July 17, 2007
by Pamela Mortimer
On Monday afternoon, a Denver, Colorado man who called himself “The Emperor” made a futile attempt to take over the Colorado State Government.
It seemed more than a little odd when a man walked into Mister Neat's tuxedo shop in Northglenn on Monday morning, demanding a tuxedo rental. He said he needed it right away. Store Manager Mark Burke said that it’s quite unusual for someone to rent a tux on a Monday morning and that the man’s behavior was also a bit strange.
Tobie Locke, an assistant manager, stepped forth to assist the customer, later identified as 32-year old Aaron R. Snyder. As she took his measurements for the tuxedo fitting, it was obvious that the man was nervous and was sweating profusely. Then she noticed the gun and two knives he’d been carrying in his pockets. In attempt to remain calm, the Locke starting making small talk, asking the man about the special occasion.
"Today is the day he will reign," the man replied, according to a police report. "The Emperor is coming."
Burke said that Locke was frightened but "she kept her head on," working as quickly as possible. Snyder reportedly became frustrated when he was told that the alterations would take a few minutes.
"He said he needed it now," Burke stated.
After the man paid for the tux with his credit card, Locke called the police.
Approximately three hours later, a man in a dark suit resembling a tuxedo arrived outside the offices of Governor Bill Ritter. It was Aaron Snyder. According to one witness, Snyder entered the building and stood in an area at the north end of the first floor, where tourists often congregate. He was seen one bended knee, praying.
Snyder walked into the governor's office, equipped with a gun, extra bullets, and headphones designed to dampen the sound of gunfire.
"I am the emperor and I'm here to take over state government,” he said.
The man was being escorted out when he brandished a gun. He ignored orders to put it down, reported police spokesman Sonny Jackson. A state trooper tried to coax Snyder out of the office and into the hallway. When Snyder refused to drop his pistol, Trooper Jay Hemphill opened fire. Snyder, weapon in hand, fell dead onto the marbled floor.
Snyder would have been denied access to the government building if metal detectors had been in place. After 9-11, the Capitol building, as well as many other public institutions, stepped up security measures and installed metal detectors. However, they were removed after lawmakers objected, saying that it was more of a challenge for the public to visit. Starting Tuesday, temporary detectors will be put in place. Lawmakers will have to decide what to do next.
"We live in a country where there is just that constant tension about security versus openness," Ritter said. "We have always said this building is the people's building and the place where we conduct business, and it's the people's business. There are going to be discussions going forward about how we achieve that right balance between security and keeping it open."