Photos: Ten notable Denver police shootings
News that no charges would be made against the three police officers who nearly beat Alex Landau to death in 2009 has brought renewed scrutiny to the Denver Police Department, especially when it comes to the question of race. Jared Jacang Maher explored these questions in his 2008 feature "Target Practice: Racism and Police Shootings Are No Game," for which he assembled a slide show spotlighting ten notable Denver police shootings. See the complete list below, featuring case-related photos and text by Maher.Roberto Gonzalez, May 6, 2006
In 2006, during the unofficial Cinco De Mayo procession on Federal Boulevard, officers spotted a stolen Jeep Cherokee. Several police cars began to pursue the vehicle, which had turned eastbound on West 10th Avenue at a high rate of speed toward the Sun Valley Neighborhood. The Jeep stopped at Clay Way and was quickly surrounded by law enforcement vehicles. One of the Jeep's three occupants, later identified as 34-year-old Roberto Gonzales, jumped out and walked toward an acquaintance on the street. Gonzales attempted to get the acquaintance to take possession of a handgun he was holding in his left hand. But the acquaintance refused as police fanned out around Gonzales with their weapons drawn. Officers repeatedly ordered Gonzales to drop the weapon. Gonzales instead moved toward Sergeant Rick Stern and was shot numerous times by three officers, and died. The gun was later determined to be a very real-looking replica, pictured here. Paul Childs, July 4, 2003
Three Denver officers arrived to a house at 5550 East Thrill Place in response to a 911 call from a teenage girl who said that her brother was threatening their mother with a kitchen knife. Paul Childs, 15, was developmentally disabled and had assaulted his mother on previous occasions. The officers approached the residence as the sister and mother exited from the front door and were told that Childs was still inside with the knife. As Officer James Turney stepped onto the porch and opened the screen door, he observed Childs walking toward them through the living room with the thirteen-inch knife, pictured here. After the youth ignored orders to drop the weapon, Turney shot Childs four times, killing him. Activists in the African American community said the officer could have used a less deadly option, such as a Taser. But the District Attorney's office declined to press charges against Turney -- although he was suspended for 10 months without pay by Manager of Safety Al LaCabe for moving into the situation too quickly. In 2004, the city reached a $1.3 million settlement with the Childs family. Continue for more about ten notable Denver police shootings.
Shaun Gilman, April 18, 2003
At 2:35 am, Police were called to a Capitol Hill 7-11 by a store clerk reporting that a man in a black jeep was aiming a red laser pointer at him. When an officer located the vehicle down the street, he ordered the driver, a white male, to step out. Instead the man put the car in reverse, rammed a patrol car, and lead officers on a high-speed chase toward downtown. The pursuit ended at Twelfth Avenue and Lincoln Street, when the Jeep crashed on top of a fire hydrant. As SWAT officers set up a perimeter, the man, later identified as 21-year-old Shaun Gilman, barricaded himself inside his vehicle and displayed a crossbow and a what officers believed to be the barrel of a rifle. When Gilman directed the metal cylinder toward the street, eight officers fired upon his vehicle. The cylinder was later determined to be a metal pipe. Luis Acuna-Rodelas, October 18, 2003
Early in the morning, officers arrived at 4339 West Center Avenue with reports of a domestic assault in progress. They contacted family members who told them that 27-year-old Luis Acuna-Rodelas was drunk and being physically abusive. Told that Acuna-Rodelas was in the backyard, Officer Michael Ahrens approached around the side of the house and shone his flashlight over the fence. Ahrens says he heard a loud noise of a fence being opened and saw Acuna-Rodelas moving toward him while holding a large object. The officer drew his weapon and told the Acuna-Rodelas to drop what he had by then determined to be a pick-axe, pictured here. Instead, the man lifted the axe over his head and continued toward him. Acuna-Rodelas died after being shot six times by Ahrens. Continue for more about ten notable Denver police shootings.
Ismael Mena, September 29, 1999
Denver SWAT team officers burst through the front door of 3738 High Street on a tip from a criminal informant who said he'd bought drugs from the residence. Unfortunately, they had the wrong house and the no-knock warrant turned out to be tragically flawed. Inside, they encountered 45-year-old Ismael Mena, a Mexican Immigrant who was on a break from his job at a nearby bottling plant. Mena, who police said had a gun, was shot eight times by officers and died. In 2000, the city paid $400,000 to his family in Mexico to settle the deadly mistake. Jason T. Gomez, December 19, 2007
At 2:10 am Officer Timothy Cambell spotted a 1997 Saturn driving erratically down Irving street in West Denver. But when he did a U-turn to get the license plate, the car had turned a corner and parked in the driveway of a residence. As the officer drove up, a Hispanic man jumped out and ran. Campbell followed him on foot, through backyards and over fences. The man -- later identified as 33-year-old Jason Gomez -- reached the 3200 block of West Ada Place, where he slipped three times on patches of ice. By now, Campbell had closed the gap. He later told investigators that Gomez was "bobbing kind of like a fighting cock," and shouting "GKI! GKI!" in reference to a local westside gang. Campbell had his gun drawn when he said Gomez pulled his arm from behind his back and he saw a flash of metal. Campbell shot six times and Gomez later died. It was later determined that the flash of silver was from the metal cap of a BIC cigarette lighter. Continue for more about ten notable Denver police shootings.
