Colorado Springs proved this week that Woodland Park is not the only world-class city around here.
What was surprising about the seven escaped Texas inmates who have been living in Woodland Park for three weeks was not that they moved in, or even that they boogied down at Colorado Springs' American Beach Club. The real question is, why didn't the law assume that our fine region would be the perfect destination for the escapees?
Twenty years ago, the fugitives would have headed straight to Mexico, or at least holed up in some seedy motel on Hollywood Boulevard.
But now the Pikes Peak region has become the dream destination for relocating outlaws. And we can hardly wait to see how the Chamber of Commerce will capitalize on the trend.
The best part of this week's peculiar standoff was watching law enforcement try to best each other in the televised press conferences. The first capture occurred just inside the Teller County line, but El Paso County Sheriff John Anderson wasted no time in hogging the limelight with a televised press conference, where he assured people that officers had "overwhelmed" three of the escaped felons. Another was caught in the RV park; another was dead.
The last two escapees were cornered on Tuesday night in Colorado Springs in the Holiday Inn off Interstate 25 and Garden of the Gods Road. Donald Newbury, 38, and Patrick Murphy, 39, surrendered to the police after five hours, and only after they got five minutes each of TV air time chatting with local CBS affiliate KKTV anchor Eric Singer.
Independent Arts and Entertainment editor Owen Perkins said he was watching live coverage of the Holiday Inn standoff and decided to head over to the hotel. He wasn't too disappointed. It was late-night entertainment, but Perkins gave the standoff three out of four stars.
"It was around midnight, and there were a lot of people over there -- a lot of media and a lot of scary nightowls looking for a show," Perkins noted. "A lot of people were looking for a shootout."
In the subfreezing temperatures outside, people were frolicking around like it was a carnival, trying to maneuver themselves in front of the television cameras while talking on their cell phones with the folks at home who were watching them on television.
Inside the hotel, in a moment that could have come straight out of the Dustin Hoffman flick Mad City, Singer delivered his softball questions to the fugitives (like, "So what color is your hair now?" Answer: "A kind of sandy-blond red color with real dark roots.")
Journalists, of course, are ethically bound from joining forces with law enforcement officials, but Singer saw nothing wrong with melding "journalist" with "cop." After his "interviews," Singer told the felons that their time was up and that they needed to put the phone down and leave their hotel room.
"Eric Singer and the news team were saying he was part of the [police] negotiating team, and some of the other media were terming it that way too," Perkins said. [Singer] had a good line when he was later being interviewed by his station, KKTV, that someone else hit a triple and he felt like he came in and did a bunt or sacrifice to get them home.
"It was kind of funny watching them as they were talking about how the [escaped prisoners] had apparently been watching their station. No one said, 'Aren't we special, we're the station the fugitives watch,' but you could tell they were biting their tongues."
The prison escapees were hardly the first splash of color to light up the Woodland Park landscape. Last summer, murder suspect Jesse James Hollywood, 19, blew through Woodland Park and Colorado Springs.
Hollywood, still on the lam and on the FBI's top 10 Most Wanted list, was tied to the kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old boy in California. In August, he was harbored in Woodland Park by Richard Dispenza, a family friend who had coached Hollywood in sports when he was younger.
After Hollywood spent the night at his house, Dispenza told the FBI he checked Hollywood into the Ramada Inn in Colorado Springs at I-25 and Fillmore -- incidentally not far from the Holiday Inn that was featured this week on television.
Hollywood may have selected a different hotel than Newbury and Murphy, but one thing is clear: from the original America's Most Wanted show that tipped off the cops to the KKTV interview that ended the show, cops couldn't have nabbed the escapees without television's help. And when it comes to the local fugitive tourist trade, there's no team stronger than cops and the media.
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