for instance, Rino, Highlands, Cherry Creek, further south down Broadway and into residential areas.  

Besides, the Denver police announced last October that they would no longer be enforcing the city’s aggressive panhandling ordinance, because a similar ban in Grand Junction was ruled as a violation of panhandlers’ first amendment rights. So that’s out.

I should note here that Denver does have a law that prohibits being aggressive in an attempt to get money from a passersby which is not considered the same as aggressive panhandling. The problem is that it’s often under reported and when it is, it’s after the fact making it difficult for police to track down the transient.  

In case you didn’t notice my not to subtle hint here, solving the issue isn’t going to be that easy.

Finding a way to curb the violence is just a start. Society in general seems to be becoming more and more violent and although the reality is violence is everywhere we look, online, on tv, every newscast, social media, etc.

As much as we dislike it, our species has always been violent, so when the media suggests we are becoming immune to it, that is untrue. It is more publicized now than it ever was, and violence tends to grow at the same rate that society in general does.

A bigger society means that it is more prone to outbursts of violence. Add other things like lax laws, poor oversight, not having enough police, not enforcing the laws, the inability to read minds, therefore enabling law enforcement to know when a predator is going to strike, etc…All of that, well that creates a perfect storm.

Everything we do has a cause and then subsequent effect

Everyone can come to the table with plausible solutions to Denver’s 16th street mall problem, the questions are, how to implement those solutions and more importantly, are they long term solutions?

I mentioned some solutions above, while some seem really great, in the grand scheme of things they are short term. Short term solutions to me are the same as sweeping something under the carpet and just hoping it isn’t under the carpet the next time we look.

We basically throw a log doused in fuel into the fire and hope for the best just hoping that it keeps us warm for a really loooong time. The log usually burns through and we have to add another…

What’s more is that some of the very solutions I mentioned while they do sound great will push the problem further into residential areas and other upscale heavily populated areas of the city.

I lived near the mall when that happened a few years ago. Try living in a residential area just blocks away from the Mall, an area the transients moved to after having been kicked out of the mall area. That residential area lacks camera’s, lighting, shops, a witness, it does offer more hiding places for a transient.

Beefing up patrols is a good start if the DPD has the manpower to keep it up, arresting the transients however will only serve as short term solutions to long term problems. Moreover, again is that beefing up patrols long term or just through the end of this summer?

The point is, I hope the city is looking at more long term solutions that actually have the effect everyone is seeking.

I guess for now time will tell, we could always wait it out until next summer…

Cristal M Clark


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Video shows man violently attacking people on 16th Street Mall; suspect arrested



4 Guards murdered in Denver bank robbery

denver bank robbery

Dubbed the Father’s Day Massacre

Four guards were found dead while the tellers were left alive.

The murdered guards:

Scott McCarthy, 21

Todd Wilson, 21

William McCullom Jr., 33

Phillip Mankoff, 41

June 16, 1991

While the 4 guards were on duty that Sunday, 6 employee’s were in the cash counting room counting the cash. Around 9:14ish am someone called claiming to be the bank’s VP and asked for entry into the building through a side freight elevator. The caller was calling from what is described as a street level phone.

Doing his job, senior guard William McCulom took the elevator up to meet the caller from where the call originated. Once the doors opened, William was held against his will so that the caller could gain entry to the subbasement. Once the caller had entry, he murdered William, took his access card, then hid his body in a storage room and proceeded on.

The killer wound his way up to the guard station, which is located on the basement level of the building, it also held the vault.

At some point around 9:20am the killer set off an alarm on one of the stairwells but no one seemed to notice or simply ignored it thinking perhaps that is was William.

Once on the basement level, the killer first hit the guard room where he encountered  Phillip Mankoff and Scott McCarthy. He forced them into the battery room and shot them dead. It is believed that Todd Wilson was somewhere else on that level during the killing of Phillip and Scott and either came to their aid or simply returned from wherever it was he happened to be and was shot several feet away from the battery room.

In all, the killer fired a total of 18 shots.

The killer entered the vault at 9:48am according to electronic records from the bank and demanded that the employees cover their eyes and lie on the floor.

The killer then ordered the senior vault manager, David Barranco, to fill a satchel with cash from the work stations.

The killer forced the tellers to crawl into a small room near the vault known as a man trap.

A man trap is basically  a small space with two sets of interlocking doors, which require the first set of doors to be closed before the second set opens.

For a manual mantrap, a guard would lock and unlock each door in sequence. A video camera and intercom are often used to allow the guard to control the trap from a remote location.

It is believed that in an effort to confuse investigators, the killer did not fill up the entire bag with money and he did not take any bundles of cash from the vault. The killer cleared the building at 9:56 a.m. leaving the tellers locked in the man trap.

The tellers found a broken spoon on the man trap’s door sill and freed themselves approximately 20 minutes after the robbery.

The Suspect:

One James King who has since died. What is interesting about James is that he at the time was a former Denver police sergeant and United Bank of Denver security guard.


Being a Denver native, I can tell you everyone in town thought that investigators had the right guy because of the local media, but now that I am older and wiser I think that was a knee jerk reaction.

Not that I doubt the evidence or that investigators had the wrong guy, I don’t believe he acted entirely alone and the money, well it was never found or spent by James and that speaks volumes.

