Remembering Dad

Forty-five years ago today, Dad was abducted and killed following what seemed to be a routine car stop. Thankfully, Mom would guide us kids through the difficult journey of grief with the assistance of my grandfather, uncle, aunts, and close family friends. In turn, for well over thirty years I have been given countless opportunities to share with others as they too grieve the death of someone that meant the world to them.

Through all the years, including some difficult times, I am continuously reminded just how lucky I have been. I had a great dad, he was and will always be my hero. In less than ten years, Dad provided me with a life time of memories and shared more love than many will ever know. Most of all, Dad demonstrated by how he lived that Faith was more than just believing, that Faith was actively trying to live life according to the “golden rule“.

The Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

Dad joined the State Patrol for the opportunity to make a difference believing that as a Patrolman he could have a positive impact on the world in which he lived. Each year on this day I am reminded how Dad did just that and more. Dad did not just have a positive impact on the the world in which he lived, Dad continues to impact the world to this day! This makes me smile, as I see Dad was right, Faith is so much more than simply believing.

God Bless!


Taking Control of the Narrative


In past months since my last post, life has forced me to take a step back from writing. When I tried to start writing again, I found it difficult to reengage as I struggled to refocus my thoughts. Each time I would write a few sentences, my thoughts would jump around, making it impossible to finish even a few paragraphs of congruent memories. It seemed as if I was attempting to tell my entire story in just a few lines. With each futile effort to organize my thoughts, a feeling of frustration was intensifying, further impeding my ability to regain the momentum I had lost.

Instead of allowing discouragement and pessimism to set in, I decided to look on this as an opportunity to take a deep breath and step back to reassess what I had written so far. Rather than focusing on the frustration, I concentrated on the positive prospect of determining how I could improve the way I conveyed my story. This concerted effort to change my mindset, transformed my outlook and exposed my need to reinforce that same concept in how I told my story.


This ability to find and focus on the positive, not to concentrate on what had been lost, was an integral facet of how I avoided becoming a victim as it instead provided a method to survive. This essential lesson of life did not come easy, as it is nearly impossible to imagine there could be anything positive to be detected in the midst the agonizing pain endured when my dad was callously abduction and executed. Remarkably, the key to this seemingly impossible conundrum is in why it hurts, why it felt as though an enormous hole had been ripped from my heart.

As I was overwhelmed with the shock of grief, God guided my attention away from the brutal way Dad’s life ended and fixated my thoughts instead on the cherished memories my dad had bestowed on me over a lifetime. By focusing on these loving memories, I was able to restore them to the void that had been ripped in my heart. Conversely, if I had remained fixated on the pain and anguish of how the life of my dad ended I risked becoming engulfed in the intense emotions of resentment, bitterness, anger, and hate.


Just as there was nothing I could do to prevent murder of my dad, focusing on my memories of Dad could not shield me from to the crushing pain I felt from his tragic death. This devastating pain cannot be avoided and ignoring these painful emotions only makes things far worse. Something I would learn the hard way. Yet, over time the love from these memories would displaced all the debilitating pain of grief. Imbedded in these loving memories of Dad I would find a strength in faith in which I would find the resilience to overcome adversities, often made worse my my own mistakes, I have encountered throughout my journey.

As I look back over my life, I am eternally blessed my thoughts were fixated on the cherished memories my dad had bestowed on me. I am astounded how this has influenced my life, as it impacted ever aspect of the person I have become. Albert Einstein asserted, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” In this most difficult experience of my life, God provided me with the opportunity to learn the invaluable key to how to be a survivor, how to be resilient. The key is in the choices we make.

In Proverbs 4:23, the Bible teaches us to “be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.”[1] By focusing my mind on the cherished loving memories Dad had bestowed on me over a lifetime, these memories were forever instilled into my heart and mind. These cherished memories, memories that could have been lost, have provided the foundation of my faith that has shaped my character.


Since I first shared my story at a Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) workshop, I have never known how to adequately express the impact these cherished memories of Dad have had on my journey. Each time I would tell my story, I felt I was never truly able to relate the significance of this choice, the choice to hold onto the love instead of the pain, in a manner that would resonate with others as they dealt with their own pain of loss. My only hope is to keep trying, trusting in faith, my words will somehow convey the intended meaning.

God Bless!


[1] Good News Translation (GNT)

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2018. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Declaration of Independence – July 4, 1776:


Memories of Dad

Independence Day was one of Dad’s favorite holidays and the source of some of my most cherished childhood memories. My dad loved fireworks, homemade ice cream, and watermelon. I have many wonderful memories of tasting the salt water as it leaked out as Dad cranked to make the ice cream. Like most kids, I would drive Dad crazy asking him over and over if the ice cream was done. There is nothing quite as good as homemade ice cream. Something I miss in today’s modern world.

In stark contrast to most of my memories of Dad, Dad would behave like an irresponsible adolescent when it came to fireworks. One of the funnest things I can remember was Dad and his friends from the CSP using various items to aim bottle rockets as they shot them off at the end of the street. They would even hold onto the bottle rockets and black cats before they threw them in the air just after lighting the fuse. Safety was not their first thought, yet fortunately I do not recall anyone getting hurt. Of course, this is something I would never let my children do today.

As much as I treasure these memories of Dad, I am humbled by the historic significance of Independence Day. Over two hundred years ago fifty-six men of diverse backgrounds worked through their differences to reach an agreement of the highest ideals proclaimed in the “Declaration of Independence”. These men risked everything for the belief that men of all walks of life had been given the right from the creator to govern themselves. After thirteen bloody hard fought years, twenty-three of the thirty-nine men that signed the “United States Constitution” were veterans that had fought and survived the Revolutionary War to guaranteed Americans these historic freedoms we all enjoy today.

