Cherry Creek lawyer Michael Andre defended Denver's dark side, until he succumbed to his own.
On a crisp Friday morning in late February, Marlene Hogan pulled her Pontiac G6 to a curb in Cherry Creek. She was talking to a friend on her cell phone as she got out, grabbed her buckets, mop, and sweeper, walked up to the house on South Monroe Street, and rang the doorbell. Even though she'd been cleaning there for two years and had her own key, she liked to ring the bell so she wouldn't surprise anyone who might be home. No one came to the door, so she entered, put down her cleaning supplies, and sat down on the beige carpeted steps. One of the owners' Yorkie puppies, Lilly, sat at her feet, and Marlene petted the dog as she continued her conversation.
Moments later, she heard footsteps coming up the basement stairs. It must be Marie. Kayla would already be at school, and the man of the house would already be at his law office. Marlene stood up, looking down through the banister spindles toward the basement. She didn't see Marie's dark hair, though. It was a shaved head, the head of Michael Andre—"Andre" to his friends.
It had been a while since Marlene had seen him; he'd been extra busy lately with cases. The media attention on one of his clients—Willie Clark, a "person of interest" in the shooting of Bronco Darrent Williams—had finally subsided, but the 38-year-old Andre still had been working a double caseload.
Marlene was about to grab her stuff and move upstairs when Andre rounded the steps. A shortish 5 feet 7 inches or so, he was slim and only a little taller than her. He wasn't wearing a shirt—or shoes, for that matter. Just a pair of green basketball shorts. In his hands were two black pistols. As he walked forward, he pointed the guns at her head, stopping three feet from her. Speaking in a calm, quiet voice, he cocked the guns' hammers.
"Get the fuck out of my house."
The Previous Evening
Jon Thomerson walked into Michael Andre's law office at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 22. The office is perched on Lincoln Park at 11th and Osage, about a mile west of the Denver County Courthouse—on the fringe, just the way Andre liked it.
Thomerson had been at the jail talking to a few of Andre's clients. The two worked closely together, with Andre composing the briefs and Thomerson, his private investigator, doing the grittier work—reinterviewing suspects and witnesses. His goal was always the same: gather enough detail to undermine or disprove what Andre was convinced were the police department's intentionally vague cases.
Thomerson enjoyed the work. It was better than being a waiter. That's how the two met, waiting tables at Bennigan's in Boulder—Andre to pay for law school, Thomerson to pay the bills. It was a running joke back then that Andre would be a lawyer and Thomerson his wily investigator. Thomerson eventually started C.D. Investigations—a playful spin on "seedy"—in 2001, and soon enough was working with his friend on 50 cases a year.
It had been a long day. Hell, it had been a long week, and it was only Thursday. Thomerson stretched out his compact frame on Andre's couch and relayed the conversations he'd had with the lawyer's jailed clientele.
Seated behind his big oak desk amidst piles of folders and briefs, Andre seemed a little distracted as he fiddled with his computer. But he appeared refreshed; earlier in the week, Thomerson thought, Andre had looked exhausted. Just over a month ago, he'd let go of a lawyer he'd employed because he thought he could do the work quicker himself. He'd taken on all her clients—mostly traffic tickets and misdemeanors—which had doubled his already hectic caseload.
Today, though, Andre was his usual giddy self. To his left hung a treasured portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The print was a gift to Andre from his parents, the only thing he wanted for his office after his prolonged struggle to pass the Colorado Bar exam. Andre found it inspiring. It wasn't the stirring, charismatic King of "I Have a Dream" speeches; it was the pensive, gentle King, hands crossed, pondering his next lectern-thumping sermon.
Andre appreciated a good sermon. He relished the chance to captivate a courtroom audience. He was good it at, not bombastic but charismatic. His professional idol was Atticus Finch, the earnest defense attorney in To Kill a Mockingbird. Andre loved how Finch defended a poor black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in the 1930s South, simply because he knew it was right, reputation and personal safety be damned.
