The Gang's All Here

Her grandmother will never forget the day Venus Montoya died. And she will never forgive her killers.

So Becky took Angel back home.
Venus stayed behind; she did not mention the dream again.
When Becky came home that Thursday, though, she was pleased to find Venus at the house. She was even more pleased to learn that the twins were going house-hunting so that Venus could move out of the Sheridan apartment.

As she got ready to leave, Venus held her arms open to her grandmother. "I want a hug," she said, pouting. "Don't you love me no more?"

Becky pulled the pretty girl to her and held her for a long moment. She felt a strange reluctance to let her go. "I will always love you," she said at last. Then Venus Montoya walked away from her for the last time.

About 4 a.m. the next morning, as Venus sat on the daybed of her apartment, two cowards in ski masks opened fire through the screen door.

The light was on: They had to have known that they were firing at a woman, not another gang member.

Venus was dead before the men in black could turn and run back into the night.

No one could say what woke them up just before dawn that morning. But suddenly everyone in the family was awake and wandering into Becky's living room.

Everyone was there but Venus and Gina's husband, who was still in prison. So they called Venus, but the line was busy.

Then came a knock at the door. A neighbor stood there, his face troubled. They hadn't been able to get through to Becky's house, he explained, so they'd called him with the bad news.

"Venus has been shot," he said.
The family piled into a car and sped to the apartment complex. They were not allowed to see Venus, though her body lay where she had fallen; there was no need to rush her to the hospital. The Jefferson County coroner would later describe the cause of death as "massive head injuries...from high energy bullets."

Lakewood homicide detective Scott Richardson had also been called to the scene. Nineteen shell casings from a 7.62-caliber rifle had been collected just outside the door, as had a clip for a 9mm, still loaded with bullets. Witnesses reported that they'd seen two Latino men in dark ski masks.

Someone mentioned that Sal Martinez and JC Love Biggs had left the apartment shortly before the murder. But the common belief was that Arthur Sanchez and Orlando Garcia had returned to exact revenge for a confrontation two nights before.

Sanchez and Garcia were soon picked up for questioning in connection with the murder of Venus Montoya, a fact noted by the daily newspapers the next day. But the two young men had alibis and were subsequently eliminated as suspects by the witnesses.

No one bothered to tell the newspapers, though. The police wanted the real killers to think they were off the hook.

Three days after Venus's murder, Detective Matt Murray of the Denver Police Gang Bureau told Richardson about a drive-by shooting he was working that might relate to the Montoya case. Shots had been fired from a gray four-door; in fact, nineteen rounds of 7.62-caliber were expended at the scene.

The gang unit had picked up "Jesse," a Westside CMG Blood who was known to associate with the Ornelas brothers, Alejandro and Gerard.

Jesse (not his real name) was talking to the Denver cops. He swore that he didn't have anything to do with the drive-by. But when Richardson interviewed him later, Jesse said he did know something about the Montoya killing. He identified the gray car as belonging to Samuel Merced Quintana Jr., a Westside CMG who was the son of a Denver County sheriff's deputy. Quintana was known to his compatriots as "Zig-Zag" and had a long criminal record that included numerous assaults, drug deals and weapons violations.

Alejandro "Speed" Ornelas, 21, and 22-year-old Zig-Zag Quintana had killed Venus, Jesse said; Gerard "G-Loc" Ornelas, 25, had helped them plan and carry out their mission. They'd been looking for Sal Martinez because they believed he was supplying the Denver police with information about drug dealing that implicated Bango Martinez and Alejandro Ornelas. And in their world, a snitch had to die.

Sal Martinez was marked for a hit, but he couldn't be found. Then that Thursday night, one of the Ornelases' uncles had seen him visiting the girls at the Sheridan apartment complex. According to Jesse, Alejandro Ornelas and Quintana had gone to check for themselves. When they spotted Sal Martinez and Biggs, they'd hurried home to get their weapons and change into black clothing.

When they returned to the apartment complex just before dawn, Jesse said, Alejandro Ornelas was carrying the assault rifle and Quintana the 9mm. When his partner started shooting, Quintana dropped the 9mm clip.

After the murder, the two young men hid their weapons in a field. Alejandro had been angry with Quintana for losing the clip--he feared that police would be able to find fingerprints on it. But the two gang members relaxed when they read that Sanchez and Garcia had been picked up by the cops. So sure were they that they were in the clear, they went to the field and retrieved their weapons.

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