Sentinel Blogs

Brandon Johansson

Reporter for the Aurora Sentinel, Brooding

Colorado Freedom Memorial steps on the gas this weekend Brandon Johansson

Colorado Freedom Memorial steps on the gas this weekend

As you might expect with Memorial Day just a week away, there’s plenty happening at the Colorado Freedom Memorial.

For one, the memorial, 756 Telluride St., near Beck Recreation Center and Buckley Air Force Base, will host Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 Chevrolet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Martin Truex, Jr. will race the car, which has the Colorado Freedom Memorial logo emblazoned on its hood, at this weekend’s 55th Annual Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The car is part of the Denver-Based Furniture Row NASCAR Racing Team.

The event is timed so personnel at Buckley Air Force Base can check out the car before it heads to North Carolina for the race.

And, fans of local craft beer can celebrate the memorial this week, too. Last week, Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing unveiled Colorado Freedom Memorial Blonde Ale. For every bottle sold, Dry Dock is donating $1 to the memorial. Score a bottle at Chambers Liquors in Aurora and they’ll also chip in 50 cents per bottle for the memorial.

If the very-American combo of craft beer, NASCAR, and the freedom memorial doesn’t spike something very patriotic in you this week, nothing will.

— Brandon Johansson, staff writer

After 38,000 gallons, gushing hydrant to go dry Brandon Johansson

After 38,000 gallons, gushing hydrant to go dry

The Cache La Village Inn is set to run dry later today.

For the past day and a half, a fire hydrant in the parking behind the Village Inn at Interstate 225 and East Mississippi Avenue has run nonstop — dumping more than 38,000 of gallons into the gutter.

We got a call in the newsroom about the free-flowing hydrant this afternoon from an Aurora man perturbed that in a city where water department officials regularly bang the conservation drum, the city seemed to be dumping gallons upon gallons of water.

The man said the hydrant had been gushing for three days, but water officials told me this afternoon that it had been running since about 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, dumping about 20 gallons per minute.

Greg Baker at Aurora Water said the water department popped open the hydrant to relieve pressure further down the line. The pressure had to be relieved as part of the ongoing construction along I-225, Baker told me, and the hydrant should be closed today.

During the massive droughts in 2003 and 2004, Baker said water officials looked into ways to recapture water in scenarios like this, but determined it wasn’t worth the cost to capture the water and transport it somewhere else. Plus, Baker said, the water eventually flows into rivers and streams where the city can eventually treat it and re-use it.

— Brandon Johansson, staff writer

Brandon Johansson

JOHANSSON: Aurora cops and Channel 7 in a Facebook standoff

The relationship between the police and the media can be a touchy one. While the two sides often rely on each other — reporters need the cops to answer our calls, cops often need us to get their message out — the at-times symbiotic relationship is prone to trouble.

Usually, the flare-ups in these otherwise-friendly relationships are limited to an angry phone call or stern talking to at some dull meeting.

But for Aurora police and a Denver TV station, those troubles are playing out on social media.

Aurora police on Monday took the rare step of using the department’s official Facebook page to publicly lambast KMGH Channel 7 for the station’s handling of a couple stories.

Below is a link to the lengthy post, but to sum it up, Aurora police got mad at the TV reporters when they hounded a sergeant who didn’t want to talk. After that, it seems APD wouldn’t answer pretty basic questions from the station, so Channel 7 let their readers know that.

When I reached an official at Channel 7 on Wednesday, they declined to comment.

The spat provides a rare window for the public into how the press and police interact.

My guess is this blows over fairly soon. We’ve been embroiled in similar spats with Aurora police and others in the past, and they usually end peacefully after a short freeze-out and a brief “airing of grievances” by the two sides.

Boy's sign a bright spot on dark day Brandon Johansson

Boy’s sign a bright spot on dark day

Even on a day filled with heartbreaking stories, the occasional bit of good news pokes through.

As our photographer Marla Keown and I headed back this afternoon from Gateway High School — where we tried talk to people connected to Friday’s movie theater massacre — we spotted some of that good news.

Perched on top of an electrical box under a sweltering sun, 11-year-old Brendon Hutchinson was clutching a bright yellow sign at East Exposition Avenue and South Sable Boulevard.

The sign said: “Thoughts and prayers with everyone impacted by this tragedy.” In the corner, it said “R.I.P.”

The intersection is just a stone’s throw from the Century 16 Theater where 12 people were killed and another 59 wounded when a gunman opened fire on a crowded movie theater.

Hutchinson, who lives in the area and said he goes to movies at Century, said he decided to head to the intersection to show some support for the people in the theater.