I am astounded of the bold impassioned words first drafted by Thomas Jefferson with the aid of both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. In one sentence, these men were able to captured the core character that would shape democracy of both our country and the world:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is impossible to appreciate in today’s world how radical the concept that it was “self-evident, that all men are created equal”. The foresight and determination of these men to see that these words would survive all the debates and remain listed so prominently in this document is astonishing considering the obvious contradictions of the society of that time. Although the atrocious practice of slavery would remain in practice for nearly another century, the genesis of the abolition of slavery would be the belief in these very words written by Thomas Jefferson (himself a slave owner).

This radical concept would guide James Madison as he drafted the beginning of the constitution with the prominent words “We the People”. With these three words, Madison established the basis of democracy. It would be these three words that would inspire Abraham Lincoln to say in his iconic Gettysburg Address, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” It is this revolutionary idea that guides not only our country, these words are the basis of every democracy in the world today. 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Genealogy research disclosed that I am blessed to be the direct descendant of at least nine dads that fought and served as privates in the front lines of the American Revolutionary War. It is due to their scarifies that today I enjoy the freedom of speech and freedom of religion which allows me to type this blog. Because of men like them, and the many patriotic men and women that have followed their example to fight to preserve this radical experiment, democracy lives on “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This day serves as a reminder to all of us that we should never forget the legacy that has been passed on to each and everyone that is blessed to live in this great country. My dad made it a point that I should always strive to do what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do, just as we are taught in the Bible. For if each of us (the people) continues to strive to actively do what is right, setting aside our differences to work together, the freedom of democracy “shall not perish from the Earth.


God bless America!



© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

End of Watch – Part 2


Patrolman Carpenter had taken a great risk in an attempt to alert the CSP Dispatcher that he was in trouble along with giving his current location on I-70 near Havana Street (see: End of Watch – 1). Yet even if the CSP Dispatcher had been alerted by these cryptic messages from Dad, any assistance would have been diverted to the interstate Dad had just exited. As Dad was forced to turn left and cross over I-70 heading north on Peoria Street, Dad was driving away from any hope of help coming from the CSP. Not only was Dad driving away from his last reported position, Dad was leaving the highly traveled traffic arteries that he was familiar with and entering into the crime ridden Denver urban neighborhood of Montebello well known to his armed kidnapers.

Montebello was located north of I-70 and northeast of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. With multiple violent crimes reported daily, Montebello was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Denver metro area. Not only had the CSP agreed not to patrol the highway systems within Denver city limits, the CSP virtually never patrolled residential urban areas.

Crossing over I-70, Patrolman Carpenter drove about a half-a-mile north on Peoria Street through an area of restaurants, motels, and gas stations. At the intersection of Peoria and Albrook Drive, the armed kidnapers directed Dad to turn right and head east on Albrook Drive into an area of Montebello laden with residential apartment complexes. In this residential area, criminal activities were the norm, not the exception, and CSP patrol cars were never seen.

As if by design, only a few hundred yards after turning on east on Albrook Drive Patrolman Carpenter encountered DPD Car #218 headed westbound. Only a few minutes after his last radio transmissions with the CSP dispatcher, for the first time since his ordeal had started Dad was encountering another law enforcement vehicle. Against all odds, Dad had to be hoping that the DPD officers were responding to Dad’s cryptic alert to the CSP Dispatcher. Conversely, the sudden arrival of the DPD patrol car so soon after Dad had disclosed his position had to startle and unnerve the young armed kidnapers.

With these sudden rapid swings of emotions for both Patrolman Carpenter and his young kidnapers in the last few minutes, CSP Car #181 approached DPD Car #218 traveling in the opposite direction. As the patrol cars approached each other, the attention of the DPD officer driving was focused on Dad as he was wondering why a CSP patrol car would be in this neighborhood. Dad calmly smiled and lifted one finger from his hand on the steering wheel in a customary acknowledging wave to the DPD officers as Dad passed within only a few feet of the DPD officer driving, both traveling at relatively slow speeds.

With few exceptions, the only reason for a CSP unit to be in a Denver urban residential neighborhood would be to response to a call for assistance from the DPD.

As DPD Car #218 drove past CSP Car #181, the DPD officer noted the two very young males in the back seat of the CSP patrol car and continued to wonder why a CSP patrolman would be transporting anyone in this very dangerous residential crime area of Montebello. Yet, the relaxed composed expressions from Patrolman Carpenter along with the young age of the back seat occupants alleviated any concerns the DPD officer may have had. Assuming everything was fine, the DPD officer drove on past without a second thought. There simply had not been enough time for the CSP Dispatcher to decipher Dad’s last message and disseminate it to the DPD patrol cars in the area of the “possible need of assistance” for CSP Car 181.

It is difficult to understand why Patrolman Carpenter did not take some type of risk at this point to free himself from his armed kidnapers. Not only was this the first real opportunity since his abduction for Dad to take some type of decisive action that would not place other drivers at risk, Dad had encountered this DPD patrol car within five minutes of taking the great risk of attempting to notify the CSP Dispatcher that he was in trouble. Moreover, Dad had to have known as they entered the residential neighborhood, the kidnapers were getting close to their planned destination.

