There’s been a shooting at Siegfried & Roy’s palatial Las Vegas estate–with a surprising suspect. Back on the Strip, the USDA’s investigation into the tiger attack reaches a critical turning point.
This episode contains descriptions of violence and language that may not be suitable for all listeners. Please be advised. On September 21st, 1997, the Oakland Raiders are facing the New York Jets. In the first quarter, Raider kicker Cole forward is called out to attempt a 44 yard field goal. So far this season, the 24 year old USC alum has become the most accurate kicker in Raiders history. But that statistic will be short lived. Colford just remember that he missed it. It was a recurring theme. It’s cold, then misses an extra point. Next, he’s brought back out to kick a 27 yard field goal at sets up a field goal attempt. Shrader, kicker, colford. With only three and a half minutes left in the game, the Raiders are down by one point taking the field, Cole gets into position to attempt a game winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. Colford a chance to win it. It’s no foot. Yeah, Colford didn’t get it done. By the end of that 1997 season, Cole gets cut by the Raiders. After a brief stint kicking for the Buffalo Bills, he ends his NFL career. Cole begins traveling and spends nearly a year in Mexico floating up and down the coast on a pontoon boat. Eventually he ends up in Nevada, where he works. Construction, framing houses and living out of his van. One summer day, Cole drives to the Hilton Hotel in Reno to attend a gun show. The finest firearms and collectibles show in the West with millions of dollars on display, the Big Reno show is the biggest and best show of the year. After perusing the sprawling 1 1/2 acre exhibit hall, Cole makes his purchase outside the hotel. The former NFL kicker climbs back into his white Chevy Astro van. Ladies and gentlemen, the superstars of magic, the mystifying, the Most Outstanding Act in show business big freedom, freedom. Siegfried and Roy. He had a specific grievance with Siegfried and Roy, and kind of what they represented. These guys gun out the window and shooting and yelling. The reason I wanted to see the video was to see what actually happened. This spot right here is where Montecore was this spot right here was where Roy was. This is wild things Siegfried and Roy. This member pulling up I’m like oh this is this is cool I’ll park my truck and. It was pretty obvious it was their place because of what they have on the outside and they had big huge ornamental gates. It’s September 21st, 2004 and Gregory Garrett is picking up landscaping equipment from outside the Jungle Palace. He’s right about those gates. They’re adorned with two big initials S&R. You can’t miss them. It was a pretty uneventful day up until that point. He was up in the lift and ready to pull it on the truck and then it got crazy. When I heard the car coming around the corner, I more thought, oh, I bet there’s a wreck and you know I was waiting for that crunch of metal. And then I heard the shots and I just turned my head and looked and I see him. He drives up and as he gets right by me he stops his van. Look in his eyes, it’s hard to describe, but he looked up at me and I could see his shotgun. And he said we need to get these MF ING foreign ******* out of our country. And then at that point one of the gates opened and someone comes running out what’s happened? What was that? And he was pretty panicked. I mean, you know who wouldn’t be? I guess he called 911 rather quickly. And then the police were there by the time police arrived at Siegfried and Roy’s home. The suspect has fled the scene. So there was definitely a concern that this individual was out. There aren’t dangerous. You know you could see multiple impacts where the the pellets of the shotgun of the round had impacted the structure. Chris Jones is a Sergeant with the Las Vegas police. He arrives at the crime scene not long after the shooting. Do exactly how we would need it to lock it down. We certainly want to make sure that Siegfried and Roy are safe, because we did know that there was an individual out there who was willing to commit this crime in broad daylight, potentially harm individuals very seriously, or kill them so it was a huge concern. Siegfried and Roy never speak publicly about this incident, which occurs nearly one year after the tiger attack. But it must be terrifying not knowing who shot at their home or why. Don’t like kind of caught this guy’s attention and so my job was to obviously get information. Determine what it was we were going to release and deal with the media that showed up at the scene when a crime involves a celebrity. Understandably, that complicates how the police do their job. We have iconic individuals who represent Las Vegas who have been the victim of a crime. I’m already starting to get calls from local media. They contacted the gang unit because the gang unit was tasked with. Investigating hate crimes? That’s one of the most heinous things right here. You’re targeting