By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
When his brother's body got back to Los Angeles last summer, Carlos Yarbrough examined it carefully, counting the bullet holes one by one. There were, he discovered, a total of ten, in the head, back and chest.
It had only been a few weeks since Bobby Yarbrough, 21, had left California for Denver, telling Carlos and the rest of his anxious family that he'd be looking for construction work. Instead, he wound up dead. On July 4 police found Yarbrough shot to death in a west Denver alleyway, legs crossed at the ankles, with nothing in his pockets except a dime, a few pieces of paper and some caramel candies.
Yarbrough's killing passed almost unnoticed in Denver. And hardly anyone paid attention a few weeks ago when twenty-year-old Sean Christopher Patrick Cox, a former Burger King manager and member of a strange interracial gang called the "I.G.s," pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the case and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. To this day, Carlos Yarbrough says, his family's never been clear on what happened to his brother. "All we know," Carlos says, "is that he was gunned down."
Even Sean Cox is hard-pressed to explain just why Bobby Yarbrough had to die. If anything, Yarbrough's slaying following a wild July 4 weekend binge by the I.G.s is remarkable only for how well it fits a disturbingly common pattern of impulsive violence and senseless criminal behavior that Denver police say they now see all the time.
"This is just run-of-the-mill stuff, unfortunately," says Denver police detective Joe DeMott, the lead investigator in Yarbrough's killing.
Yarbrough, it turns out, was not an innocent victim. He had apparently been dealing drugs in Denver and, hours before his own death, had taken part in the savage beating of a man who allegedly owed him a few dollars for cocaine. That man, 37-year-old Ulysses McCullough, was left to die in a clump of bushes and lay comatose in a hospital for several weeks afterward. Several guests at the I.G.s' party, including two women who brought their young babies with them, were present for the attack on McCullough, but no one thought to call an ambulance.
Sitting in a visitation room at the Denver County Jail, awaiting his transfer to a Colorado state prison, Sean Cox struggles to account for Yarbrough's death. "I didn't get no pleasure out of it," Cox says. "[The shooting] was more reaction than it was mental. I just reacted, and that's the end of it, I guess."
It's unclear even now whether Bobby Yarbrough's murder can rightly be considered a bona fide gang killing. Sean Cox was prosecuted by the gang unit of the Denver district attorney's office because of his alleged membership in the I.G.s, which stands for "Incorporated Gangsters," and police say they suspect members of the group have been involved in drug dealing. But even prosecutors say the I.G.s didn't appear to be much more than a bunch of guys from west Denver who liked to hang around together.
"Their little group was not your traditional gang," says Deputy District Attorney Henry Cooper. "It's like a group of friends, but instead of going out skating or to the movies, they go out and commit crimes." Aside from denying personal involvement in criminal activity, the I.G.s describe themselves in much the same way. "We were just friends," says Cox. "Nothing more to it."
If the I.G.s stood out at all, police say, it was because the group's core members and hangers-on came from a rainbow coalition of racial and ethnic backgrounds. The alleged leader of the I.G.s, Trevor Herasingh, is a 23-year-old black man and an admitted former member of the Crips gang. Cox is white; so is Ervin Schwegmann, a friend of Cox's who spent a lot of time with the I.G.s until Yarbrough's death last year. Anthony Garcia and Paul Martinez, two other core members, are Hispanic. Like Herasingh, many of the I.G.s had former affiliations with other, better known gangs in the city, says Anthony Garcia. And many met each other while working at fast-food restaurants. Sean Cox says he first hooked up with Garcia, Schwegmann and Martinez when the foursome worked together at the Burger King at Broadway and Evans Avenue.
Last summer the I.G.s' de facto base of operations was Trevor Herasingh's place at 189 South Cherokee Street, a three-bedroom duplex apartment just a few blocks west of the intersection of Broadway and Alameda Avenue. The apartment also was the site of the ill-fated July 4 party.
Herasingh, who went by the street name "T-Money," told police after Yarbrough's death that he started the I.G.s to give his friends an alternative to gang life. Group meetings took place at his house every week, Herasingh claimed. "It's like an organization to get people away from gangs," he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with any illegal actions. We try to do positive things, get jobs and stuff--you know, be productive citizens."
Police scoff at Herasingh's portrait of the I.G.s as a service club. Detective Rufino Trujillo of the Denver police gang unit says the group was "really heavy into drugs." And shortly after Yarbrough was killed last summer, police charged Herasingh in the shooting of another man, 21-year-old Jose Badillo. Badillo, who survived, was wounded in the stomach after he and a group of friends confronted I.G. members in an argument over a bottle somebody threw at someone else's car. (Herasingh couldn't be reached for comment; police say the charges against him were later dropped after a witness who said she'd seen him commit the crime changed her story.)