Perhaps the best explanation can be found within the perceptions of the DPD officer. Dad remained so calm and composed that the DPD officer could not sense Dad was in any danger despite the unheard-of presence of a CSP patrol car in this dangerous urban residential neighborhood of Denver. Dad had a reputation of remaining calm and focused under pressure, a peace and calmness that Christians are promised in the Bible.

As Moses proclaimed in Deuteronomy 31:6 of the Old Testament of the Bible, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them (your enemies), for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”[1] Similarly, in the New Testament of the Bible the Apostle Paul professed in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” [2]

Since the moment of his abduction, every witness described Patrolman Carpenter as remaining composed. From the moment Dad had lost control of his weapon, Dad had not panicked, had not given into fear, and retained his self-control. Dad exhibited these qualities as he negotiated his assigned patrol car through traffic, during his conversations with the CSP Dispatcher, and during his encounter with the DPD officer. Just as promised in the Bible, Dad displayed the attributes detailed in the Bible of how the presence of God would manifest in us during our greatest adversity.

It was approximately 10:10 AM as DPD Car #218 slowly passed out of sight of CSP Car #181. Patrolman Carpenter now had been abducted for approximately thirty minutes as his best and only hope for assistance drove out of sight near at the intersection of Albrook Drive and Peoria Street. Nonetheless, despite the roller coaster of emotions in the past five minutes or so, Dad remained composed. Dad continued to believe that his fate rested with his faith in God, and not in the hands the two young kidnapers.

Within a minute or two of passing the DPD patrol car, the kidnappers directed Patrolman Carpenter to turn left into The Lakes apartment complex after driving past several pedestrians and other vehicles. A large complex, the Lakes Apartments consisted of three large five-story apartment buildings next to clusters of four smaller three-story apartment buildings. After entering the complex, Dad drove slowly around the outer ring of the snow covered circular series of parking lots as the two kidnapers canvassed the area.

As Patrolman Carpenter slowly pulled around to the back of the complex, the snow was getting as deep as the axel of the patrol car. Dad was struggling to avoid getting the patrol car stuck as they approached the end of the back parking lot. Suddenly four thunderous shots were fired from the back seat of the patrol car, impacting Dad in the back of his head and his lifeless body slumped over the steering wheel. The cold-blooded murderers jumped out the patrol car as Car #181 slowly rolled forward until it stopped in the deep snow at the far end of the parking lot sometime around 10:15 AM.

Running in knee-deep snow, the two young murders quickly made their way around the back of the apartment complex into the south end of the apartments on Crown Boulevard. Despite numerous residents in the area hearing the gunshots along with several others watching two young men run from the scene, not one person would contact the police for the next 20-30 minutes. This allowed the two cold-blooded murders to find refuge in a nearby apartment with family and friends.

After watching the patrol car idling in the parking lot for at least twenty minutes, one of the residents called down to the building manager to check on the patrolman to see if he was sleeping in the idling patrol car. The manager approached Car #181 and almost opened the car door before she noticed blood splattered all over inside the car. Shocked by the realization the patrolman had been shot, she screamed as she ran back to the building and another resident notified the DPD a CSP patrolman had been shot. At about the same time, 10:45 AM, some local kids that ran to the nearby fire station to report the patrolman had been shot.

Immediately after receive the call that a patrolman had been shot, the DPD Dispatcher located and directed the nearest DPD patrol car (DPD Car #218) to respond to the Lakes Apartment complex for the reported shooting of a Patrolman. Realizing they had driven past a CSP patrol car near the reported apartment complex, the DPD officers in Car #218 rapidly responded to the scene. Next, DPD notified the CSP Dispatcher of the report at approximately 10:54 AM.

Stunned, the CSP Dispatcher quickly located the nearest CSP patrol car, Car #62, and dispatched it to check out the report and CSP Car #62 proceeded to Albrook and Peoria to “see if there is a CSP unit there”. The Dispatcher next notified his superiors of the report. Without conformation Car #181 had not responded to the accident on the Valley Highway, the CSP Lieutenant notified all CSP patrol cars:

“DPD just got a report there’s a patrolman been shot at Albrook and Peoria. I have 62 going to check on it. I don’t have any units out close to that area..he’s going to check anyway”.

Everyone at CSP was in a state of disbelief. It had been nearly six years since the last CSP patrolman, Patrolman Larry B. Enloe, had been killed in the line-of-duty. Patrolman Enloe was shot and killed on January 8, 1968, after he stopped a stolen blue station wagon for a traffic violation on Interstate 25 north of Trinidad.

Within a few minutes, CSP Car #62 notified the CSP Dispatch Office that “at Albrook and Peoria, DPD just went by, don’t see anything yet”. The CSP Lieutenant directed Car#62 to “go ahead and check around the area”. At this time, the CSP Dispatch Office started attempting to contact all CSP patrol cars assigned to patrol the Denver metro area.

CSP Patrol Car #181 was identified as the only CSP unit that had been near the reported location. Yet, that had been almost an hour earlier when Patrolman Carpenter had affirmed he would respond to an accident at 58th and the Valley Highway. The pieces were coming together and that sick feeling the CSP Dispatcher had in his that Car #181 had been in trouble was getting worse. Desperately hoping he was somehow wrong, the CSP Dispatcher made several unsuccessful attempts to contact CSP Car #181.

CSP Car #62 notified CSP dispatch that he had not “found anything yet”, adding he had been advised the actual location was about a mile east of Peoria and Albrook. At this time, Car #62 was advised that CSP Car #181 had been in the area about an hour ago and there was “no contact now” with car #181. About the same time, DPD notified the CSP Dispatcher that the DPD and the fire department had arrived on the scene. Within minutes, Car #62 confirmed it was Car #181. By 11:08, Car #62 arrived on the scene to confirm Patrolman Carpenter had been killed and “his gun was missing” (see: Aftermath and Investigation).


