As she pleaded for her husband to stay down and her scared children to remain downstairs, a panicked Denver mother told a 911 dispatcher her spouse was acting erratically after swallowing marijuana candy and a prescription painkiller for back pain.
Moments later, Kristine Kirk was dead. Police suspect her hallucinating husband shot her in the head with a handgun.
The case has raised concern in Denver over the time it took officers to reach the couple’s home and the issue that a second death may now be linked to marijuana legalization in Colorado.
“We’re in the very early stages of edibles as it relates to recreational marijuana,” Denver Police Chief Robert White said during a televised news conference Thursday. “Over the course of time, that picture becomes clearer as to individuals consuming edibles and how that affects their behavior and how we should respond to that.”
A court document shows police learned that Richard Kirk bought marijuana candy from a shop called Nutritional Elements less than three hours before his wife was shot to death.
Kirk spent $32.70 on Karma Kandy Orange Ginger, a marijuana edible, and Pre 98 Bubba Kush Pre-Roll, a pre-rolled marijuana cigarette. Police say they confirmed the purchase through a receipt and store surveillance video.
The Karma Kandy wrapper was found in the Kirks' home.
Upon his arrest Monday night, Kirk rambled, admitted killing his wife and showed signs of being high on drugs, police said. Drug test results were not immediately available, police said in the court document, dated Tuesday.
White said he was “deeply concerned” about Monday night’s killing.
“We’re concerned about this to the point where we’re launching an investigation from the point of dispatch to the point of arrival and what actions were taken,” he said.
Results of the internal investigation are unlikely to be made public until Kirk’s criminal case is finished, the chief said.
Kirk is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder.
“Right now, my first priority is making sure we don’t do anything to compromise the successful completion of the investigation and that we’re respectful to the family members,” White said.
Monday’s 911 call, which lasted nearly 13 minutes, started as a non-life-threatening domestic violence case. Such "priority one" calls have taken an average response time of about 13 minutes, 43 seconds, so far this year, the department said.
“If you look at the hundreds of thousands of calls we respond to, nine-tenths of the time we get it right,” the chief said.
He acknowledged that the investigation would examine whether 911 calls mentioning drug use might require special handling given the wider access to marijuana in Colorado. The state legalized recreational use Jan. 1.
“Do we need to factor in the fact that drugs are being used or how someone’s behaving because of that?” White said. “That’s absolutely something we need to look at going forward.”
The dispensary that sold the marijuana to Kirk is not under investigation at this time, the chief said.
Dispensaries selling edibles have come under scrutiny in the weeks since a college student visiting Denver ate a marijuana cookie with some friends, then fell to his death from a Holiday Inn’s fourth-floor balcony.
The $10 lemon-poppy-seed cookie’s wrapper said it had “65 milligrams THC,” marijuana’s key ingredient, according to a police report released Thursday.
Colorado's law limits a marijuana edible to 10 milligrams of THC per serving.
The dispensary clerk told the group of four friends to cut the cookie into six pieces and eat one at a time, one of the friends told police. They complied, but said nothing hit them. Experts say it’s common for edibles to produce a delayed high.
But Levy Thamba, 19, ate an entire cookie.
Thamba started “freaking out,” “getting spiritual and talking about his sins” in French, another friend told police. He wrecked the hotel room and then ran out to the hallway before friends could pull him away from a railing.
No other drugs or alcohol was involved, his friends said.
The coroner's office determined that “marijuana intoxication” played a contributing role in his death.
Now, lawmakers are seeking additional restrictions on how edibles can be sold and purchased.
Besides the Kirk and Thamba cases, the chief said, no others involving marijuana "weirdness" have reached his desk.