somebody because of their their status, right? Or because of who they are or or how they live their life or their lifestyle, and so that was our initial go to because you know, why would somebody want to shoot at Siegfried? And really? Yeah, I remember one officer you did say hey will will be contacting you in the next couple of days and so I kind of told him this story again. And and like I said it was gunshots and yelling. We need to get these foreign fagots out of our country. The fact that those are the two things he chose to scream. I think that’s the definition of a hate crime. It’s worth mentioning that Siegfried and Roy became U.S. citizens in 1988. If a person is willing to do it once broad daylight with really no concern, it seems of being caught or anything else. It wasn’t like he was trying to hide it, so it was a huge concern, but there was a witness right there. I got his license plate and description of the van and that kind of stuff. He gave it a very good description of the vehicle plate number and of the individual who had fired the shots. Pretty disheveled and had been a long time since he had a haircut. Or a clean shave, or any of that. And it was a huge beard. I mean, his hair was past his shoulders. We identified the suspect fairly early on. It’s cold Ford. When we were able to run the plate through the system, we were able to see that it was registered to him and then obviously we just need the witness to to identify the suspect in the lineup so that we can get a warrant and and take Mr. Ford into custody the day after the shooting. Police meet with their primary witness, Greg. A detective met me where I was picking up some equipment. We went out, sat in his car and he was doing a photo lineup. So in my mind I thought well. It should be pretty obvious, so pulled out I don’t know. It’s like 8 pictures and it was very clear I picked him out immediately. It was pretty easy ‘cause I was, literally, you know, five feet away from the police issue. A warrant to arrest Colford, but they have trouble finding him. We couldn’t lock down a permanent residence for Mr. Ford and it it. It turned out to be accurate that he did not have a permanent residence. Video cameras and surveillance cameras were not as prevalent, we just didn’t have the technology. Like we do right now. What the police don’t yet know is that Cole and his white Chevy Astro van have already left Las Vegas. For at least six hours, he drives S 413 miles to Tucson, AZ. Cole grew up in Tucson as a standout player on the Sabino High School varsity football team. He once set the record for most field goals, returning home in the fall of 2004, evading the police in Las Vegas, Cole goes on a shooting spree. He fires his shotgun at the buildings of three different schools he attended. He shoots up his father, Rodgers SUV. And Vandalizes Rogers office. No one is injured, but Cole’s family is understandably concerned, especially after learning about the shooting in Vegas. The family posts a note online which reads, we feel very fortunate that no one has been hurt and believe Cole has taken these actions as a cry for help. Although Roger Ford declined to be interviewed for this podcast, one of our producers and Margaret Warner spoke with him on the phone. Roger says that until these incidents in 2004. It had been six years since their family even knew where Cole was. September 21st, 2004. The day Cole shoots up. Siegfried and Roy’s house is exactly 7 years to the day when Cole misses those three field goals against The Jets. Looking back, I can’t imagine that’s a coincidence, but at the time nobody knows why Cole did what he did and it’s not clear if anybody knows where coal is, where he’s going, or what he might do next. We tried to give the public the best information we could so that they could look in these areas and they could be aware of that throughout their daily activities in case they were to come across and at The Mirage police recognize a photograph of coal that’s already hanging in the casino security Office months earlier. Cole shows up on their radar because of his frequent visits to The Secret Garden and animal habitat that Siegfried and Roy created at The Mirage. Tour guides recall seeing Cole hanging around the public exhibit for hours at a time because of his long hair, thick beard, light clothing and sandals, the staff give Colon nickname. They refer to him as the Jesus man. One tour guide recalls how the Jesus man appears quiet and nervous around his waist. He wears a ***** pack after the police connect Cole to the shooting at the Jungle Palace, his name and photograph are brandished in the media. Remember the story from last week about the drive by shooting at the home of the Vegas entertainers Siegfried and Roy. It was weird enough when police said somebody unloaded six shots at the place while shouting that the animal tamers should quote get out of the country. Now, police have named a suspect. A former professional football player named Colford. Call this featured on America’s Most Wanted, Chris