Gustavo Cruz, March 29, 2007
Officers Damon Bowser and Chuck Porter were on patrol in Globeville neighborhood when they spotted a speeding vehicle. After attempting to elude officers, the car crashed through a chain-link fence and onto the front porch of the corner home at 4695 Lincoln Street. A man, later identified as 21-year-old Gustavo Cruz jumped out of the vehicle and ran down an alley. Bowser was in close pursuit, when Cruz turned and faced the officer. The fleeing man pointed a gun at Bowser, who withdrew his weapon and fired while still running, and fired again while seeking cover. Cruz fell, but got up an ran. He showed up more than two hours later at Fitzsimmons Medical Center with a single gunshot wound in his buttocks. Cruz said that his weapon was really a BB gun. Frankie Brabo, January 2, 2006
Denver Police vice-narcotics detectives were conducting a buy-bust sting in on Capitol Hill. Detectives Gregory "Todd" Gentry and Randy Parsons were in plain clothes and driving an unmarked car when they turned into the1400 block alley between Pennsylvania and Pearl Streets to cover possible escape routes for suspects. At the mouth of the alley were two men, later identified as 36-year-old Frankie Brabo and 27-year-old Rudy Gallegos. Brabo felt that the detective's car almost hit him and that he slapped the back backside of the vehicle and cursed as it passed. When the detectives stopped and exited the car, they say Gallegos moved towards them while pulling out what they believed to be a small handgun. Both Parsons and Gentry fired several rounds, hitting Brabo once in the leg. One of the gunshots hit a passing RTD bus, spraying glass on a passenger. Apprehended immediately, Gallegos later admitted that he had pulled out a cell phone in hopes of simulating a gun. Brabo, while injured, fled the scene but returned and hour later and was taken to the hospital. He was not charged, though his friend was arrested for felony menacing. Neither man was involved with drug dealing. Continue for more about ten notable Denver police shootings.
Frank Lobato, July 11, 2004
Officer Ranjan Ford and two other cops used a ladder to climb through the second-story window of an apartment in the South Lincoln Park housing projects. They were searching for Vincent Martinez, who was suspected of assaulting his girlfriend after an argument in a bar, then refusing to let her leave her home for seventeen hours. When they crawled into the dark house, they didn't know that Martinez had already fled out the back and that his uncle, 63-year-old Frank Lobato, way laying naked in a bed, unable to walk without crutches. Ford said that he mistook a soda can in Lobato's hand for a gun -- and shot him once in the chest, killing him. Although tests didn't find Lobato's fingerprints or saliva on the can, both the District Attorney's Office and a grand jury declined to press charges against Ford. Denver Manager of Safety Al LaCabe concluded that Ford was not justified in the shooting and suspended him for ninety days (later reduced to fifty). In January, after a lengthy legal battle, the city settled with the Lobato family for $900,000. Sergio Alejandro Medrado, September 22, 2003
Off-duty Westminster Police Officer Karl Scherck had just arrived at his mother's home in Washington Park West to mow the lawn when he noticed a man standing in her backyard. The man walked away, but a short time later Scherck saw him peering into the windows of a house down the street. Scherck retrieved his cell phone and his pistol - called 911 -- and proceeded to the yard where he had seen the man. Scherck was not in uniform, but was wearing a "gag" police T-shirt that had a seal-type emblem on the chest emblazoned with "Fraternal Order of Rapid Fire," and, "Our bravery and courage are held in regard cause our guns don't shoot blanks and our nightsticks are hard." Scherck heard the man - later identified as 47-year-old Sergio Alejandro Medrado -- moving around objects inside the detatched garage of 1434 South Lincoln Street. When Scerck opened the door, Medrado was standing less than ten feet away. Scerck said that after he identified himself as police, Medrado began to move toward him with a one-by-four inch board in his right hand while reaching into his jacket pocket with his left. Scerck shot Medrado three times. Medrado died not long after arrival at Denver Health Medical Center. Both the City of Denver and the City of Westminster determined Scerck's actions to be justified. Pictured here is the house outside of which Medrado was shot.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Alex Landau on the decision not to charge cops who nearly beat him to death."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.