Andre tried to do the same. He loved taking court-appointed defense cases: drugs, prostitution, gangs. He took clients that made even his thoughtful, liberal father say, "How can you defend that person?" Andre's answer was always the same: Everyone deserves a good defense, and he was proud to speak for those without a voice. His voice would be loud enough for everyone.
Still, it got tiring being heard all the time. The newly added cases lengthened his normal 10- to 12- hour days. On top of that, he and his business partners, who owned the building at 11th and Osage, were having a hard time renting the vacant offices. When Andre told Thomerson that all this was driving him toward a nervous breakdown, Thomerson shrugged it off. Andre was always having a nervous breakdown—the man was dramatic. Always had been. It served him well in the courtroom.
Besides, Andre looked better today, like he'd gotten some sleep. Despite the nervous breakdown talk, he didn't seem depressed. He had suffered depression in the past—even taken some medication for it—but the anti-depressants made him feel worse. He'd told Thomerson, "It made me want to open a vein."
But giving up prescription meds didn't make the problem go away. Another close friend would later say his depression "led to destructive behavior, which led to self medicating with drugs—to get himself up and bring himself down, to get work done. Just to feel better."
Thomerson and Andre's discussion eventually turned to the evening's plans. The lawyer invited the P.I. to a fashion show at a club on South Broadway, where Andre's wife, Marie, would be one of the models. Thomerson declined but gladly took the opportunity to bust his old friend's balls. A fashion show? Really?
Andre nodded. "I'm going to have a Scotch or something," he said. "This week is crazy."
That was odd. Andre hadn't drunk much since he'd had his reckless run-in with the cops in law school. He'd always been a lightweight, and these days, two drinks could make him nearly comatose. The Andre everyone loved was lively and talkative, but when he was drunk he could barely communicate.
Andre told Thomerson to meet him at Courtroom 1 the next day at 8:30 a.m., and to pick up some case files they planned to go over. Thomerson left to get beers with some friends at a downtown pub. At 8 p.m. his phone rang. It was Andre. "Hey, I'm going to need you to meet me in Courtroom 13 instead. At 8 a.m."
Andre never showed.
Friday, 9:15 a.m.
Her cell phone pinned to her ear, Marlene couldn't move. Andre was still pointing the guns at her face.
"Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod," she said.
She didn't meet his gaze. Marlene couldn't take her eyes off those guns, those dull black guns. She froze for a few seconds, shocked and terrified.
Finally, she turned to her left and ducked, grabbing her buckets and mop and sweeper. As she stood up, Andre had already turned and was walking back toward the basement. She ran out to her car, drove to the end of the block, and parked. She tried calling Marie, Andre's wife. It went straight to voicemail. Marie's phone was off. Or dead.
"Hey Marie, something's going on at your house," Marlene recalls saying. "I don't want to call the police, but if you don't call me back, I'm going to."
She tried the number again. Nothing.
Marlene sat in her car, thinking about Andre and those guns. Where was Marie? And seven-year-old Kayla? Were they in the basement with Andre? Were they OK? She sat at the end of the block for 10 minutes, not knowing what to do. Finally, she dialed 911.
A police officer arrived at Marlene's car within minutes. He asked her what happened, and she rehashed it—the guns, the getthefuckouttamyhouse, her dialing 911. The officer told her that it wasn't Andre's first encounter with authorities that day. Andre had also sent a disturbing e-mail early in the morning to a district attorney he knew. Part of it read, "I don't have to fight anymore. Congratulate me on my death." The DA had asked police to check in on Andre, but when they called the house, nobody answered. Marlene gave the officer Marie's cell phone number and the name of Kayla's elementary school. The police checked, and Kayla—who had stayed with Marie's mother the night before—was in class. Marie, however, was still unaccounted for. While she was talking to the officer, Marlene noticed a growing sea of police uniforms. A SWAT truck arrived, and 30 or 40 officers suddenly materialized. They were evacuating the block.
