Why Exodus of Angels - The Murder of Harry Force?
Harry Force, the owner of O'Bannon’s Irish Pub in Telluride, Colorado, died on August 19th, 2010 after showing signs of being beaten twice within seven days. He was 67 years old.
My friendship with the “old man” dates back nearly two decades and we both watched as Telluride destroyed itself with greed, addiction and hate. I allowed these same destructive forces to infect me and my relationships, turning a heavenly dream into a hellish nightmare. This is that story.
I wrote this book for several reasons.
First and foremost was that Harold LeRoy Force was a friend of mine. He deserved better than being called “just a drunk” after his murder. He deserved better than being harassed by a local barfly, the Seventh Judicial District and the Telluride Marshal’s Department. He deserved better from his Elk brothers who turned against him in his death and he deserved better from a town government more concerned with “marketing Telluride” than a human being’s life. Harry Force deserved better, plain and simple.
Another reason I decided to write this book is that I believe it is important for all of us to see that when we fail to do and live by what we know is right, we often set in motion a series of events that destroys reputations and lives.
I do not believe any of the people mentioned in this book are evil, but I do believe that unchecked power, poor decisions, personal grudges, alcohol, and pride can fan the flame of hate in the best of people if you allow it to take root. I speak from experience.
It is important for the reader to understand that this book is based on my own personal experiences and is therefore a fundamentally biased account. My efforts to try to get the other side of the story were rebuffed at every turn.
Many of the people mentioned refused to speak with me or to offer their accounts of the events. This included the members of the Telluride Marshal’s Department, the Seventh Judicial District and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; all who refused to even answer my requests for contact. There is a widespread belief in Telluride “that if you just ignore it, it will go away”. I hope this book changes that misperception.
This was a difficult book to write and not just because I am not a writer. The creation of this book took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions as I looked back on friends who have turned to enemies and how my own actions fueled hate in so many good people, eventually leading to the unsolved murder of my friend.
Contributing to the difficulty was the personal tug-of-war I experienced between trying to spread the truth and avoiding the perception that this book was a vendetta against those who have inflicted so much pain on so many.
I decided to change the names of the people who might be embarrassed by their actions, including the people we have put our trust in to protect us. They must be held accountable but humiliation is not a path to justice. Good people often do bad things and it is always better to judge events and let God handle the people.
I also chose not to identify the woman who filed sexual assault charges against Harry, or to use the real names of those who were questioned during the botched murder investigation. There is a reason for this.
This book can heal many wounds within the Telluride community. It has the ability to bring Telluride together and in essence, save itself. Telluride cannot move forward until we, the residents, take a long hard look at our hidden failures; failures that have quietly eroded the foundation of our community.
Sam Walton once told me something I have never forgotten. We were driving through rural Arkansas in his old red pickup and we had just visited one of my Walmart shoe departments that was performing below par. Sam pointed out the many reasons why it was failing and I, as a young inexperienced manager, found excuses. Sam interrupted me as I cleverly came up with reasons on how none of the bad stuff was my fault.
“You know Albert, a man’s character is not defined by how many mistakes he makes, it is defined by how that man takes ownership of his mistakes”.
I believe it’s time for Telluride to take ownership of our mistakes, and how we correct them will define our community character for decades to come. We cannot fix what we refuse to admit is broken.
This is not a biography of Harry or a murder mystery, it is a story of what once was and how it was all taken away. It’s about Telluride, but it could just as well be about any town in America. Failure knows no geographic bounds.
It is also a call to action. Change is needed to insure what happened to Harry is never allowed to happen again.
Telluride is a glorious place and it would seem that living in paradise would quell prejudice, anger, intolerance and all the other destructive emotions that have woven themselves into the fabric of our community. Sadly, it does not.
This book will not bring my friend back, clear his name or even clear my family name, but it may help spread the truth to the few who cared enough to stand by both Harry and me through hard days – days that saw the weak flee, the cowardly hide and the brave shine.
Why Exodus of Angels - Feast of Transgressions?
As I was writing the first book, trying to get information from Rebekka Hall and the Telluride Marshal's Department through the Freedom of Information Act, I was simply ignored. I found out that Blair Richardson's mother had been ignored as well - for more than three years.
Please understand, I am not saying they responded with a letter or phone call explaining why the information that was requested was unavailable, they just refused to respond and changed the policy (and price they charge for the information) on the town website. The same was true for all attempted contact with the District Attorney's Office. Folks with money can hire lawyers to force these entities to abide by the federal law, but struggling single moms and working people are S.O.L. Our public servants know this.
Unfortunately, there is no viable Ethics Committee at town hall and no procedure for filing a complaint against the TMO. The Chief Marshal handles all complaints which are never acted on and the D.A. is hesistant to alienate local law enforcement. After exhausting all options within the town of Telluride (including attempted contact with the town attorney, mayor, and town manager), publicizing the situations that have tormented the families and friends of the deceased was the only avenue left. Will it work? Maybe, maybe not. Will the residents of Telluride care that justice in the Seventh Judicial District is so out of kilter that unless you hire an expensive local attorney, you are doomed to the whims of personal prejudices of law enforcement and the judicial system? Probably not until it happens to one of their family or it begins to affect their livelihood. Not exactly the definition of community.
How did a community of once caring people become more concerned about plastic bags, roundabouts and prairie dogs than justice and accountability of those living off the taxpayers dime?
I would have loved to have not written a book showing the world our warts and troubles, but eventually those who have been wronged have three choices: live with it, write about it or weld a tank out of a bulldozer in the back yard and pull a Granby. I decided to write about it hoping that those who we pay to make our lives better would come to the realization that honesty, caring, and justice are a better way to build a community than selective enforcement (and prosecution).
Is there hope? You tell me. Until our "home rule" town begins to treat all residents the same as they treat the wealthy, I and others will continue to demand a Grand Jury and sadly it will affect our reputation as the paradise we once were.
In closing let me say that nobody wants to see resignations and "retirements" in this economy. All we are asking is that someone care.
P.S. It is also available at Between the Covers Book Store in Telluride.