Denver Post December 27, 1973: Nurse examines covered body of Patrolman Carpenter slumped over the steering wheel of his Colorado State Patrol car after 11 AM.

By sharing the harrowing details that culminated in the violent end of my dad’s life, I have divulged how my life was callously shattered and nearly destroyed when I was just a nine-year-old boy. Yet, this ruthless assassination would not be the beginning, end, or even the defining moment of my life. Now that you know how my dad’s life ended, I hope you will read on as I share how my life was instead defined by the loving lessons of faith instilled in me prior to this tragic day.

It would be this faith that would allow me to navigate through adversities and to overcome my mistakes. In shock and overwhelmed by grief, I would make two seemingly innocuous decisions. One would unknowingly set me on a destructive path while the other would save me from a life of bitterness, resentment, and pain. It would be this faith that would intercede at a decisive point in my life and allow me to find my way back from the destructive path to the path I was intended to take, the path that led to a life blessed more that I could ever have imagined!


God bless!


[1] English Standard Version (ESV)

[2] Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

End of Watch – Part 1


As Patrolman Carpenter entered the westbound on-ramp (see: Day Shift – December 27, 1973), Dad noticed a light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the far right shoulder. As Dad pulled up behind the 1964 Chevrolet Impala, Dad switched on his overhead red emergency lights and parked his patrol car (CSP Car #181) right behind the stalled Impala. Apparently not noticing anything that concerned him, Dad again did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the stop. Dad was following CSP standard operating procedures for checking with the occupants of a disabled vehicle to determine if any assistance was needed. This was the same routine Patrolman Carpenter had followed a hundred times before.

Before Patrolman Carpenter even exited his patrol car, Dad would have noted the exhaust in the crisp cold air coming from the still idling 1964 Chevrolet Impala. With bits of rust showing through the faded paint along the trim and other spots of the nine-year-old Chevy, the well-used 1964 Impala had the same grungy appearance of the young occupants. The driver was a young black male with medium Afro hairstyle hair, a slight build, and was wearing a dark coat (possibly sheepskin). The passenger was a young white male (possibly Hispanic) with long blonde hair (possibly light brown) which came down to his shoulders and an overall disheveled appearance.

It was now about 9:40 AM when Patrolman Carpenter exited his patrol car, approaching the 1964 Impala on the driver’s on his side of the car. After reaching the driver, Dad started asking the driver questions and did not appear to be overly concerned as the passenger slipped out of the passenger door. Undeterred by the inherent risk, Dad continued to talk to the driver, as the passenger started walking to the back of the Impala. Even when it placed him in harms way, Dad was inordinately confident in his ability to safely resolve potentially dangerous situations with his persuasive words and composed demeanor.

According to his close friend and fellow CSP patrolman Kenneth Sniff, Patrolman Carpenter was a “very quiet guy, not shy, not aggressive. You had to push him very far before he’d react.”[1]

Patrolman Carpenter had a reputation of remaining calm and focused under pressure, along with the innate ability to deescalate potentially deadly situations simply by the way he talked to people. Though generally reserved, when Dad encountered dangerous circumstances he was inclined to approach the threat head-on, even if it placed him in harms way. This knack of knowing how to talk to people, had allowed Dad to maintain control even when Dad had placed himself at risk. As a result, Dad had managed to make a number of felony arrests without ever removing his service weapon throughout his career. In spite of his normally unpretentious disposition, Dad was quite proud of this particular accomplishment.

The first instance Patrolman Carpenter demonstrated his distinctive aptitude occurred soon after Dad had been cleared to patrol without a training officer. On this particular occasion, an angry driver had stopped on a highway near Broomfield, exited his vehicle, and was threatening to fire a shotgun he was waving around in his hands. The first CSP patrolman on scene had prudently requested backup, and Dad was the first to respond. As Dad arrived on scene, traffic had come to a halt due to the man’s angry erratic behavior. Without touching his service weapon, Dad began talking to the armed man as Dad left the cover of his patrol car and approached the armed man. After talking for a few minutes, Dad told the man “don’t you think you should just give me that gun” and the man handed Dad the shotgun without further incident.


Unfortunately for Patrolman Carpenter, the passenger of the 1964 Impala was not in the frame of mind to listen to calming words of reason. After reaching the back of the Impala, the passenger walking between the back of the Impala and the front of the patrol car, and continued walking along the driver’s side of the car. When the passenger reached Dad, there was a brief scuffle in which the suspects were able to gain control of Dad’s service weapon, a .357 caliber Colt Python revolver. Yet Dad somehow did not panic and apparently maintained his composure, as he walked back to his patrol car along with his armed kidnapers.

Several witnesses observed these critical moments. Despite the availability of a telephone at the convenience store at the intersection, none of the witnesses contacted the authorities to report what they had just observed. Several of these witnesses would later come forward and admit they simply had not want to get involved.

After reaching CSP Car #181, the armed kidnappers directed Patrolman Carpenter to get in the driver’s seat and the armed kidnapers both entered the back seat of the patrol car from the roadside of the four-door patrol car. Just a few minutes after 9:40 AM, Dad switched off his overhead emergency lights, calmly pulled CSP Car #181 back into traffic, and merged into the westbound traffic heading towards Boulder. Desperate to escape the criminal predicament they now found themselves, the armed kidnapers tried to sort out some kind of plan that would allow them to escape unscathed.