Jones and his colleagues at the Las Vegas PD are confident they will find him. It’s only a matter of time, you know. If an individual is transient, they’re going to be out in the public. They’re going to have certain needs, whether it be food or or a place where they can at least camp or stay one of Cole’s necessities turns out to be a computer with Internet, which brings him to a Kinko’s less than a 20 minute drive from the Jungle Palace. I have no idea why Cole travels all the way back from Tucson to Vegas or what he’s doing on that computer. But what is clear about his visit to Kinko’s is these will be his final moments on the run. As Cole stares at the Monitor, an employee recognizes him from America’s Most Wanted and calls the police. A witness who had seen the information through through certain media outlets recognize Mr. Ford instead that they believe he was in the the business at the time police arrived and we were able to to locate him and make the arrest. When the police interview Cole, they have the same question I do. Why? Cole shares a series of allegations about Siegfried and Roy. He tells the cops he feels, quote UN quote, threatened by the magicians he claims to have seen photographs of Siegfried with voodoo dolls and what he describes as *******. Photos of Roy, wearing a black mask and posing with his animals. Cole says he feels Siegfried and Roy are trying to quote UN quote trap me energetically, he says the magicians are an extension of his parents. I don’t know which one you know was the the leading cause or or if any of them were really that or if he was just making up things as he went along. Whatever it was, he had a specific grievance with Siegfried and Roy and kind of what they represented. Facing a prison sentence of 27 years for assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm out of a motor vehicle, Cole tells his lawyer and the judge that he wants to plead guilty. But the judge instead orders him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. When psychiatrist Norman Roytman interviews Cole, the former NFL kicker expresses concern that Siegfried and Roy are engaged in a sexual relationship with their animals, which led to the creation of viruses like HIV. In his evaluation, Dr. Roytman determines that Cole’s fixation on Siegfried and Roy and their animals might be related to memories from earlier in his life. Specifically, Doctor Roytman notes a time when Cole’s father puts down his horse reflecting back. Cole tells the psychiatrist that incident is part of a global conspiracy. Ultimately, Dr. Roytman writes that Cole presents, with quote, UN quote schizophrenic symptoms and suffers from an undiagnosed psychotic disorder. After receiving cold psychiatric evaluation, the judge rules he is incompetent to stand trial. Went to lakes crossing, which is a place where the courts will send individuals who they feel are not competent. Stand trial and at lakes crossings don’t have psychiatric care whether it be medication or or other types of therapy until they’ve been ruled at a point where they can stand trial. But some people are never being competent and they live out their sentence in in a mental institution. After a year at Lakes Crossing, a maximum security psychiatric facility in Sparks, NV, Cole is deemed competent to stand trial. He pleads guilty to discharging a firearm at or near a structure and is placed under a minimum of 12 months probation. It’s a far cry from the 27 year sentence he initially faced, but the judge determines Cole is a good candidate for rehabilitation. He is ordered to continue receiving mental health care. And to have no contact with the victims again, he’s also required to pay $3221.58 in restitution as well as $150 DNA analysis fee. So his genetic profile can be added to a database. Cole’s plea deal allows him to return to Tucson and to his family. You should know that I called and emailed colon number of times, but there was no response. I completely understand the radio silence. The prospect of having to relive everything that he went through would have to be painful. Today, Roger Ford says his son carefully monitors his mood and medications. Cole works as a farmer growing alfalfa and sudangrass, which is used for feeding cattle. God through Cole, a curveball Roger tells us. We’re lucky to have him. Seven months before the shooting, the USDA’s lead investigator, David Neal, is still working on his case. It’s February 2004 and he’s in Las Vegas for a USDA safety meeting unrelated to Siegfried and Roy. It’s been four months since the tiger attack. Normally by now David would be finished with his report. But in this case, there’s one piece of evidence he still can’t get his hands on the videotape capturing the incident. The keepers of the tape in Las Vegas do not want to share copies due to privacy concerns. At this point, David still hasn’t even seen the tape. He has only heard eyewitness accounts which don’t line up. The reason I wanted to see the video was to in my own mind to see what actually happened, not