Sheriff in Colo. balloon chase responds to critics
By Catherine Tsai
DENVER — Spectators watching the alleged balloon boy hoax unfold on live TV suggested paragliders, skydivers, fishing hooks and more to bring down the flying saucer-shaped craft thought to be carrying a 6-year-old boy.
Since the boy, Falcon Heene, was found at home and investigators declared the whole saga a hoax by the boy's parents, the e-mails flooding Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden's inbox have turned to criticism of his actions in the case.
In his online newsletter Thursday - titled "Up, Up and Away" - Alderden writes that people have sent e-mails from around the world, some of them calling him gullible, fat and bald with an over-inflated ego. They compared him to Barney Fife, the bumbling sheriff's deputy on the 1960s TV show "The Andy Griffith Show."
Alderden conceded he's fat and bald. He disagreed with most of the rest.
Though he led a weekend news conference announcing his office was pursuing criminal charges against Richard and Mayumi Heene and then appeared on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday, Alderden said he really doesn't enjoy the media spotlight.
"In fact, I'm pretty ticked off that I had to spend my weekend dealing with them instead of some quality time in the saddle," Alderden wrote. "That said, sometimes the Sheriff just has to be the spokesperson instead of putting it off on the Press Information Officer. I did my best to put an end to the media circus and have refused to do any more interviews or morning TV shows, even turning down Dr. Phil."
The Heenes haven't been arrested yet, and have denied the balloon incident was a hoax. The Heenes appeared on ABC's "Wife Swap" late last year and again in March, and investigators said the couple wanted to use publicity from the balloon episode to get their own reality TV show.
Alderden said he might address criticism next week that he misled the media in the hours after the boy was found, when he told reporters that investigators still believed the Heenes were sincere. Alderden since has said he said that because he didn't want the Heenes to be tipped off to the criminal investigation.
The semi-regular newsletter, "The Bull's-eye," is posted on a private site linked to the official sheriff's site. It carries the subtitle, "Straight Shooting from the Sheriff."
Alderden wrote that one onlooker's suggestion for bringing down the balloon involved multiple helicopters and a large net. Others suggested using blimps, skydivers, paragliders, and fishing hook and line.
Alderden thanked everyone who sent ideas to rescue the craft.
"Some suggestions were actually pretty sound. Others - not so sound," the sheriff wrote.