The sunlight seemed to shine on Colorado Springs through the first month of fall this year, when we saw the election of a new mayor who understands the value and fine art of compromise, a refreshing sanity that marginalized negative forces like Douglas Bruce, a sweet flurry of same-sex weddings in the town that once spawned the hate-filled Amendment 2. Things were even starting to look good for our potholes!
But as the days of 2015 grew shorter, some of humanity's darkest, most twisted and most puzzling trends played out on our streets. A solitary shooter took the futures from three people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And a wild-eyed murderer playing God took three more, leaving us to focus on our country's gun culture and drive to control women's bodies.
In the following images, we honor 2015, a year of breathtaking highs and horrifying lows, through the camera's lens. — The Editors
Dozens of residents from the Shooks Run neighborhood (pictured above) east of downtown gathered for a candlelight vigil to show their support and solidarity on the Sunday night of Nov. 1, the day after the Halloween shooting rampage by Noah Harpham, who randomly killed a bicyclist and two women sitting on their porch before being gunned down by Colorado Springs police.
Under the glare of national media coverage, law enforcement teams spent more than five hours on the snowy, frigid afternoon of Nov. 27, dealing with the Planned Parenthood invasion and shooting by Robert Lewis Dear, who allegedly killed three people including a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer, Garrett Swasey. Dear, who had been living in a trailer near the Park County town of Hartsel, surrendered after SWAT teams with armored vehicles crashed into the building. He has since proclaimed his guilt, calling himself a "warrior for the babies."
John Suthers already was well-known across the region and the state from his years as district attorney and Colorado's attorney general. But after term limits ended his tenure in the statewide office, the Springs native decided to focus next on his hometown, running for mayor in the race to determine Steve Bach's successor. After promising to fix potholes and infrastructure, Suthers cruised to victory, took office in June and pushed for a five-year, $250 million sales-tax increase to begin fixing roads and streets. The ballot issue passed, and Suthers wrapped up the year riding the wave of a much-improved working relationship with City Council.
Ryan Brown (pictured) and Rocky Manning were two men featured in our ongoing Full Force series, which debuted in July. The series revealed that: Settlements for excessive-force cases against the Colorado Springs Police Department have cost taxpayers more than $400,000; citizens have reported excessive use-of-force incidents on average once per week over the past four years; officers are rarely accountable to anyone outside the department; and information about discipline resulting from an internal investigation isn't released to the public, despite provisions in the law allowing such information to be released.
On Friday, June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld same-sex marriage as a civil right. Couples across the country tied the knot in celebration. In Colorado, marriage for couples already bound by civil unions, however, has created a bizarre legal situation. In a sense, they are now married twice. One such couple is Lisa and Shawna Kemppainen, pictured here at their 2013 civil union.
Richard Skorman and Patricia Seator celebrated Poor Richard's 40th anniversary in October. Their downtown Colorado Springs establishments have been a nexus for community members to organize around issues as diverse as LGBT rights, open space and free speech.
Christopher Aaby and Michelle Talarico and Kathy Dreiling (pictured) were among those honored with Indy Inclusion awards in 2015.
Douglas Bruce (pictured) and Helen Collins, the "odd couple" on our local political scene, had a rough 2015. Bruce faced probation revocation proceedings related to his previous conviction for tax evasion and other issues, including his dealings with Collins, the City Council member who testified on Bruce's behalf. Bruce was able to stretch out the revocation hearings indefinitely, proclaiming his innocence throughout. Collins still faces a hearing after being accused by the City Attorney's Office of ethics violations.
Colorado Springs Utilities' Martin Drake Power Plant downtown continues to galvanize community stakeholders who want to see it decommissioned. But the utilities board (City Council) voted to allow the coal-burning beast to operate as late as 2035. The overly conservative board (not following its own advisory committee's advice) even deadlocked on a shorter-term plan to decommission just Unit 5, to avoid costly natural gas conversions, even though CSU's currently at 100 MW excess electrical capacity with another 145 MW reserve margin. Unit 5 only provides 46 MW. A final ruling should come at in January 2016.
2015 was the year of good vibes and sad times in our local music scene. In June, poet and revered hip-hop artist ItsreaLight passed away at the age of 34. Though Light moved to the Springs only three years ago, she quickly became an integral part of the local hip-hop and spoken-word communities. A week after her passing we ran a cover story hoping to share a small glimpse into what she meant to members of the local music community ("Shine on brightly," cover story, June 17). Light's lasting wisdom: "Man, you need to speak up and be proud of what you're saying." Then in October, the death of Chris Forsythe (pictured) — musician, Black Sheep sound engineer and beloved mentor — sent shockwaves through the scene. Forsythe's friends, family and loved ones shared their memories with us in our Oct. 21 issue ("Chris Forsythe, 1973-2015," AudioFile). We also bid farewell to "The Zen Cowboy" Chuck Pyle (Reverb, Nov. 18). The 70-year-old luminary was a prolific performer, and will be remembered by his signature mantra, "Always ride the horse in the direction it's going." Rest in peace.
Local author, poet, playwright, rapper and hip-hop history professor Idris Goodwin added another resumé item in 2015: a radio show. The Indy sat down with Goodwin before Critical Karaoke launched on KRCC in February.
The Springs finished up its new bicycle master plan — aimed at filling bicycle route gaps and creating a logical, connected, city-wide bike system. ("Back in the saddle," cover story Feb. 18) Pretty exciting news for a city that loves its bikes — though we don't have many commuters. The local cycling culture kept gaining momentum in 2015 and nothing points to it slowing down.
As we reported in September, Springs resident David Merrill allegedly took advantage of Bishop's Castle owner/builder Jim Bishop, who was newly diagnosed with cancer, persuading him to make Merrill a trustee of the San Isabel National Forest castle. Merrill claimed ownership, but the Bishops took Merrill to court and won both a restraining order and their title, but at a $20,000 legal cost, for which donations at bishopcastle.org are welcome.
The 2015 Indy Music Awards spanned two days in September at the Ivywild School, with winners like The Mostly Don'ts (pictured), Stoney Bertz and We Are Not A Glum Lot performing on multiple stages ("2105 Indy Music Awards," cover story Sept. 9). The show was held in conjunction with Bristol's first-ever Freewheelin' Music Festival, which brought national headliners Charles Bradley and Phosphorescent to the party.
After syndicated columnist Roland Sweet (Stranger than Fiction) passed away this summer, the Indy brought Ask A Mexican, by Orange County Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano, to the masthead.
Protestors turned out for Bill Cosby’s appearance at Pueblo’s Memorial Hall in January, but the increasing number of rape allegations against the actor did not keep the event from selling out.
In May, the Indy spoke with Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk on the eve of releasing Fight Club 2 as a 10-part comic book series with Dark Horse Comics. Issue #9 of the series releases January 27, 2016.
In October, internationally renowned graffiti artist El Mac displayed Aerosol Exalted at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. The exhibit marked a milestone in the FAC’s programming, elevating street art and urban culture to a fine arts setting.