Friday, 11:30 a.m.
Marie Freyta was scared.
She hadn't slept at home after the fashion show. Her phone had died during the night; when she checked her voicemail from a landline at 10:30 a.m., she had urgent messages from her mother, her sister, Marlene, and a detective. The officer had told her to come to a Wendy's restaurant near her home, that there was trouble with her husband at her house. What the hell was going on?
As she was making the 45-minute drive from Highlands Ranch to the Cherry Creek Wendy's, Marie wiggled the battery out of the back of the phone, willing it to have a little more juice. She popped it back in and turned on her phone. It worked. She typed out a frantic text message to Andre: "I'm meeting with the detective. My phone is going to die. I love you Dre"—she often called him Dre—"please stop this."
Andre never showed up at the fashion show. According to the police report, he and Marie had an encounter at home before the event, during which she told him not to come. Many of the details in the report have been redacted, though it does note that Marie "was not going to deal with him."
It's too bad; Andre would have liked the show—rappers rhyming while a DJ spun tracks in the corner. Marie strutted her curves up and down the runway, her dark hair bouncing with her quick-change outfits—jeans and tops accessorized with hats and belts. She was used to people looking at her; on this runway, though, she had to keep her clothes on.
The two met in the fall of 1998, when Andre was 30. Marie was turning 18, and when the lemon of a car she bought went sour, she wanted her money back. A colleague at the doctors' office where she worked mentioned a good lawyer named Andre, so she rang him up. They met at his office and he assured her it'd be cake—since she bought the car when she was 17, the purchase agreement wasn't valid. She should be able to get her money back.
Marie liked him immediately. He was smart and funny, even jolly, with that big toothy smile. She asked him to lunch; he picked her up on his motorcycle and took her to the Applebee's near her Aurora office. That weekend they went to Elitch Gardens.
Andre was chivalrous, at least compared to the boyfriend she'd been living with since she was 15. After only a couple dates, Marie asked Andre to help her move out, and she all but moved into his Park Hill bungalow.
A few months later, Marie got pregnant. It was a surprise, but they were excited, particularly Andre. Kayla was born a few months after Marie's 19th birthday. Five years later, they finally married at the elegant Grant-Humphreys Mansion near Governor's Park. Two hundred people, gorgeous flowers, tray after tray of swanky appetizers before a sit-down dinner—the kind of wedding that suited a flashy defense attorney. Kayla was the flower girl. Andre planned the entertainment in secret, but knowing him like she did, Marie wasn't shocked when Andre crooned Bryan Adams' "The Best of Me" as she walked down the aisle and Terence Trent D'Arby's "Sign Your Name" at the altar. At the moment when all eyes are usually on the bride, Andre stole the show.
Yeah, Andre would've liked the fashion show. He liked watching Marie perform. In 2001, when she was a manager at Kohl's, a coworker had quit and started stripping at the Diamond Cabaret. The friend urged Marie to join her; when she presented the idea to Andre, he dared his wife. You're too shy, she recalls him saying. So, less than a year after Kayla was born, still shedding post-partum weight, Marie took the stage at the Diamond. During his lunch break at the courthouse, Andre would walk over and eat at the bar while he watched his wife shed her clothes for a roomful of slack-jawed men.
On her way to meet the detective at Wendy's, Marie's phone rang. It was a restricted line. Was it their house phone?
"Hello?" she answered.
"Goodbye," Andre said.
"Dre? Talk to me? Dre!"
Her phone died.
Strippers and Traffic Tickets
Michael Andre built his law practice while tending bar at another Bennigan's, on Colorado Boulevard in Denver. Strippers from the nearby Shotgun Willie's would come in after their shifts, tired, needing a drink, and ready, after hours of feigning interest in men holding dollars in the air, for someone to finally listen to their problems. They had the usual issues—rent's due, boyfriend's an asshole, traffic tickets. Lots of traffic tickets, actually. Strippers, Andre learned, are terrible drivers.
