A combined SWAT team waits outside the middle school entrance at STEM School Highlands Ranch after a shooting that killed one and wounded eight students. (John Leyba, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Compiled by Kevin Simpson, kevin@coloradosun.com
Writer/Newsletter pinch-hitter, @KevinJourno

This is the spot normally reserved for “good morning” greetings, but it’s hard to summon anything like cheerfulness in the wake of another school shooting, particularly one in our own backyard again. All Tuesday afternoon and evening, we saw too-familiar images: lines of flashing emergency vehicles, anxious parents waiting to hear their child’s name called at a reunification site, news conferences in which details of casualties came slowly. And then, the heartbreaking news of a fatality.

Each of these tragedies has its own dark character, its own heart-rending details. Yet, less than three weeks after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shootings, conversations return to the same persistent themes: guns, mental health, school security. Are we any closer to solutions? At moments like this, it doesn’t appear so. Solutions require difficult changes — in perceptions, in legislation, in attitudes, in allocation of resources. As we know too well two decades after experiencing the bottomless sorrow of Columbine, they will not come quickly.

On a dreary Wednesday that reflects the somber mood, we’ve still got a lot of news to get to — some of it terribly sad, some of it incredibly useful and some of it beautifully inspiring. Giving in to the notion that somehow Tuesday’s horror constitutes the new normal would be doubly tragic.

Step by step, inch by inch, let’s change this narrative, shall we?


The Latest from The Sun



Attack at Highlands Ranch school leaves one student dead and eight injured, with suspects — two students — in custody


Students from STEM School Highlands Ranch wait to be evacuated after a shooting at their school on May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch. (John Leyba, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Two attackers entered STEM School Highlands Ranch Tuesday afternoon and opened fire, according to authorities, killing one student and wounding eight more just weeks after the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy that killed 13. The suspects, an 18-year-old male and a juvenile female who both were captured, are students at the school. Three school shootings now have occurred just within a few miles of each other in the Denver suburbs — the others being Columbine in Jefferson County and Arapahoe High School in 2013.

>> Read the latest coverage from Sun writers Jennifer Brown and Jesse Paul.


There’s one particular element that sets this tragedy apart from almost all the others, experts say

Although at first glance Tuesday’s shooting might appear to be tragically similar to so many others, The Sun’s Chris Osher points out at least one significant difference. It’s extremely rare that multiple shooters carry out a school attack, as authorities allege was the case in Highlands Ranch. Experts list only two others that resulted in deaths — Columbine and the 1998 Jonesboro, Arkansas, shooting.

>> Read Chris’s piece on why multiple shooters are so rare.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock talks about the shooting at STEM School in Highlands Ranch on May 7, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

ALSO:  As investigators, including federal authorities, seek answers to how the alleged shooters obtained the two handguns used in Tuesday’s attack, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock noted that neither suspect was old enough to have purchased them legally. Although individuals can purchase shotguns and rifles at age 18, they must be 21 to buy handguns in Colorado.

Read Jesse Paul’s rundown on the questions surrounding the guns used in the attack.


The recycling industry is struggling, but don’t lose faith — or start dumping your recyclables in the landfill

China’s decision to turn away American recycling definitely put a crimp in the eco-friendly business model, and domestic companies are feeling the pinch. But as Tamara Chuang explains, U.S. recyclers — including Colorado leader Alpine — are retrenching with new investments in technology that will make the process more efficient and profitable. But the transition has been painful.

>> Tamara explains how new advances in recycling could pay dividends — eventually.


In a sign of the times, Colorado will offer its welcome at locations more friendly to photo-ops


Visitors from Italy and Massachusetts get their photo snapped at the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” on U.S. 285 at the border with New Mexico in the summer of 2018. (Dana Coffield, The Colorado Sun)

You know those distinctive wooden signs that tell travelers “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” when they drive across the state line? Turns out they’re such an attraction for selfie-takers — and hence, such a hazard — that the state has created authentic alternatives located miles from where traffic goes zipping by the originals. Sun freelancer Nancy Lofholm explains why these imposters should both satisfy shutterbugs and keep the highways safer.

>> Find Nancy’s account of the unveiling of the safe signage here.


You heard about the new laws that made it through the legislature. We catalogued how they’ll change your life.

The 2019 legislative session saw a lot of bills passed, and they touch almost every aspect imaginable of living in Colorado. Sorting them all out is a heavy lift. Fortunately, The Sun’s tag team of experts flexed its considerable muscle to break down how all the changes will play out for the people most affected by them. You can peruse them at your leisure or jump quickly to the subject area that most concerns you. An invaluable guide to what’s next.

>> Find the most exhaustive analysis anywhere of what to look for as new laws go into effect.

— Meanwhile, here’s the potential impact of the most important bill you didn’t hear about: With a state Supreme Court decision pending, the Colorado legislature moved quickly in the final days of the session to pass a law that would bolster the Department of Revenue’s position in an obscure tax case — and potentially save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The move rankled business lobbyists and raised eyebrows within the state’s legal establishment. Brian Eason breaks down the legislative maneuvering and what it could mean for the future.


She’d felt all along that her life was too easy, that she needed a challenge. Then came the wreck that changed everything.


