How Meth, Murder and Gangbanging Earned Orlando Sanchez 100 Years-Plus

John Orlando Sanchez, who goes by his middle name, in a Facebook photo.
John Orlando Sanchez, who goes by his middle name, in a Facebook photo.
Facebook

Update: John Orlando Sanchez, who goes by his middle name, has been sentenced to life in prison plus an incredible 108 years for the 2015 murder of 41-year-old Eric Schnaare. And a newly unsealed arrest affidavit shared below paints a brutal portrait of the slaying.

Afterward, Andrew Gutierrez, who was sentenced to life plus sixteen years over the incident, is quoted as saying, "Wasn't that awesome? That almost made me cum in my pants."

The length of Sanchez's sentence in the case, about which we reported at the time of the initial arrests (our previous coverage has been incorporated in this post), has everything to do with his activities as a leader of Gallant Knights Insane, an area gang that saw the indictment of six members for attempted murder and more two months prior to the the killing of Schnaare against the backdrop of bad blood and meth.

Westword has reported about Gallant Knights Insane on numerous occasions over the years. The first reference pops up in "Girl Crazy," a 2006 feature. Here's a passage about the group's history:

The acronym has been interpreted several ways by three generations of gang members: Gangsters Killing Incas is the original definition, used to disrespect the Inca Boyz, an inactive Denver set. Some say GKI now stands for Gallant Knights Insane, others say it's Gangsters Killers Incorporated. The set grabbed headlines later that month when a federal indictment charged GKI members with distributing crack.

Another mention can be found in a 2008 Westword story concerning a lawsuit filed by the family of Jason Gomez, who was killed in an altercation with police: The officer in question claimed Gomez had shouted "GKI! GKI!"

The gang was cited again in a 2014 Westword post about Michael Clapper, who was arrested in association with kidnapping and sex-assault accusations. Richard Pacheco, also busted in the case, is said to have greeted him by asking if he was GKI, since he was wearing purple, a color associated with the gang.

Timmy Valanzuela, one of six alleged GKI members arrested in March 2015.
Timmy Valanzuela, one of six alleged GKI members arrested in March 2015.
First Judicial District DA's office

And in March 2015, we told you about the arrest of three brothers — Jimmy, Michael and Timmy Valanzuela — characterized as founding members of GKI, as well as three alleged associates under an indictment that claimed the suspects' goal "was to obtain cash through sale of drugs and punish or eliminate its rivals or those who acted against its code of conduct."

The sextet's daily activities were said to include "the sale and use of narcotics, recruitment and admission of new members, and targeting rival gang members for assault and murder."

According to the First Judicial District DA's office, Sanchez was also a high-ranking GKI leader, and in a May 2, 2015, note on a now-deleted Facebook page, he offered what appears to have been some unvarnished insight into his life.

He wrote: "Been up all.night getting high. Putting in dirt. I've been out a week and back to hitting the streets and smoking Crystal. Abandoned my wife & family. But fuck it, I'm a G."

Less than two weeks later, at about 3:25 p.m. on May 15, the Lakewood Police Department received an anonymous call about a deceased person inside an apartment at 1425 Harlan Street.

Eric Schnaare
Eric Schnaare
File photo

Upon their arrival, officers could see a person lying on the floor inside the unit, and after forcing entry, they discovered Schnaare's body. His obituary described him as "a boilermaker with Union Local 663 and a former member of Olmsted Volunteer Fire Department." He was laid to rest in his native Illinois.

Five days later, Sanchez and a companion, Amelia Irizarry, were arrested at an address on the 4500 block of Stuart Street in Denver on what the LPD described as "unrelated warrants, as well as new charges associated with the homicide investigation."

Then, late on the evening of May 26, detectives zeroed in on another suspect: Gutierrez, who the First Judicial District DA's office says was also in GKI.

At the time, Gutierrez was staying at the Denver West Inn, on the 7100 block of West Colfax. A SWAT team was positioned around the hotel and guests were evacuated as negotiators tried to talk Gutierrez out of his room.

He took his time; Lakewood Police said he was finally taken into custody at around 7:30 a.m. the following morning.

Andrew Gutierrez.
Andrew Gutierrez.
Facebook

The arrest affidavit reveals a large number of additional details.

The Harlan Street apartment where the murder happened was known to police, since it was being "investigated by the Metro Gang Task Force for drugs, weapons and prostitution," the document notes. Among its residents was Irizarry, who was romantically involved with Sanchez, known by the nickname "O." Gutierrez, for his part, was called "Ox," while Eric Schnaare was tagged "Epic." The report also states that alcohol and meth were being consumed by occupants of the apartment prior to the murder.

Schnaare's car was stolen after his killing, and the location of the vehicle, as well as conversations with additional sources, including a confidential informant, led to the busts of Sanchez, Gutierrez and Irizarry, with the latter ultimately deciding to talk to authorities. First Judicial District DA's office communication director Pam Russell says that "in general, she became a better witness than a defendant," even though some of her account in the affidavit was ultimately discounted as an attempt to deflect Sanchez's guilt onto Gutierrez.

Police don't believe Schnaare was a GKI member. Testimony at trial suggested that Sanchez and Gutierrez had beef with him over "the possession of weapons," and the affidavit points out that he was suspected of being a snitch. But Irizarry told investigators she had no idea Gutierrez even knew Schnaare, which is why she was surprised when the two of them walked into the apartment together. She recalled that "Epic appeared relaxed and happy." But when she walked over to say hello to him, Gutierrez "pulled a gun and shot Epic two times without saying a word." Then, as Schnaare started to fall to the floor in the apartment's kitchen, Gutierrez produced a second pistol and shot him four more times.

Afterward, a number of those present in the apartment fled to a room at the Big Bunny motel on West Colfax, where Gutierrez allegedly offered the comment about nearly orgasming after pulling the trigger.

Amelia Irizarry
Amelia Irizarry
Facebook

A very different account was offered by another witness at the scene. She said that after Schnaare entered the apartment, Sanchez shot him four times. Then Gutierrez pumped an extra bullet into his body for good measure.

This account jibed with information from the actual owner of the apartment, who said he'd seen both Sanchez and Gutierrez loading guns with ammunition shortly before Schnaare's murder. The report adds: "These rounds were referred to as 'cop killer' rounds that would get the 'job' done."

Irizarry was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory to murder, and after agreeing to testify in the December 2016 trial of Sanchez and Gutierrez, she was ordered to spend thirty months in prison.

Sanchez and Gutierrez got a lot more time than that. The two men have now been sentenced for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, with Gutierrez earning life plus sixteen years and Sanchez receiving a jolt of life plus 108 years.

Russell says the disparity in the punishment has to do with Sanchez's past record. He was found to be a habitual criminal — a designation that acts as a sentencing multiplier.

That's a high price for a Gallant Knights Insane life. Here's the recently unsealed affidavit.


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