He defended them as if he was the one who'd been speeding. Word of the Bennigan's lawyer spread quickly. A stripper's friend was busted on prostitution charges. Someone's brother was nailed dealing drugs. Gang members got caught up in searches. They were all Andre clients. It wasn't that he thought they were all innocent—hell, most of them were probably guilty. Still, he believed they deserved a fair shake in court. That was the law.
But Andre also strongly believed that the Denver Police Department didn't always play fair. He often complained to his father that the cops planted evidence and roughed up suspects. He thought they didn't hesitate to lie under oath. He relished the chance to catch officers in courtroom lies, making them squirm on the witness stand. He may not have been an enemy of the DPD, but he wasn't making friends there, either.
Andre became the defender of the disenfranchised. Like Atticus Finch, he started taking cases as a sort of contract public defender through the Alternate Defense Counsel, working for clients who couldn't afford a lawyer. It didn't pay much, but it was important. He didn't judge his clients, and he didn't sugarcoat his advice. That was stupid, he'd say, reckless. Don't do it again.
Besides, all those drug and gang cases were alluring. Andre thrived on the drama of the courtroom: the grandstanding, the verbal sparring. He liked to make the jury laugh because it endeared him, and therefore his client, to the people whose decisions mattered most. At one trial, he killed the lights and instructed Thomerson to do a lounge singer impression. It worked. He won the case, and then, as was his custom, flexed his muscles in the courtroom to peals of laughter.
Andre's small stature barely contained his massive personality. He'd arrive at court on his motorcycle, clad in an expensive Italian suit offset with a Nike beanie—a gift from a client—which he thought was "gangsta." He owned the hallways of the Denver Courthouse, hamming it up with everyone—prosecutors, defense attorneys, security, janitors. Like him or not, they couldn't ignore his presence.
As his reputation grew inside the courthouse, so it did outside. Andre learned to market himself, seeking out clients like Koleen Brooks, the former Georgetown mayor and stripper, when she was accused of felony theft. He took her case for free, reveling in the ensuing media circus, and got the charge knocked down to a misdemeanor.
Sometimes the spotlight found him. In 2004, Andre was the court-appointed defender of Frank Lobato, a disabled, elderly drug addict facing a probation violation. Andre got Lobato a rehab stint instead of prison, but when Lobato reported to the probation office, he was turned away because his officer wasn't there. Twelve days later, police—looking for Lobato's nephew—busted through his bedroom door and, mistaking a soda can in his hand for a gun, shot him dead. It was the second time in a year that the Denver police had killed a disabled person—in 2003, two officers shot a knife-wielding, mentally handicapped teen named Paul Childs.
Andre was furious. In his view, a police commando assault on his client resulted in the death of a poor, sick man. He told The Denver Post, "[Lobato] was weak. He was quite frail. When we were in court last, he was pleading for help. The idea of him making a sudden movement is just incredible." Further stoking community outrage, the shooting officer, Ranjan Ford Jr., only received a 90-day suspension—later lowered to 50 days—for accidentally discharging his firearm. After those two cases, the City Council created an independent police monitor and a citizen oversight board to review cases of possible police misconduct. It was too late for Lobato, but hopefully someone else would be saved from the rash actions of the police. Andre, the drum major of the disenfranchised, continued his march.
More than two years later, a young man named Willie Clark arrived at Andre's office. Clark was wanted by the DPD as a "person of interest" in the New Year's shooting of Denver Bronco Darrent Williams, and he wanted to surrender peacefully to police. Clark was not charged with the Williams shooting; he ended up getting six months for violating his probation. After Clark was first arrested, ESPN interviewed Andre. A huge sports fan, he was ecstatic. He later called his father, Louis, and told him, "Well, I can die and go to heaven. I've been on ESPN."
Friday, 1:30 p.m.
By this time, police had been waiting out Andre for nearly four hours. They had evacuated a two-block radius around Andre's house; only police were allowed inside the perimeter. Marie was parked down the street at the command center. The police told her that if she tried to call Andre, he'd be more likely to kill himself.