Around 10:00 AM, a Westminster Police Officer noticed the same disabled light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the shoulder of the on the Boulder Turnpike westbound on-ramp that led from Broadway. The Westminster Police Officer pulled up behind the empty the still idling Impala and noted the keys were still in the ignition. Despite a quick canvas of the area by the police officer, there were no obvious indications of what had just transpired. Moreover, not a single witness contacted the officer to advise him of what they had observed a mere twenty minutes earlier at this very sight.

Subsequent investigation disclosed the 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe had been stolen earlier that morning from Mariposa Street and W. 14th Avenue near downtown Denver. In addition, there were indications illegal drugs had been involved. This crime fit the pattern of several other car thefts in the area believe to have been conducted by two of three young (17-22) male associates (one black and two Hispanics). Along with having access to firearms, the suspects were reported to use marijuana, acid, and other illegal drugs when committing their crimes. The suspects were reputed to steal vehicles, including carjacking with a firearm, and then driving the stolen cars to Boulder to obtain more illegal drugs.

Quickly deciding to return to their familiar neighborhoods in Denver, after traveling about two miles on the Boulder Turnpike the kidnapers had Patrolman Carpenter take the first exit for N. Pecos Street. After taking the exit, Dad was directed to cross under the Boulder Turnpike and returning to the Boulder Turnpike in the opposite direction. Now headed away from Boulder back to Denver, Dad calmly maneuvered Car#181 through traffic down the Boulder Turnpike. When they reached the Valley Highway, Dad merged into the southbound lanes of I-25 heading into the heart of Denver.


Patrolman Carpenter remained composed as he followed the directions of his kidnapers hoping he could ride out this perilous scenario until he had an opportunity to escape or was released. Following the directions of two distressed kidnappers, Dad was careful not to endanger any of the other motorists as he negotiated his way through the treacherous interchange of I-25 and Interstate 70 (I-70), known locally as the “mouse trap”. At this interchange, Dad exited the Valley Highway and merged in the eastbound lanes of I-70 heading away from downtown Denver in the direction of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport.

Interstate 70 (I-70) is the primary thoroughfare for traffic traveling east-west through the Denver metro area. Approximately five miles east of the I-25 and I-70 interchange, was Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. Stapleton International Airport was the primary Denver Airport until it was replaced in 1995 by Denver International Airport.

As Patrolman Carpenter navigated through traffic, several witnesses noticed that the passengers in the patrol car were not acting in a manner customary of individuals transported in police cars. Instead of sitting stoically still with their backs straight against the back seat and equal distance from each other, the passengers were hunched down and moving around in the back seat of the patrol car. This behavior stuck out to a number of drivers and their passengers as they witnessed Dad driving the suspects. Yet, since the patrolman did not outwardly appear distressed and driving normally no one felt there was anything nefarious taking place.

Just before 10:00 AM, the CSP Dispatcher received a report of an accident at 58th Avenue and the Valley Highway. As the accident was in the assigned patrol area for Patrolman Carpenter, the CSP Dispatcher made began attempting to contact Car #181. Though Dad would ordinarily respond promptly to dispatch calls when he was in his regularly assigned patrol car (#131), Dad was known to be slow responding when he patrolling in another car. Consequently, it did not raise any concerns that Dad was not responding to the first few calls from the CSP dispatcher.

After a ten second delay from the last call for Car #181 from the CSP Dispatcher at 10:03 AM, Patrolman Carpenter finally responded back that he was at “Havana and I-70”. The CSP Dispatcher was puzzled by this response. Not only was Havana Street and I-70 over eight miles outside Patrolman Carpenter’s assigned patrol area, the CSP rarely patrolled this section of I-70 under an agreement with the Denver Police Department (DPD).

The jurisdiction of the sections of the interstate system that were within the city limits of Denver was primarily the responsibility of the Denver Police Department (DPD). As this section of I-70 (Havana and I-70) was within the Denver City limits, CSP would not actively patrol this section of the interstate and typically would not cross through this section unless it was in response to a specific assignment.

A bit perplexed, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4”, and logically asked Patrolman Carpenter, “What have you got there?”. With two armed kidnapers holding a weapon on him, Dad calmly responded “nothing” hoping the dispatcher picked up on the clue he had just conveyed. Although still somewhat unsettled by Car #181’s location, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4” and asked if Dad could respond to an accident at 58th and the Valley Highway. Dad somewhat tersely only responded “10-4”, without the customary confirmation that he was responding to the accident. After approximately twenty minutes of inconceivable trepidation, Dad showed the first signs of distress.

As a Division of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, one of the secondary functions of the CSP was to provide road condition reports. Therefore, the CSP Dispatcher would routinely contact patrol cars approximately every two hours or so and request a “10-13” for a road and weather report.

At 10:04 AM, the CSP Dispatcher again attempted to contact Patrolman Carpenter to request a routine weather check, “Car 181, 10-13 North”. After waiting forty-five seconds for a response, the CSP Dispatcher again called “Car 181”. Ten seconds later, Dad oddly did not respond with the weather report and instead tried to alert the dispatcher something was wrong by responding again “I-70 and Havana”. Sensing something was not right, the CSP Dispatcher again asked, “What’s 10-13 North”. This time Dad responded, “Cloudy and Dry”.

