The Denver District Attorney's Office has announced that it will not file charges in a fatal shooting at the Denver Coliseum earlier this year that killed a member of the Mongols, a prominent motorcycle club, stating that a successful prosecution would be impossible due to a claim of self-defense.
Mongols attorney Stephen Stubbs, who vocally accused the gunman, a member of an MC called the Iron Order, of committing murder, posted about the development on his Facebook page. The two words he used to describe the no-prosecution decision: "So wrong."
That phrase fits what went down at the Coliseum, as well.
On January 30, as we've reported, a brawl during the Colorado Motorcycle Expo resulted in gunplay that killed one man, 46-year-old Victor Mendoza, and injured several others.
The man suspected of shooting Mendoza was Derrick "Kong" Duran, who was both a patch-wearer for the Iron Order and a Colorado Department of Corrections employee — no surprise given our post last year citing evidence that government-designated "outlaw motorcycle gangs," shorthanded as OMGs, have been recruiting individuals with law enforcement and military backgrounds.
There wasn't a lot of doubt that Duran played a role in the shooting. In addition to the photo at the top of this post, showing him with a gun in his hand, Fox31 captured images of him in police custody....
...and wearing handcuffs:
But determining criminality was complicated by what Denver police spokesman Commander Ron Saunier characterized during a press conference on view below as a lack of cooperation among witnesses.
Saunier said that forty people were quizzed at the scene, including seventeen members of the Iron Order. He stressed that while some of those affiliated with the Iron Order had a law enforcement background, none of them other than Duran were employed with a police agency at the time.
The Mongols at the Coliseum were much less talkative. While Stubbs issued a statement in the days after the shooting (read it below in its entirety), Saunier maintained that Mongols on the scene declined to spill to investigators, including one who was injured.
That left the DA's office with a difficult task.
In the end, a DA's office release notes, "it was determined that Duran fired a shot first, injuring one person. Within a minute or so of that shot, Mendoza fired at Duran, grazing Duran’s torso and hitting another man behind Duran. Duran immediately fired a shot at Mendoza, killing him.
"The lengthy investigation was complicated in part by the large number of eyewitnesses and numerous 911 callers. In addition to the four people hit by gunfire, there were also two additional assault victims and a victim who had been stabbed during the incident."
And then there was the lack of cooperation, which apparently took its toll.
"Legal review concluded that there is no likelihood of a conviction due to the self-defense claim of Mr. Duran," the release maintains.
The lack of charges garnered a mixed reaction in the MC press.
The Aging Rebel blog posted an account of the shooting headlined "Kong Gets a Pass" that goes like this:
"The Aging Rebel believes that members of the Iron Order intentionally sought out and harassed Mongols working at a T-shirt stand in the basement of the National Western Stock Show complex where the Expo was being held. A fist fight ensued. Duran became engaged with a Mongol.... When [the Mongol] began to prevail, Duran shot him in the stomach. That was the first of what sources have stated were three shots fired.
"Duran, accompanied by other Iron Order members, ran to the top of the stairs and brandished the pistol with which he had just shot [the Mongol]. Almost simultaneously, Mendoza began to run up the stairs after Duran and an unidentified person fired a second shot. The bullet superficially grazed Duran and struck an Iron Order member.... [The member] told police the man who shot him was wearing “red.” That shooter has never been identified. The bullet that hit [the member] came to rest near his spine and cannot be removed –- so no ballistics testing has ever been done on it.
Another account, at Law Abiding Biker, took a pro-Iron Order stance.
"As usual, the Mongols MC did not cooperate with the investigation whatsoever," the piece allows. "The Iron Order on the other hand completely cooperated with the investigation. This seems to be commonplace in other incidents that have occurred between the Iron Order MC and outlaw motorcycle clubs or smaller puppet clubs of OMG clubs.
"Mongol members we’re not cooperating, but asking others to do so?" the item continues. "Clearly, none of it worked and when witnesses and/or victims don’t cooperate with criminal police investigations then you can’t expect that the case will end up going anywhere."
Here's video of yesterday's press conference, followed by a 7News report originally broadcast shortly after the shooting and the Stubbs statement from February.
Stephen Stubbs statement:
The Mongols Motorcycle Club is confident that the many independent witnesses will tell the truth and this matter will be handled appropriately.
Everyone has the right to defend themselves from physical confrontation. If someone is threatened or attacked, that person has the right to stand up for himself and use appropriate force to defend against that threat. However, any force used to defend yourself must be reasonable.
Pulling a gun after one of your buddies pushes someone is not reasonable and cannot be self-defense. Shooting an unarmed person that tries to disarm you, after you unlawfully brandish a gun, cannot be self-defense. Running to the top of the stairs, pointing a gun at the crowd below, and shooting an unarmed man that bravely tries to disarm you cannot be self-defense.
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On the flip side, attempting to disarm a person with your hands after they pull a gun on you is lawful self-defense. Using your fists to defend yourself and your brothers against a group whose member just shoved one of you in the chest is self-defense. Likewise, if you are an unarmed man that is charging some intoxicated lunatic at the top of the stairs that is waiving a gun at a crowd of people – that is definitely self-defense.
On January 30, 2016, a citizen died as he charged a man that was waiving a gun at a large group of people. That citizen’s name is Victor Mendoza. He was a dedicated father and husband. A true brother and friend with the talent to make kids smile. Victor Mendoza sacrificed his life attempting to save others. There is no greater love than this.