The weekend before, Andre and a group of friends had attended a mixed martial arts fight in Broomfield. His crew was characteristically eclectic: his wife Marie, Denver Deputy District Attorney Khoury Dillon, and swing club owner (and former pro skier) Scottie Ewing, among others.
During the standoff on Monroe Street, a vigil of some of these same people gathered at a corner two blocks from the house. One of them was Andre Walker, the fighter the group had gone to watch the previous weekend. A client of Andre's, Walker had been in and out of jail on drug and fraud charges. The two had become close friends, and Walker served as a groomsman at Andre's wedding. Walker and Mike McGinley, another former Andre client and friend, were supposed to get lunch at the Diamond Cabaret that day.
Rob Lowrey, Andre's roommate and best friend from law school, drove down from Fort Collins. He met up with Thomerson and Walker, and the three begged police to let them talk to Andre. The police refused.
The group was gathered near the TV camera crews, which were delivering somberly excited news reports. At first, some of the television stations and The Denver Post website were using Andre's name in their reports. This was a major concern for those close to Andre. He loved practicing law, second only to his family. If he saw a broadcast, or went online, he might conclude that his lawyer days were over. The police requested that the media stop using his name; while the TV stations complied, The Denver Post did not.
Michael Andre pulled his motorcycle to a stop at a red light. It was his last year of law school at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and he had just left the CU-Miami football game, where he'd been drinking with some friends. It had been a rowdy game—12 players were ejected after a bench-clearing brawl—and top-ranked Miami had eked out a victory. The streets around the stadium were swimming with pedestrians and postgame traffic.
Andre heard a police siren approaching. The officer pulled up to Andre's right and rolled down his window.
"Pull over when the light changes."
Andre looked at the cop, who was only about four feet away. The year before, Andre had pled a DUI down to a DWAI (driving while ability impaired). Getting caught drinking and driving again wouldn't help him pass the bar exam.
Andre punched the throttle.
He cut left onto Colorado Avenue, blowing through the red light and weaving between cars and pedestrians. The cop car tried to give chase but was held up by traffic. Andre cut right, onto Folsom Street. Now two policemen were giving chase on foot. He hit 50 mph as football fans in their Colorado gold and Miami orange shirts dived out of the way. But the crowd was too thick and he lost control of the bike, sliding sideways and wobbling back and forth. He narrowly missed the first traffic barricade; another cop on foot appeared in his way. The cop lunged at him as Andre hit the second barricade and broke off the motorcycle's left foot peg. Uninjured, he straightened the bike and hit the throttle, peeling through a flashing red light at Arapahoe and a solid red at Canyon. He looked in his mirror. No cop cars. He drove to his apartment in North Boulder and parked the motorcycle in his garage.
An officer—the same one who'd tried to pull him over—showed up the next morning, arrested Andre, and brought him to jail. The Boulder County District Attorney charged him with felony vehicular eluding, reckless driving, failure to report an accident, speeding, running a red light, ignoring a traffic control device, and disobeying an officer. An attorney Andre hired plea-bargained away the felony charge, and Andre agreed to plead guilty to three lesser charges. His sentence: a $1,000 fine, two years' of probation, two years driving suspension, and 32 days in jail. The third-year law student would be spending his Christmas break behind bars.
Friday, 2:20 p.m.
The standoff continued. As traffic backed up out to Colorado Boulevard, an officer handed Marie a note to read aloud. The police wanted to record it and play it over a megaphone outside the house.
"Andre, please talk to the detectives," she recalls reciting in a wavering voice. "They're here to help. Kayla and I need you here. There's a detective waiting to talk."
"Her voice was too low," an officer said. "Have her do it again."
Marie read it louder.
The cops took it down the street and played it over the megaphone. No response.
"If he was in the basement," Marie would later say, "he never would have heard the megaphone."