The CSP Dispatcher responded, “10-4”, as he started getting that feeling deep in his gut that something was wrong with Car #181. As the CSP Dispatcher subconsciously tried to piece together the information as to what could be wrong, he began to think of what options might be available. In the meantime, realizing Patrolman Carpenter had alerted the authorities of their current location, the kidnappers had Dad take the next exit off of I-70 at Peoria Street. Instead of patrolling the I-70 corridor as Dad had last reported, Car #181 had changed course and was entering one of the worst crime ridden Denver neighborhoods. A neighborhood the two armed kidnapers were all too familiar with (see: End of Watch – Part 2).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  – 2 Timothy 1:7 New International Version (NIV)

God Bless!

[1] The Denver Post,. “Youth Questioned in Slay Case”. December 28, 1973: Page 3. Print.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Day Shift – December 27, 1973:

The air was crisp during the predawn hours in the Denver metro area on the Thursday morning of December 27, 1973. With temperatures in the low to mid teens, the area was still covered with the remnants of a series of winter snow storms that had heavily impacted the front range over the past week. The snow covered landscape provided a picturesque “white” Christmas for the Colorado Rocky Mountain Region, reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. Yet, it was cold to the bone for anyone that had to spend any amount of time outside in this frozen landscape.

On the second official day of winter a major blizzard had hit the Denver metro area, lasting from Sunday through the early Monday morning of Christmas Eve. Officially leaving much of the area with a foot or more of fresh snowfall, powerful 30 to 40 mph winds had driven the snow into deep drifts. In addition to paralyzing the Denver metro area, the December 23-24 blizzard had closed Denver’s Stapleton International Airport overnight stranding thousands of holiday travelers. Some passengers were even forced to spend the night sleeping in their grounded airliners.

“Through the metro area, even snowplows and wreckers were getting stuck Monday Morning” A spokesman for the Colorado Division of Highways reported the agency had “thrown every available man and rig into it’s snow removal effort” with “some of the division’s trucks bogged down in deep drifts – a few reported as high as eight feet”.[1]

Our family had missed the worst of inclement weather by driving some 250 miles west to Grand Junction on the western slope of Colorado the previous Saturday (December 23). It was customary for our family to celebrate at least a portion of nearly every holiday season with my uncle’s family and my grandparents. In fact, the previous Christmas (1972) had been our largest celebration of the holidays. My uncle had accepted a promotion that required him to move with his family to Alaska that following February. To send them off, our entire maternal side of the family had gathered at our home in Lafayette. This would be the last Christmas all of us would spend together.


This Christmas (1973), my uncle and his family had flown back down from Alaska to spend the holidays with family in Grand Junction and Moab (Utah). With their mother having trouble with her heart, both my mom and her brother especially wanted to be with my grandmother this Christmas. To allow our family to spend more time together in Grand Junction this year, my dad, a patrolman with the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), had traded shifts with another patrolman.

A Christian man with a strong moral compass, CSP Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter was known for his integrity and compassion. Dad was quiet about his faith, letting his actions speak louder than his words. Determined to “treat others the same way you want them to treat you”[2], Dad was respectful to everyone and careful never to be judgmental or demeaning of others. As a result, everyone that knew Patrolman Carpenter was well aware of his Christian faith and respected him for it.

After Dad completed his training, Dad was assigned to the small CSP District Office in Lafayette. Lafayette was a small town of around 3,500 residents located just twenty-six miles east of Boulder on Baseline Road and thirty-eight miles north of the center of Denver on US Highway 287. Although the CSP later moved this District Office to nearby Broomfield, our family continued to live in Lafayette where Dad had become established in the community. After I joined the Cub Scouts, Dad volunteered to lead a group of older boys in Webelos, and then Dad agreed to head the local Boy Scout Chapter.

“I was a fatherless youth growing up in Lafayette, Colorado. Officer Tom Carpenter was our Boy Scout Leader and one of the more significant influences on my youth. I remember the cloud over Christmas that year. I attended the funeral and I will never forget the image of all the law enforcement agencies that showed their support. Husband, Father, and Scout Leader Tom Carpenter will always be a positive memory in my thoughts.” – Warren Charter[3]

Though quiet, Dad also had a dry sense of humor with and a penchant for teasing, something my mom never quite fully appreciated. Dad and my maternal uncle thoroughly enjoyed teasing us kids as well as each other. This led to a Christmas tradition in which Dad and my uncle to give each other a gift poking fun of one another. Perhaps enjoying his work too much, on more than one occasion Patrolman Carpenter took great pleasure in seeing the reaction of family and friends when Dad pulled them over while he was out on patrol. One time Dad pulled over my aunt and even order her to “keep her hands where he could seem them” using the PA System of the patrol car so my aunt did not know it was Dad.

As my parents prepared to leave on Wednesday morning, Mom had a sense of foreboding. Mom was distraught with guilt, felling the need to stay longer with her mother instead of going back to Lafayette. Not knowing the next time that we would all be together, shortly before our family pilled into the car to leave my uncle had everyone gather in the front yard of the home of my grandparents to take a few pictures to commemorate the occasion. No one knew at the time these would be the last pictures taken of my dad while he was alive. With the pictures taken, the families said their goodbyes and Dad drove us back over the mountain passes to Lafayette so Dad could report to work early the following morning.


Following his short five day reprieve from work, the work day started early for Dad on December 27, 1973. Mom was still worried about her mother and had not slept well, so Mom did not get up early to make Dad breakfast that Thursday morning. Instead, Mom simply gave Dad a kiss goodbye, before she rolled over to sleep a little bit longer. With no garage at our home, our car had been parked outside in the frigid cold all night. To get to the CSP Broomfield District Office on time, Dad had to leave our house by 5:30AM to make an extremely cold 15-20 minute commute to work the “day shift” which started at 6:00 AM.

