I first encountered Lane Heaps when he complained about a cover story I wrote on UHP trooper Lisa Steed. Lane was irritated by the story. He wanted more procedural information so he could evaluate her performance better.
When I first visited with Lane, he was about to move out of the house he shared with his then-wife, Ros Rainey. He was drinking heavily, he was abrasive, but also smart, funny and sharp. Despite the copious amounts of liquor Lane consumed, you never took his intelligence for granted.
He agreed to be interviewed for a cover story on his struggles. It was a rare opportunity to see behind the thin blue line, to understand a little of the mix that goes into the psychology and emotional make-up of someone in law enforcement.
We drove around Cottonwood Heights, looking back on his athletic triumphs, and drove up and down State Street, reviewing his years in vice, the hookers and the CIs he worked with, constructing a picture of his past.
He regaled me with cop stories, some so horrifying that they never quite let go. One in particular about a father butchering his entire family and tape recording it always creeps me out whenever I drive by the house that was the site of the slaughter.
With his stories and his dark sense of humor, he slowly unpeeled the layers of who he was down to his frustrations, his anger, his vulnerability, his quirky humor, his bleeding heart.After the story came out, I took him out for lunch at a Bosnian restaurant. It was a disturbing experience. He couldn't keep the food down and was talking to himself. He stumbled around outside the restaurant, seemingly half out of his mind in pain and rage. There was so little I could do to make him even remotely comfortable in his own skin.
A few days later, he had an encounter with Murray PD -- called by a neighbor who thought Lane was suicidal -- raging at them in his apartment, copies of the CW story flying this way and that. He told me that one of the cops said, "Oh, you're that guy," when he told them who he was.
I visited him on and off in his apartment. His days as a City Weekly blogger had ended. He became friends with a curious menagerie of characters in his apartment block. The singular constants in his life were Molly, his cat -- a frightening creature, all claws, hisses and black eyes, utterly devoted to Lane -- and Rainey, who cared for him till the end, providing an anchor and a link to the outside world.
He had lost his father, Willard, a policeman very much of a different era, and I had the sense that something settled within him after that regarding his own mortality.
There was a part of Lane, though, that never gave up hoping for something better. He bought himself a longboard, a suicidal purchase, given the state of his back. That's how I like to think of him, a maniacal smile on his face, longboarding down a steep hill at 90 miles an hour.
I will always be grateful to Lane. He taught me a lesson that's easy to forget when you're chasing a story: Cops are human beings first, badges second.