A Tale of Two Fathers
One of the Andres' prized family photographs is a shot of Michael and his father, Louis, at a Vietnam Veterans Against the War rally on the National Mall in D.C., in April 1971. In the picture, Louis is wearing his Green Berets uniform; his hair, having grown for a year after the end of his service, nearly reaches his shoulders. He holds three-year-old Michael, who sucks his thumb while a Castro doppelganger leans in front of them.
Michael's mother Dena, a photographer, had taken the picture. A year later, Dena and Louis opened an art gallery in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, while Louis went back to college. The couple had two daughters, and in 1980, Louis got a job with the Defense Intelligence Agency doing counterterrorism work.
They raised their children on the type of suburban street where doors were used mostly to keep out intruding squirrels. The neighborhood had a lot of kids, and Michael became their merry leader, setting up baseball and football games in an empty lot, teaching barefoot field-goal kicking, or just sprinting through the neighbors' yards, a game Michael called Spies and Runaways.
As Michael—or Mike, as he was known to his childhood friends—got older, his interests turned to music; to his father's bemusement, he tried to argue that REO Speedwagon was better than the Rolling Stones. Andre formed his own REO-inspired garage bands—Bob & the Purple Microdots, Fourplay, Blue Max—to perform at school talent shows. Michael played the piano, and unwilling to be stuck at the back of the stage, he rigged an electric keyboard with a guitar strap so he too could jam in the spotlight.
Michael also announced that he was going to be a lawyer, Louis recalls. Rebelling against his hippie parents, he cut his hair short and started wearing a tie, Alex P. Keaton-style. The clothes lasted a short while, but his desire to be a lawyer never wavered.
One day while Michael was in high school, Louis and Dena called him into the kitchen to finally tell him something they thought he should know: Michael wasn't Louis' son. His real father was a British man named John Bradley, who Dena had dated while living in England, fresh out of high school. Bradley was several years older than Dena, and when she became accidentally pregnant Bradley wasn't ready to settle down. Dena went back to Virginia and had her baby. About two years later, she met Louis, who had just returned from the war.
After hearing the news of his true roots, Michael went back into his room. He emerged a few minutes later with the picture of himself and Louis at the protest. He looked at it and told his father, "This says it all. I don't need to say anything else."
The two hugged, and Michael never mentioned it again.
Friday, Approximately 2:30 p.m.
When Dena Andre returned home in Alexandria that Friday, there was a message on her answering machine. The Denver affiliate of Fox News was asking her to weigh in on the situation with her son. It was the first she'd heard of it. She logged onto the Internet and saw the breaking news stories about a standoff outside her son's home. She frantically called Michael's house, then his cell phone, then Marie's cell phone. No answers. She tried his office, and the secretary gave her a name and number of a detective on the scene. Dena dialed him and explained who she was. As she recalls, the officer said, "You could be anybody. How do we know you're his mother?"
"Well, the news stations figured out how to find us," she replied. He still didn't believe her and ended the conversation.
Louis—who had returned home by then—called back, but the detective continued to stonewall. He remembers the officer saying, "Look, I can't talk to you, we're in the middle of this."
"I'm his dad, let me help. Is he in communication?"
"Yeah, we're in communication," the detective said. "He's making threats."
"What kind of threats?"
"I can't go into that."
"Please, if there's anything we could do, if you could let us talk to him...."
The officer declined.
That fall, John Bradley came to Colorado. A couple of years earlier, Andre's curiosity had gotten the best of him and he'd contacted his biological father. After the initial connection, Andre had visited England, discovering that his father looked just like him: same eyes, same smile, even the same mannerisms and laugh.
When Bradley later visited his son, both men seized the chance to build their relationship. Andre's friends were amazed at their rakish similarities. "It was bizare how much they were alike—their mannerisms, their smile," says Elizabeth Wittemyer, a law school friend who's worked as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. "I always believed in nurture over nature, but after I met [Bradley], that changed my mind." Bradley had the same charm, that ability to draw people in, especially women, which he demonstrated with boisterous poolroom banter while he cheerfully ran the table. "My son, like myself and his half-brother, could charm the women out of the trees," Bradley says. Andre was Bradley, minus the British accent.