James was arrested a month later for the crime and acquitted because the jury felt the prosecution’s evidence was circumstantial at best. The reality is, as little as the DA had, in today’s world the DA actually might have had a better chance at winning.

James was identified by some of the bank employee’s, who also I might note couldn’t tell the difference between actor Harrison Ford and the robber as the defense proved…Jame later admitted to shaving his mustache after the robbery and perhaps the two most damning pieces of evidence are that he owned a .38-caliber Colt Trooper, the weapon used in the murder/robbery and the 17 bullets taken from the bodies of the bank guards were from four or five separate brands.

Once upon a time a little known fact, back in the day the ammo given to Denver officers, would be put into what is known as “ammo buckets.”  As you can imagine, over time when the department bought different brands of rounds the cartridges would get mixed together. Thus when the officers loaded their guns, they would have a mixture of brands.

Funny story, all Denver cops know this…

Here’s the thinking with that and the DA and investigators are pretty right on this, a normal killer/robber is going to take his ammo from one box, i.e. the same brand  of each round that he loaded into the weapon. Most people simply, criminal or not don’t reach into a “bucket” of ammo they have laying around.  Unless of course you know the cops MO in that city and can mimic it.

But was James really the guy?

According to one of his kids, no. According to police and DA, yes.

I am curious as to why the guards were killed and the tellers were not? That seems to be a key piece of intel we have yet to explore.

Additionally, it is way too much of coincidence the tellers just happened to find a spoon in the man trap. If I know anything about banks and it’s a lot,  paperclips, paper, pens, pencils, spoons, just don’t get left lying around, pretty much anywhere, including in the man trap.  

One could legitimately argue that a bank is cleaner than a hospital save for the germs left on cash brought to the bank to deposit. That is hands down.

The FBI through the years did keep an eye on James and they didn’t see a whole lot in the way of him spending the missing cash which was reported to be close to or right at $200K.

The reality is that yes, he could have spent it slowly over time but what’s more likely is that he isn’t the individual that ended up with the cash.

It is widely believed that one of the guards was part of the plan because at around 4:00am that morning an alarm from the basement was triggered an alarm that one of the guards turned off.

Additionally, The former head of bank security, James Prado has always believed that due to security changes that came after James King was employed with the bank, that the killer was a at the time a currently employed guard and maybe not James King.

According to James Prado, one of the security measures that were put into place at the time the robbery/murders occurred ensured that anyone unknown to the guards would be placed in a security man trap when he tried to leave the bank.

How that happens when all of the guards are dead is not known by me, that is for sure. But he is pretty sure of that fact.

Regardless, that implies that some other form of technology or security plan the FBI and DPD either ignored, didn’t find or simply missed is still out and about for the world to find.

In the end two key elements which are basic have been glossed over. All of the guards were killed, which means the killer and the guards knew one another, while the tellers were all left alive, in a man trap they could have died in for all we know, save for the spoon they somehow found which gave them the ability to escape. Which is an unusual chance encounter if you will.  

Regardless of the main suspect in this case being dead now, I believe the answers the FBI and police seek lie in the evidence that was left behind but not fully explored to the fullest. The dead guards, the spoon, and the tellers who survived.

It’s obvious that if you go to rob a bank and know you are going to kills the guards, you might encounter the type of person who is a life saver, hence one of the tellers or two of them try to stop you and you have to kill them, yet only 18 rounds were fired.

In such a sophisticated robbery which was as the evidence shows was well planned out, tapes were taken, guard books were taken, prints wiped, you would certainly take more than 18 rounds, you’d kill more than just 4 guards and  you sure in the hell would make sure that a teller was never going to be able to point the blame to you.

What is clear is that this guy knew his odds better than the odds knew him. He only intended on killing the guards, for a reason. And for a reason he left the tellers alive with a way to escape.

So what about James King then?

Well, he did get rid of his gun, which he freely admitted. What we really have to look at since the FBI couldn’t ever catch him spending the missing cash, is what would he have had to gain from murdering guards he may not have known since he was not employed by the bank any longer and why rob the bank. What did he have going on that might have prompted him to go to that length?

James was not the bank robber type as far anyone knew. He had a wife that stood by him until she died, that is a telling tale and to understand it, I’d strongly suggest you find his son and ask him.

The reality is, he didn’t end up with the cash but someone did. That someone was tied to the bank in some way, whether it was a teller, a guard or someone that any one of them owed money to, a sick family member, etc, the point is, not one of them specifically ended up with all of the cash. You know a rather large sum…of cash, to spend…

Of course someone could have gone Good Fella’s and made sure to spend the money slowly and over time on stuff no one would notice or on stuff that wouldn’t raise suspicions.

The point is simple, that arresting one man a month after the crime and putting him on trial for it tells me that not all of the evidence was examined carefully and that while he may have had a part in the crime, he was never alone and that means that his secrets didn’t exactly follow him to the grave.

As James Prado put it, even if the real killer or some accomplice were found it would be easy for them to point the blame right back at James King.

If it were me, I’d go back over every detail, every detail and any surviving witnesses still, well they could expect another interview.

A reason does exist for every little thing we humans do, even if it does not seem like it. The tellers were left living for a reason to the killer. The trick is figuring out that reason. The guards being killed are easy to figure out, the former is not.

This investigation is worthy of a do over without focusing on anyone person. It’s worthy of seeing the actual evidence and looking at for the first time. Something I don’t believe investigators or the FBI ever did.

Cristal M Clark


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