through someone elses eyes. But through my own. Because someone else could see something different and think it wouldn’t be what they really thought they saw. David and his supervisor Mike Ray are both attending the USDA safety meeting in Vegas when suddenly there’s an unexpected interruption. Cousin Mike we got it. David and his supervisor are invited to the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, which is owned and operated by the same entity as The Mirage. We ended up in the executive offices. I didn’t know what kind of reception we were going to get there. The individuals that were there the representing the Bellagio and felt and Siegfried and Roy. I don’t recall their names, but it was all businesslike and very cordial and. Everyone seemed to get along with everyone. The room that we were brought into was a typical boardroom with a. Long table and a TV and they bring the film in and doors are locked. I didn’t know if we were going to see blood everywhere or whatever. But we sat down and someone hit play and we started watching the video. OK, so I hate to do this, but before I tell you what David sees and I promise we’ll come back to this later, I have to point out something important. Remember, it’s been more than three months since the incident with Roy and moniker, and David is only just now seeing this tape. The timeline didn’t strike me as odd until I started interviewing random McLaughlin. The police is crime scene investigator and Michael game, the detective who looked into the Beehive hairdo woman. Here’s how Michael begins his investigation in October 2003. Well, I mean of course the first step was a meeting with the reps from the hotel and then of course. You know, we get to see a video recording of the incident. And it was already queued to be a couple seconds prior to where it occurred. I wanna say we watched it twice. So within 24 hours you’re on this case and you’re being brought in. Do you know you’re going to see a tape? The attack at that time? Or do they just come in and sort of lay that on you? Well, I can’t tell you whether or not I knew. That we were going to see the tape or not ahead of time. I don’t. I want to say I don’t think so. In case you missed that, multiple members of law enforcement in Las Vegas are immediately allowed to view the same tape, and unlike David, they don’t even ask to see it. Then they they said hey, we we wanna take you guys over to the theater to let you guys get a perception of what the theater looks like and we’re and we’re like that’s great and they’re like nobody ever come. You know the public doesn’t come back here this is only an area for trainers. Etc etc. We spoke to people. Who took care of the animals when they weren’t in his shows? I mean anything we needed was pretty much given to us so that we could do a complete investigation. Meanwhile, in the weeks following the 2003 attack, David has trouble confirming whether there even is a tape. I believe it was a mirage that told me either they didn’t have the tape. Or it didn’t exist, probably in the back of my mind I thought we never would get to see it and it was only a matter of time before we either got to tape or we either told us to shut up and go home after a number of closed door slammed in your face, you realize something’s going on. That’s something feels to David. A lot like people are not cooperating with his investigation. When he soon confirms that a tape does exist, he asked to see it and request a copy of the video. On October 20th, 2003, he receives a letter from Siegfried and Roy’s attorney that says he can only review the tape. No copies will be produced. The lawyer writes in respect to my client, his friends and many fans worldwide who would suffer from a public display of the untimely event. But David stands his ground. I wanted a copy of the tape so he could be entered into evidence. So whoever reviewed the case could actually see. What happened? On November 3rd, David puts in a request for the USDA to serve the first of several subpoenas. The first one is directed at Siegfried and Roy. It takes a number of weeks for any subpoenas to be issued and served. I was starting to get a little frustrated on this on this situation, but. Me, I’m kind of hard hitting the individual, so I just kept pursuing it. At some point, David tells me a lawyer at the USDA steps in and brokers a deal with Feld Entertainment, the company which produces Siegfried and Roy show. The agreement is simple. The USDA can view the tape. But when the tape is finally screened at the USDA offices in Riverdale, MD, David is not there and he says he wasn’t even invited. I don’t know if that’s on purpose, or maybe it’s just a bureaucratic oversight. David has no clue, so we asked the USDA. They confirmed that David did not attend the viewing and that the agency controlled the guest list. However, they declined to explain why David was not invited. You just kind of say OK. That’s why the USDA worked at times. You know all agency are going to have some kind of. Right now we’re working on