DENVER (CBS4) – A hangman’s noose was found at a work site at Denver International Airport in late 2020, bringing a $700 million airport gate construction project to a halt, triggering a Denver Police investigation and prompting the construction company involved to offer a $125,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

“This is totally unacceptable and any act of bias or hate will not be tolerated,” said Chris McFadden, Vice-President of Turner Construction company, which is co-managing the $700 million expansion of gates on concourses A and B.

Contacted by CBS4, McFadden said a noose was found in October of 2020 on some temporary stairs within the construction site of Concourse A. It was hanging from a rail. Denver police were contacted immediately.

(credit: Denver)

The police department’s record administrator told CBS4 “this is still an ongoing investigation pending lab results.” She said no other records would be released due to the active investigation.

Turner, which is co-managing the project with Flatiron Construction, suspended work at the site for four days beginning Oct. 15, sidelining some 550 workers so an investigation could be conducted, and so all workers and subcontractors could undergo anti-bias training – a prerequisite before workers could start resume construction.

McFadden said the company wanted to “send a clear message regarding how seriously we take this behavior.” He said the company hired private investigators to conduct interviews.

Scott Bustos, Turner’s General Manager in Denver, told CBS4 placement of the noose was “deliberate. It was made to be found. There was intent. Clear intent.”

To date, no arrests have been made, but Bustos told CBS4 after the noose was found and the investigation launched, a small group of sub-contracted workers left the project, and Bustos said he was “fairly confident” they were responsible.

(credit: Denver)

Stacey Stegman, the airport’s Vice President of Communications, said the airport has worked closely with all parties involved to investigate “a bias motivated crime. DEN condemns racism in all its forms and will not tolerate this criminal behavior.”

She said there have been no other similar incidents reported since October.

Hate crimes have been increasing in recent years according to the FBI, with the number of reported hate crimes increasing in Colorado by 74% between 2018 and 2019. It was the fourth such increase in the last five years.

In Colorado, hate crimes went from 121 in 2018 to 210 in 2019, according the latest figures available.

Scott Levin, Director of the Mountain States Region of the Anti-Defamation League, said a noose is “an absolute symbol of hatred against people of color in this country” which he said “harkens back to lynching in America. There can be no legitimate reason for putting a noose anywhere, let alone in a workplace on a construction site where others would see it. It’s an act of intimidation and harassment and for people of color, it has special meaning.”

Levin went on to say a rise in hate crimes has occurred across the nation “because the entire country is in a state of division, and it’s left open space for those who have the most hateful beliefs.”

(credit: Denver)

An administrator with the gate expansion program estimated the four day shutdown cost Turner-Flatiron joint ventures about $1 million a day in lost production.

Bustos said the noose incident could have been swept under the rug, but “we said no more. We are going to be vocal and deliberate, and we’re going to start to make a change in the industry in this project, and that was our intent. A policy is defined by words. A culture is defined by action.”

Brian Maass