For his last shift, Patrolman Carpenter was not assigned CSP Patrol Car #131 that Dad had generally been driving. Since Dad had switched shifts with another patrolman, Dad was instead assigned CSP Patrol Car #181 to patrol a section of the Interstate 25 corridor stretching north from the Denver city limits (near the intersection with I-70) to the 104th Avenue exit. Known locally as the Valley Highway, Interstate 25 was the primary thoroughfare for traffic traveling north-south through the Denver metro area.

Like most large metropolitan cities, the typical workday commuter traffic on this section of the Valley Highway would have been heavily congested between 6:30 AM until around 9:30 AM. Due to the residual winter driving conditions, traffic likely would be traveling at slower speeds that morning, stretching out the morning commute by as much as 30 minutes to an hour longer.

As usual, Patrolman Carpenter departed the CSP Broomfield District Office on time and was driving to his assigned patrol area by 6:00 AM that cold Thursday morning. His assigned CSP patrol car, Car #181, was a new well marked white CSP Plymouth Fury cruiser with two overhead “bubble” emergency lights permanently mounted through the roof of the car. Fortunately for Dad, Car #181 would likely still have been warm from having been used on the “graveyard shift” by another CSP patrolman.

As he departed from the CSP office, Patrolman Carpenter likely would have driven Car #181 down US Highway 36 approximately ten miles to access his assigned patrol area on the Valley Highway. This section of US Highway 36, locally known as the Boulder Turnpike, was the primary expressway for traffic between Denver (south-east) and Boulder (north-west). Traveling south-east down the Boulder Turnpike, Dad would have then entered the southern end of his patrol area when the Boulder Turnpike merged into the Valley Highway.

Despite the frigid cold temperatures, Patrolman Carpenter diligently went about his work making vehicle stops after reaching his assigned patrol area on the Valley Highway. In the first 70 minute, Dad recorded in his log book making three self-initiated traffic stops. In the first stop, Dad issued the driver an verbal warning for driving a vehicle with defective equipment (possibly a brake light not working). In the next two stops, Dad issued verbal warnings to drivers for minor moving violations (possibly failure to use a turn signal or driving too fast for the conditions). Due to the minor nature of the vehicle stops, Dad did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the stops.

Even though the patrol car radio was the only “line” of communication available for the CSP patrolmen, CSP procedures did not require patrolmen making self-initiated traffic stops to notify the CSP Dispatcher. Typically, when making a self-initiated stop a CSP patrolman did not notify the dispatch office unless traffic was impeded or some type of additional assistance needed. 

At 7:11 AM, Patrolman Carpenter received his first call-out from the CSP Dispatcher and was assigned to investigate an accident at the Valley Highway and 84th Avenue. Dad notified the dispatcher that he was on the scene of the accident at 7:19 AM. The accident, located in the southbound left-hand lane of the Valley Highway, involved a gold 1969 Pontiac coupe that had failed to stop on the slick pavement before rear-ending a green sedan. Dad conducted his on scene investigation of the accident and ticketed the male driver of the gold Pontiac coupe for careless driving.

After the accident, the gold 1969 Pontiac coupe was towed to Gavito’s Towing on 58th Avenue. To complete his investigation, Patrolman Carpenter followed the towed 1969 Pontiac. Dad reported to the CSP dispatcher at 8:23 AM that he would be out of service for a few minutes at Gravito’s Towing. For the next thirty minutes, Dad careful reviewed the damaged 1969 Pontiac and completed his report without any additional delays to the morning commuter traffic on the Valley Highway.

At 8:56 AM, Patrolman Carpenter reported to the CSP Dispatcher that he had returned to service. To return to his assigned patrol area on the Valley Highway, Dad would have taken 58th Avenue west back to the intersection with the Valley Highway. After, Dad resumed his assigned area of the Valley Highway, Dad made another self-initiated vehicle stop a short time before 9:30 AM.

This time, Patrolman Carpenter stopped a northbound car on the Valley Highway just before the 62nd Avenue bypass. The northbound car was driven by a male driver and had three other occupants. As before, Dad did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the vehicle stop. Dad informed the driver that one of the tires on the car was very bad and needed to be replaced. As Dad had done previously, Dad did not issue the driver with a citation, choosing to let the driver off with only a verbal warning for driving a defective vehicle.

As a Division of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, one of the primary functions of the CSP was to “promote safety” and “protect human life” by notifying motorist if their vehicle were unsafe to drive. Depending on the severity, It was up to the discretion of the CSP patrolman to issue a warning or cite the motorist if the unsafe issue had not resulted in property damage (an accident).

It had been over five years since Patrolman Carpenter had taken a pay cut to join the CSP. Dad had joined the CSP so he could make a difference in his community by helping others. During his career with the Colorado State Patrol, there were no records of any complaints ever filed against Dad. Yet, there were several letters of commendation. In one such letter, the motorist stated Dad “found a place to turn around and came back to assist us. I have never been treated better”, Patrolman Carpenter “was so helpful and courteous with thoughtful understanding.”[4] At the age of 31, Dad had recently passed his sergeants exam and was entering the prime of his career.


After warning a driver of the bad tire, Patrolman Carpenter continued patrolling north on his assigned section of the Valley Highway. Sometime around 9:35 AM, Dad exited the Valley Highway to take the Boulder Turnpike north-west to Boulder. Dad was making his way to attend a scheduled 11:00 AM hearing at the Boulder County Courthouse regarding a speeding citation. Approximately ten miles from the CSP Broomfield District Office, Dad passed through the busy intersection with Broadway to enter the westbound on-ramp of the Boulder Turnpike.