my looking for size BS. That you gotta put up with. But if there’s one thing David does not put up with, it’s being denied a copy of the videotape. Finally, I said we don’t get it almost, you know everybody in Las Vegas. So we get this thing. In December 2003, not long after David misses that USDA screening Siegfried and Roy’s attorney send him another letter. The letter implies that David can view the tape at his leisure, but he won’t get to see the tape until February. I was just waiting on something to happen with the other shoe drop around that time. The USDA serves a subpoena to The Mirage. When I told you David was invited to the Bellagio to view the tape, I failed to mention that he does not leave there with a copy. Not long after, on February 18th, 2004, David receives a FedEx package. Inside is a dossier of materials that includes a letter responding to David subpoena plus a videotape. The tape writes a lawyer for The Mirage shows a few seconds of Roy Horn being taken away. It does not show any of the events which occurred on stage. So when David finally gets his hands on a videotape, the footage doesn’t even include what he’s been asking for his quest for. A complete copy of the tape will continue, but for now, most importantly, there’s the question of why David’s experience differs from the Las Vegas PD’s. Here’s Detective Michael game again. I’d really don’t believe anybody was hiding anything, you know, but we weren’t there going OK. Are they abusing animals? Is we’re not the USDA? We’re not there to do that. We were there to say. Did a criminal act occur to cause the animal to react the way it did? That’s what we wanted to investigate. Whether there’s abuse of animals going on, that is the USDA’s Avenue and their job to investigate. Given that eyewitnesses say Roy hit moniker on the head with a microphone, the question of animal abuse seems valid. But that’s not the only issue here. Broadly, David Neal’s job is to find out whether any violation of the Animal Welfare Act might have caused the attack. Passed in 1966, the Animal Welfare Act regulates everything from animal care to public safety. Siegfried and Roy’s Exotic Animal License, which must be renewed annually, depends on continued compliance. So even if the live show stays closed forever, that license still covers Siegfried and Roy’s tigers, which are exhibited publicly at The Secret Garden and housed privately near the Jungle Palace. Now with a high profile animal attack in the mix, David’s investigation could possibly have big ramifications. If you had found their to be negligence, would Siegfried and Roy’s license have been revoked after completion of my investigation, they could have lost their USDA license. And that would be a big deal now. If they would have lost their license, that would have been a tremendous story. It did not feel stressful to me, knowing that they could or might lose their license. It wasn’t me to determine the penalty of the investigation times together the information and presented. To the appropriate people above me to determine what penalty should be rendered. But my impression was that the lawyers and everybody were just trying to protect their client if you will. It really struck hard because you know if you want the truth out. Let the truth out. Don’t try to hide it. Let us do our job. I’ve spent hours on the phone with David. He strikes me as an easygoing guy and a man of integrity. Yes, he is passionate about animals, but he’s not some rabble rousing rogue agent looking to break or bend federal law to fulfill his own personal agenda. So I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone in Siegfried and Roy’s camp would seemingly be resistant to his investigation. Then one day I stumble on a potential answer that leads me to something shocking and scandalous. Next time on wild things Siegfried and Roy. Vegas was the epicenter of wild animals being used as props. He believes that no animal should be used for entertainment. Whenever you see animals performing unnatural acts, you have to question what went on behind the scenes. I think there are a lot of people who operate for a long time under the false belief that they’re really in control. Wild things Siegfried and Roy is an ample original podcast produced by Atwell Media. Our producer is Alexanders Oslo story editors are Matt Hickey and Mandy Gorenstein. Our editor is Rachel Lightner. With help from Andrew Holzberger and Margaret Warner is our associate producer. Adele Sparks is our archival producer and Ashley Taylor is our line. Fact checking by Sona Avakian, our original music and main title are by Robert Kiesewetter, Anjana Bechtolt audio post production by 1000 birds. While things Siegfried and Roy is executive produced and written by me, Steven Lockhart, our executive producer for Matt. Well media is will malnati the Atwill media team also includes Dominica, Beckwith and Ruby be legal. Services provided by Samuel Bayard and Sean Gordon with representation by Oren Rosenbaum at UTA. Listen and follow on Apple Podcasts.