By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
"Tell my mom this isn't my fault," she said.
She lost consciousness on the way to Denver Health. She spent much of the next week in a coma in the intensive care unit. After several more days she was strong enough to sit up and talk to her mother, who told her that the reason she couldn't feel her legs was because she was paralyzed. The bullet had entered on her right flank and injured her spinal cord. And that was that. But the question of fault remained.
Whose fault is it? No one's put even a face to the shooter, who peeled out of the parking lot and down Blake Street. Almost three years later, the shooting of Tiffaine Casados remains unsolved. But in the course of investigating her situation, her family and attorneys discovered what they believe to be more than one accomplice to the crime.
The shooting wasn't the first eruption of violence in the parking lot in the 1800 block of Market, and it wouldn't be the last. In the view of several veteran police officers, for years the lot was the single-worst place to be when the clubs let out on a weekend or a drinking holiday, the most dangerous block in all of LoDo — a scene of beer-sodden fights, random gunplay and gang assaults both calculated and spontaneous. One Denver lieutenant would later testify that he'd never walk into that lot late at night if he wasn't armed and in uniform.
Attorneys for Casados filed a lawsuit against the lot operator, Central Parking System, as well as the owner of the property and the former operators of Club Bash, which closed last year. They contend that Central knew the lot was dangerous but didn't want to go to the trouble or expense of providing cameras or late-night security personnel; that instead, the company allowed its attendants to leave shortly after midnight because they didn't feel safe there; and that the unattended lot became a hangout for thugs who flocked to LoDo after midnight in order to mingle with the Let Out crowd — or prey on them. The suit also claims that Bash management contributed to the problem by attracting a "criminal element," as well as funneling its Let Out crowd into the lot despite the known problems there.
Lawyers for Central Parking and Bash have responded that the shooting of Casados, while regrettable, was hardly something their clients could have foreseen or prevented. Private companies, they argue, aren't in a position to control a phenomenon as inherently risky as Let Out in LoDo, a problem that Denver police have struggled with for years.
"We don't hold ourselves out to be a security company," says Johann "Chip" Manning Jr., senior vice president and general counsel for Central Parking. "We're a parking lot management company. There are police obligations that come into play, ownership obligations, and there are parts of town that everybody knows have issues."
Manning declines to comment on the lawsuit's specific allegations but insists his company meets a "reasonable standard of care" in its lot operations. While not conceding any fault, Central Parking and the property owner, Blecker LLC, recently reached a confidential settlement with Casados. The case against Bash is scheduled to go to trial in Denver District Court next month.
Through her attorneys, Casados declined to be interviewed, citing the ongoing litigation. An attorney for Bash didn't respond to a request for comment. But depositions and internal police documents produced in the case indicate that several factors, from club marketing decisions to enforcement glitches to corporate indifference, contributed to the Let Out madness that plagued LoDo for years.
Whose fault is it? The answer, the lawsuit suggests, has to do with how LoDo became a completely different place at two in the morning than it is at two in the afternoon or nine at night. At the witching hour, even a nondescript patch of asphalt can become the vortex of trouble, a no-man's-land — a few steps from the party, a few too many steps from a safe ride home.
Deborah Dilley's education in the agonies of Let Out began in the fall of 2003, shortly after she was named commander of District Six — the police substation responsible for patrolling central Denver, from City Park West to the Platte River. Accompanied by Lieutenant Catherine Davis, the officer in charge of late-night details in lower downtown, she made the first of what would become many excursions to the Let Out scene.
The trip was an eye-opener. Statistically, the overall crime rate in LoDo wasn't anything special. But at Let Out on weekends, the district couldn't keep up with the calls for service from the area. Thousands of shitfaced young people hitting the streets at once created a recipe for all kinds of mayhem, from traffic problems to vandalism, fights, stabbings and worse.
"I saw a great number of people in the street, in parking lots, in the general area," Dilley would later recall in a deposition about that first field trip. "Many of them were intoxicated...people are drunk, they're screaming, they're yelling, they're partying, those kinds of things."