The trip was well timed. A couple of weeks earlier, Andre finally had been accepted into the Colorado Bar. It hadn't been easy. The state bar requires candidates to pass the character fitness test, and Andre's record— the DWAI, the motorcycle chase, and two later incidents of driving with a suspended license that earned him more jail time—presented problems.
Andre hired a lawyer to help with the appeal and went to a psychologist to prove that he was mentally stable and capable of being a lawyer. Lawyer and psychologist fees were expensive for a Bennigan's employee, so Andre took on extra shifts. He refused to ask anyone for help, financial or otherwise, and he never told his parents about the Christmas he spent in jail, confiding only with a few close friends. From everyone else, he withdrew.
He clawed his way back, finally gaining bar admittance two years later. Now, with Bradley in tow, Andre and two close friends from law school, Rob and Tracy Lowrey, were sworn in at the courthouse in Denver. Later that day, Andre dragged Bradley to a tattoo parlor to watch him get his attorney registration number, CO27184, tattooed on his shoulder. Above it the artist etched a mock bar code—permanent, irrefutable evidence of his new status in life. Michael Andre was a lawyer.
Friday, 3:30 p.m.
After Marie taped her message, the police drove her to the District 3 substation at University and I-25 to ask her a few more questions. They returned to the scene at 3:30 p.m., four hours after Marie's cell phone had finally crapped out. She asked to borrow an officer's phone to check her voicemail. She had one message, left at 12:08, more than three hours earlier.
"You're the only one I want to fucking talk to," said Andre's voice. "Now answer your phone." She could hear the television in the background.
Marie listened to it twice, then played it for police on speakerphone.
"We'll take care of it," they said.
About two hours later, her escort cop for the day told her, "We're going back to the station. Things look good, [the SWAT team is] going to go in."
The Denver Police Department's operations manual dictates protocol for dealing with barricaded suspects. It reads, "The primary objective in a barricaded suspect or hostage incident is the preservation of life. All actions taken should be aimed at reducing the likelihood of further violence." It also lists steps that responding officers should take during a standoff: establish a perimeter, evacuate the area, isolate the suspect, attempt to establish contact, and call the ranking command officer, who then calls the SWAT team and negotiators. No further protocol is listed for such situations, leaving it to the on-scene commander, SWAT team, and negotiator to decide on the best course of action.
Almost six months after police stormed Andre's house, the department finally released its official report. It states that the police first made contact with Andre at 12:41 p.m., when he called negotiators and demanded to speak with Marie before hanging up. He made this request repeatedly throughout the standoff. Police characterized Andre's calls as "short, demanding, and threatening." At 4:20 p.m., police say, Andre made numerous calls, but repeatedly hung up without speaking.
Forty-five minutes later, the Metro-SWAT team launched the assault on the house. They entered on the second floor, breaking through the balcony doors and launching egg-size tear gas canisters into the house. According to Louis and Marie, the police broke windows, overturned bookshelves, and generally ransacked the place.
Police secured the upstairs, where they found a television cabinet containing a handgun and about 175 rounds of ammunition. They made their way downstairs, firing more tear gas and at least six rubber bullets. In the basement, an officer saw feet protruding from behind a bed at the end of a hallway. The SWAT team sent a canine to "engage the party." The officers entered and found the body of Michael Andre. He was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. He had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound by placing the pistol in his mouth and pulling the trigger. An additional .40 caliber round was found in the basement; Andre had fired it into a mattress. Despite being camped outside all day, the police never heard any gunshots.