Gymnast Jessica Womble reaches for the high bar during her uneven bar routine at Synergy Gymnastics in Rifle on April 19, 2019. Jessica, who lost her leg in a car wreck one year ago, was competing on the bars and in floor exercise for her Rising Star Youth Training Center team from Craig. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

If you find yourself needing affirmation of the human spirit — and who doesn’t this morning? — then Sun contributor Nancy Lofholm’s story will supply you with a restorative dose. She profiles  15-year-old Jessica Womble, the Craig girl whose inspiring response to the car wreck in which she lost her leg was to resume her gymnastics career, play flute in the middle-school band, sing in the choir, learn to drive — and play Cinderella in the school play with such grace that those who didn’t know her story wouldn’t have realized what she was missing until she answered the curtain call with crutches.

>> Let Nancy take you inside this eighth-grader’s remarkable life.

We mentioned Monday that The Colorado Sun took home a bunch of honors in a recent regional journalism awards ceremony. We’ve compiled them all for your consumption here. You made this happen through your readership and especially membership, so thank you!


// Amtrak’s historic Southwest Chief route through Colorado is back in the news thanks to more bumps in the track. A Republicans U.S. senator from Kansas is holding up some board nominees for the passenger rail carrier until he gets answers on the future of the Chief. // The Associated Press and Colorado Sun

// Denver Mayor Michael Hancock now faces a runoff against challenger Jamie Giellis on June 4. Hancock won 39 percent of the vote and Giellis 26 percent, according to late returns Tuesday, forcing the final showdown since no candidate hit the 50 percent threshold. // The Denver Post ?

// It appears that the Denver ballot measure to decriminalize psilocybin, the active substance in “magic mushrooms,” is headed for defeat. // The Sentinel/Associated Press

// The outdoor economy is growing … rapidly. Riverfront development in areas like Eagle could transform some overlooked mountain towns into whitewater destinations with hookups to hiking and biking trails — or at least that’s the vision of people like Scott Shipley, the former Olympic kayaker whose company installs adjustable riverbeds and rapids that could turn downtown Eagle into “the Breckenridge of kayaking.” // Curbed

// You know we’ve got a robust mountain snowpack this year. But have you thought about dust? Jeff Derry has — a lot. As head of the Colorado Dust on Snow Program, he studies how layers of dust are distributed in the snowpack, and how they can markedly accelerate melting. // KUNC

// Last summer’s 416 fire and winter avalanches cut off Silverton businesses from their tourist trade. But — woot! woot! the train is running again. // The Durango Herald

// From childhood, Patricia Cameron felt a magnetic attraction to the outdoors. As a black woman, she recognized barriers, some of them economic, to pursuing that love. But when she came to Colorado, she broke through them — and now works to help others do the same. // Elevation Outdoors

// So we were reading a wonderfully entertaining New York Times piece on what sounds like an incredibly fun “nerd cruise” — complete with concerts and cosplay — and you’ll never guess who we ran into: Denver’s own Linda Shapley, former managing editor and all-round problem-solver at The Denver Post. “You’ll never find a group of nicer, more kind people,” she told the Times. // New York Times ?

// When she felt her cancer left her little choice, Diana Lee decided she wanted to die on her own terms. Even with Colorado’s aid-in-dying law to back up her decision, it wasn’t as simple as she thought. But in the end, she threw a party. // Westword

// The Undie Run, the definitely unsanctioned annual (since 2008) event in which students strip to their unmentionables and scoot across the Colorado State University campus, will not happen this year. At least, that’s the promise from CSU officials, who say the original event has devolved into a dangerous excuse for alcohol consumption, property damage and sexual assault. // The Coloradoan


Today’s Thing



This week’s entry proves again that we have much to learn from our kids. More than two decades ago, I picked out his clothes. Now Zach Simpson taps out an email and schools me with life hacks like this.

The Thing: A Quick Way to De-wrinkle.

Why You Might Like It: You’ve got somewhere to be and, for whatever reason, you’ll be cutting it close getting out the door on time. You pull the shirt you planned on wearing out of the closet, and it has just enough wrinkles to affect your coolness. Enter the “ice cubes in the dryer” technique. Pop the shirt and a couple of ice cubes in the dryer, and turn the dryer on the setting you’d normally use for the given garment for about 10-15 minutes (and, if need be, add a dryer sheet), and voila — you’ve got a presentable shirt. Is it a little noisy for a couple of minutes? Sure. But is it effective? Absolutely.

What’s your thing? If you have something that you just can’t stop raving about that you’d like to share, send us an email at things@coloradosun.com and you could be published in a future Sunriser!


Top five ways you can support The Sun:

Every dollar you give goes right back into supporting journalism.


Thanks for your commitment to reading this far on this very difficult day. As always, if you see something in The Sun that you like or find useful, please pass it along — especially to friends or relatives who may not be familiar with our work. Meanwhile, take care of yourself and your loved ones.

— Kevin

Writer, editor, co-founder at The Colorado Sun

Parker, CO

Kevin Simpson is a co-founder of The Colorado Sun and a general assignment writer and editor. He also oversees the Sun’s literary feature, SunLit, and the site’s cartoonists.

A St. Louis native and graduate of the University of Missouri’s journalism school, Kevin began his career in sports at the St. Cloud (MN) Daily Times in 1978 before moving to the Rocky Mountain News a year later. In 1984, he joined The Denver Post and spent 33 years there as a sports writer, city desk reporter, city columnist and long-form writer.

He was part of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams at the Post and his individual work has been recognized with a wide variety of awards.

Topic expertise: Housing, wildlife, sports, education

Language(s) in addition to English: Vestiges of high-school French

Education: Bachelor of Journalism, University of Missouri

Honors & Awards: Part of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams at The Denver Post. 2011 Heartland Regional Emmy. Dozens of other state, regional and national awards over a 45-year career

Professional membership: Colorado Press Association


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