A member of a West Denver tagging crew will have lots of time to work in his blackbook after being sentenced to life in prison yesterday.
A Jefferson County judge slapped twenty-year-old David Miera Jr. with a life sentence plus 32 years for being the triggerman in a 2006 shooting that killed one man and caused serious injury to another.
Miera belonged to EMS, a loose collection of as many as 200 taggers known for scrawling their insignia on property across Denver's west side. Such crews are known within the graffiti community and among law enforcement as "tagbangers" for their low spray can skills -- no "pieces," just ugly tags -- and propensity for gang-like violence. For the past several years, EMS has been in heavy competition with rival crew WKS for turf and respect. In 2006, this escalated from the walls (the traditional way crews do battle) into stabbings and shootings.
Westword chronicled some of the drama in the June 2007 story, "Tagging up Denver." Here's an excerpt from that article:
At last summer's Taste of Colorado festival, a rumble between more than two dozen WKS and EMS members resulted in one teen getting stabbed. And on December 17, Jonathan "Roman" MacLagan was shot to death at a Littleton house party after breaking up a fight between rival crews. The twenty-year-old Kennedy High School grad "was a peacemaker at heart," says one of MacLagan's friends. "He wasn't down for fighting. He was a good homie like that."
Miera, then nineteen, was arrested five days later by Jefferson County deputies for the shooting death of MacLagan. According to an arrest affidavit, he told police that he and other EMS members became angry after not being admitted to a party. As they left, Miera says he fired a shotgun from the back window of an SUV intending to hit Moke, a member of WKS. Instead, the blast hit MacLagan in the head, killing him. "It wasn't meant for Roman, it was meant for Moke," Miera told investigators. He is currently awaiting a plea hearing on charges of first-degree murder.
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In February, a jury found Miera guilty on several charges, including the first-degree murder of MacLagan and the first-degree assault of Carlos Sanchez, who was also shot but survived. The judge's sentence makes certain that the only walls Miera will be tagging up anytime soon will be prison walls.
Meanwhile, the City of Denver is banking on public art as a way to cut down on graffiti and related violence. Will it work for crews like EMS? Weigh in on our blog "City announces program to fight graffiti by paying for murals."