An autopsy completed two days later showed that Andre was intoxicated at the time of death—a .148 blood alcohol level, nearly twice the legal driving limit, the equivalent of having about seven beers in an hour for a man of his size, far more than the lightweight Andre normally drank. He also had trace amounts of cocaine in his system and a stunning 1,000 ng/ml of MDMA in his blood—about 10 tabs of ecstasy. A dosage that high is potentially lethal and can cause paranoia, hallucinations, and temporary schizophrenia. Furthermore, MDMA, an amphetamine, speeds the brain up so much that communicating with others becomes difficult.
Hundreds gathered at Michael Andre's funeral at the Friendship Baptist Church of Jesus Christ in Denver. The crowd was heavy with lawyers—even prosecutors who'd been courtroom foes—and thick with friends and hordes of former clients, including at least one pimp in a feathered hat. It was a crowd Andre would've enjoyed and Atticus Finch might have appreciated.
Rob Lowrey, Andre's law school roommate, delivered the eulogy, quoting Jack Kerouac: "'The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars...' That was Michael Andre. He never said a commonplace word. He always kept you guessing."
On March 17, what would have been Andre's 39th birthday, his family held a small memorial service in Alexandria. At the service, Louis read an excerpt from a speech by Andre's hero, Dr. King, about the drum major instinct, a "desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first." It continues, "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.... I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say."
Friends and family are still bewildered about his death. Marie won't say where she slept the evening before the standoff, but according to the police report, she came home sometime after 1 a.m., picked up some clothes, and left. Friends won't speculate about where she went or about any tension that might have existed between the two, citing their unwillingness to potentially hurt the reputation of their good friend or his young wife. "I can't imagine the fact that his wife didn't come home was the thing that was the monster in the closet per se," Thomerson says. "You can't blame it on one thing."
Questions remain: Why did police wait more than three hours to shut off phone lines into the house? Why weren't they checking Marie's phone regularly for voicemails, and why didn't someone find her a phone charger? Was it protocol to forbid Marie—or, for that matter, Thomerson or Walker or Andre's own parents—to speak with the agitated Andre? Especially after he requested to talk to Marie? Why did police decide to invade the house after the daylong standoff, and why at that specific point in the day? And was it within departmental protocol to ransack the house the way they did? Police told Louis Andre that his son had left four notes or "scrawlings" behind—according to the coroner, he had ink stains on his fingers—but the notes' content remains a secret. As of press time, not even Louis Andre, until recently the number three official with a federal intelligence agency, had been able to get these answers.
What is known is that sometime after 8 p.m. Thursday, when he last spoke with Thomerson, Michael Andre took a turn. At around 4 a.m. Friday—a few hours after seeing Marie for the last time—Andre sent the eerily cryptic e-mail to the district attorney, announcing that he no longer wanted to live.
Suicide, according to the American Association of Suicidology, is rarely caused by one thing; rather, compounding factors may lead someone down that path. Talking about suicide is the clearest sign of trouble, but additional indicators include increased substance abuse, anxiety, feeling trapped, hopelessness, withdrawing from friends and family, anger, recklessness, and mood changes.
This was Michael Andre, one of the "mad ones" his friend invoked in his Kerouac eulogy—magnetic and mischievous, calculating and reckless, lighthearted and dark, everything that engendered loyalty among his clients and enmity among his courtroom foes. It was this potent cocktail of disparate traits that, on that fateful day in Boulder, led him to hit the throttle.
"Andre was very adept at riding the edge," Thomerson says. "He was right there always between tremendous success and oblivion. I think that he got a certain amount of energy from it. He would put himself in these situations where things looked very bleak and then he'd fight his way through it and triumph in the end. It was completely uncharacteristic of him to not claw his way out."
But on February 23, Michael Andre was too deep to claw his way out. With a SWAT team taking up positions outside his house, local and national TV cameras trained on his front door, cut off from friends and family, and exposed to the judgment of colleagues and clients, he found himself in a harsher spotlight than he'd ever craved. And so, when he saw no gap in the barricades, no way to fight his way through and triumph in the end, he stayed in his basement and cocked his guns.
Patrick Doyle is an associate editor at 5280. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.