With a traffic light to help manage the multiple lanes of traffic, Broadway remains one of the principle north-south arteries transversing the Denver metro area. Running parallel to the westbound on-ramp until it merges with the Boulder Turnpike is the lightly traveled Bronco Road. In 1973, the small homes facing south along this segment of Bronco Road overlooked the westbound on-ramp. Around 9:35 AM, this congested and well populated intersection was one of the last places anyone would expect a patrolman in a marked patrol car to make his last call in the clear view of everyone that happened to be there that morning (see: End of Watch – part 1).

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms…If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ…” – 1 Peter 4:10-11[5]

God Bless!


[1] The Denver Post,. “Wind-Driven Snow Chokes City”. December 24, 1973: Page 1. Print.

[2] Luke 6:31, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[3] The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP),. 2016. “Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”.

[4] Wayne C. Keith, Colorado State Patrol Chief, 1973 “Eulogy of Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”.

[4] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.



Learning Life Lessons


As a volunteer high school football coach for ten years, I was captivated by the life lessons young men can learn from this consummate team sport. Sports help teach young men and women how to deal with the exhilaration of success along with the heartbreak of the disappointments that are encountered during our lifetimes. Team sports reinforce lessons learned from our parents by demonstrating the achievement of dedication and working together for a common goal, while simultaneously exposing the fatal flaws of giving in to human weaknesses.

All to often the focus is on the negative examples of high profile athletes revered in our society. Fortunately, yesterday served as a profound positive example to what can be learned through sports. In a demonstration of grace that we can all learn from, Tony Romo expressed his frustrations, competitiveness, humanity, along with his maturity, in an elequent statement in which he conceded another player had earned the right to replace him. I found the end of his statement especially profound:

“…Lastly, I just want to leave you with something I have learned in this process as well: I feel like we all have two battles or two enemies going on. One with the man across from you. The second is with the man inside of you. I think once you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn’t matter. I think that is what we are all trying to do. Thank you guys. I appreciate it.”

Survivors and Good Samaritans alike can learn a lot from this thoughtful, emotional statement. If one can learn to “control the one inside” of us, whatever the obstacles anyone faces “really doesn’t matter”. Below is his entire statement. I hope you to will find the same inspiration in his words as I did.

God bless!


ESPN: On Tuesday, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo made his first statement since suffering a compression fracture in his back and addressed the injury along with the success of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott in a prepared statement. The full transcript is below:

“To say the first half of the season has been emotional would be a huge understatement. Getting hurt when you feel like you have the best team you’ve ever had was a soul crushing moment for me. Then to learn it’s not three of four weeks but 10 is another blow. And through it all you have a tremendous amount of guilt on having let your teammates, fans and organization down. After all they were depending on you to bring them a championship. That’s what quarterbacks are supposed to do. That’s how we’re judged. I love that. I still do.

But then here you are sidelined without any real ability to help your teammates win on the field. That’s when you’re forced to come face to face with what’s happened. Seasons are fleeting. Games become more precious. Chances for success diminish. Your potential successor has arrived, injured two years in a row and now in the mid-30s, the press is whispering, everyone has doubts, you’ve spent your career working to get here. Now we have to start all over. You almost feel like an outsider. Coaches are sympathetic, but they still have to coach and you’re not there. It’s a dark place. Probably the darkest it’s ever been. You’re sad and down and out and you ask yourself why did this have to happen. It’s in this moment you find out who you really are and what you’re really about.

You see football is a meritocracy. You aren’t handed anything. You earn everything every single day single day, over and over again. You have to prove it. That’s the way that the NFL, that’s the way that football works. A great example of this is Dak Prescott and what he’s done. He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right. He’s guided our team to an 8-1 record, and that’s hard to do. If you think for a second that I don’t want to be out there, then you’ve probably never felt the pure ecstasy of competing and winning. That hasn’t left me. In fact it may burn more now than ever.

It’s not always easy to watch. I think anybody who’s been in this position understands that. But what is clear is that I was that kid once, stepping in, having to prove yourself. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. It really is an incredible time in your life. And if I remember one thing from back then, it’s the people that helped me along when I was young.

And if I can be that to Dak, you know, I’ve tried to be and I will be going forward. We all know something magical is happening to our team. I’m not going to allow this situation to negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction. I think Dak knows that I have his back. And I think I know that he has mine. Ultimately, it’s about the team. It’s what we’ve preached our entire lives.

I can remember when I was a kid just starting out wanting to be part of something bigger than myself. For every high school kid out there or college player, there is greatness in being the kind of teammate who truly wants to be part of a team. Everyone wants to be the reason they winning or losing. Every single one of us wants to be that person. But there are special moments that come from a shared commitment to play a role, while doing it together. That’s what you will remember. Not your stats or your prestige, but the relationships and the achievement that you created through a group. It’s hard to do, but there’s great joy in that.

And all the while your desire burns to be the best you’ve ever been. You can be both. I have figured that out in this process. It’s what separates sports from everything else. It’s why we love it. It’s why we trust it. It’s why I still want to play and compete.

Lastly, I just want to leave you with something I have learned in this process as well: I feel like we all have two battles or two enemies going on. One with the man across from you. The second is with the man inside of you. I think once you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn’t matter. I think that is what we are all trying to do.”

Thank you guys. I appreciate it.”

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.