By Mark Ackerman
Planned Parenthood Shooting: On Nov. 27 a gunman walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and started shooting. After a lengthy standoff with police, Robert Lewis Dear was taken into custody. During a courtroom outburst Dear admitted he was guilty and called himself a ‘warrior for the babies.” Dear was charged with 179 counts including first-degree murder. Three people were killed in the attack, including Iraq Veteran Ke’Arre Stewart, mother of two Jennifer Markovsky, and campus police officer, Garrett Swasey. Nine other people were wounded.
Animas River Spill: 2015 was the year the Animas River turned orange. Three million gallons of mine waste spilled into the river situated in southwestern Colorado. The Environmental Protection Agency took responsibility for the environmental disaster.
“It’s hard being on the other side of this,” said David Ostrander of the EPA, “In terms of being the ones who caused this incident. We typically respond to emergencies and don’t cause them.”
Henthorn Convicted of Murder: Two families got justice this year when Harold Henthorn was sentenced to life in prison. The Highlands Ranch man was convicted in federal court of killing his second wife Toni. Prosecutors say he pushed her off a cliff at Rocky Mountain National Park. Jurors also heard testimony about the suspicious death of his first wife, Sandra Lynn, who died changing a tire two decades earlier. In both deaths Harold was the only witness.
“Harold’s love was lethal,” said Harold’s sister-in-law, Grace Rishell. “If you got married to him you would probably be the next one.”
A CBS4 investigation kept the case in the spotlight for years until Henthorn was eventually brought to trial.
Greenwood Village Standoff: When news broke, CBS4 was there. A shoplifter barricaded himself inside this Greenwood Village home. During a 19 hour standoff police blew holes in the walls before finally getting him to come out.
“If you look at the photos of Osama Bin Laden’s compound,” said the homeowner Leo Lech. “I would say his house looks better than mine does.”
Flight for Life Crash: They are the ones that respond to the worst of situations. On July 3 tragedy struck “Flight for Life” in Frisco. During takeoff the helicopter went down and then exploded. Two crew members were injured. The veteran pilot, Patrick Mahany, was killed.
New Sheriff in Denver: In October Patrick Firman was sworn in as Denver’s new sheriff. He’ll lead the department through a series of reforms following years of allegations of excessive force and misconduct.
Severe Weather: In 2015 Coloradans endured extreme weather conditions. From icy blizzards to pounding hail and tornadoes – the CBS4 Mobile Weather Lab took us across Colorado to show us the actual conditions that other stations can only show on radar screens or weather maps.
Theater Shooter Sentenced: Three years after the Aurora theater shooting gunman James Holmes was sentenced to 12 life sentences in prison. After a four month trial the jury spared Holmes from the death penalty.
“I couldn’t hold the tears back,” said shooting victim Marcus Weaver. “It’s been a long three years, you know, just to get to this point.”
Changing of the Guard: There was a changing of the guard in the sports world. The Rockies traded away their beloved shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays.
After a home playoff loss to the Colts the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox, who was replaced by Bronco alum Gary Kubiak. After starting the 2015 season with seven straight wins, the Broncos saw a quarterback controversy. Peyton Manning, one of the all-time great quarterbacks, suffered a foot injury and gave way to his understudy, Brock Osweiler.
This year there was a new addition to the Broncos ring of fame. Owner Pat Bowlen, who is battling Alzheimer’s received the ultimate tribute.
Race for President: The race for the White House kicked off in earnest in 2015 with Colorado playing a major role. The University of Colorado Boulder played host to a Republican debate as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton continued to dominate headlines.
Firefighter Death: In July a Denver firefighter died two weeks after he fell through a painted skylight in the roof of a warehouse. Fifteen-year veteran John Whelan was sent on the roof to look for hot spots after a trash dumpster caught fire.
A CBS4 investigation would later show that Whelan’s death could have been prevented.
Inspirational Auction: This year we saw incredible acts of generosity. None more so that when Weld County auctioned off the patrol car of fallen Deputy Sam Brownlee. The late deputy’s son, Tanner, desperately wanted to buy it but was outbid by a wealthy rancher. That rancher, Steve Wells, bid $60,000 for the car and turned around and gave it to Tanner as a gift. The excess money went to a charity that helps families of fallen police officers.