“I felt really bad for the people that lost their lives today,” he said as cars zoomed past on Sable.

So far, the reaction to the pre-teen do-gooder has been positive.

“I get people that honk, I get a few thumbs up,” he said.


Police Chief’s critics take to Wiki

Critics of a controversial police traffic stop have moved from online message boards to Wikipedia.

A reader today sent us a link to Aurora police Chief Dan Oates’s Wiki page, which now includes some edits critical of Oates.

The edits are a series of criticisms of the department’s controversial decision last month to stop several cars and detain 40 innocent people during a search for a bank robber.

The real zinger comes at the end of a section detailing Oates’ education, including his law degree.

“It is amazing that someone with a background in practicing law could have been involved in the Aurora, Colorado incident,” the page says.

The online encyclopedia lets just about anybody edit any page, and someone clearly opted to take advantage of that freedom on Oates’ page. The edits aren’t as inflammatory as some Wiki edits can be, but this is the first time we can remember a local official having some not-so-friendly changes made to their page.

Former Mayor Ed Tauer’s page includes a nod to his fondness for the word “neat,” but that’s about it.

I called a department spokesman about the page this afternoon to see if they had any comment, but haven’t heard back yet.

Brandon Johansson

Aurora man steamed at Arby’s over alleged scalding

Good-mood food?

An Aurora man appears to disagree that a trip to Arby’s will leave customers feeling good.

In a lawsuit filed last week in El Paso County District Court, an Aurora man accuses an Arby’s in Monument of having a defective urinal that shot a blast of hot steam on his genitals a few years ago.

CBS 4 in Denver has the full story, which has been picked up by several blogs this morning.

According to the suit, which the Denver TV station posted online, when the man told an Arby’s employee that the urinal burned him, the employee said that happens when the sink in the kitchen is being used.

Gas can gets safety seat, no such luck for tot Brandon Johansson

Gas can gets safety seat, no such luck for tot

Aurora police working a seat belt checkpoint last weekend saw a pretty incredible lapse in judgement by a local parent. 

Rather than strap their toddler into a car seat, a parent apparently strapped a gas can into the car seat and the child into a regular seat last weekend.

The Colorado Department of Transportation posted a picture of the incident on their facebook page Monday.

“Unbelievable! This heartbreaking photo was taken by an officer with the Aurora Police Department during Click It or Ticket enforcement last week. Share it to remind everyone that life is precious, so please be responsible and make sure children are properly restrained in the appropriate child safety seat,” the post said.

The parent was cited for three violations during the stop, according to news reports.

Brandon Johansson

Busy Election Day for Hansen?

Nov. 6 could be a very busy day for Leslie Hansen.

The long-time Arapahoe County prosecutor is running for District Attorney and if she wins this month’s primary against George Brauchler, her name will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

By itself, that makes for a hectic Tuesday.

But this morning, she added another lofty task to her Nov. 6 schedule: trying a 16-year-old murder case in Arapahoe County.

In a hearing this morning, a judge scheduled Michael Medina’s trial to start Nov. 6. Hansen is one of the prosecutors on the case, so beyond watching election returns, she could be spending Election Day quizzing jurors and plotting the prosecution’s strategy.

Brandon Johansson

Busy crime weekend for Aurora

Memorial Day weekend proved to be a busy one on Aurora’s crime beat.

In Aurora, there were two separate homicides, one Saturday, another Monday. We hope to have some updates on both later today.

An Aurora man was also arrested after Englewood police say he slammed his car into an officer and another man there early Sunday. An Englewood police spokesman said this morning he expected to release on update on that case today.

And two men were arrested in Aurora on Monday in connection with a Friday afternoon shooting in Denver that left two dead and two injured. One of the men killed was also from Aurora. There may be additional updates on that case later today.

Bird busted on Colfax Brandon Johansson

Bird busted on Colfax

It’s not all busting bad guys and solving crimes for Aurora police.

Photographer Marla Keown and I learned that firsthand Tuesday when we strolled along East Colfax Avenue with officers Gene Colwell and Bob Benner for this story on beefed up surveillance along the gritty thoroughfare.

During a visit to House of Flowers, 9955 E. Colfax Ave., the two officers were called on to capture an unwanted intruder — a small bird that somehow flew into the shop and perched itself on a shelf near the register.  After borrowing a fishing net from a nearby pawn shop, Benner coaxed the bird into the net with a broom and carried it outside.

I’m not sure what kind of bird it was, but it seemed glad to be back outdoors when the ordeal was over.

Marla snapped several pictures of the capture, be sure to check them out.

Just more proof that you really never know what will happen on Colfax.