Rollin Oliver pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Denver police officer Celena Hollis last June. The 22-year-old faces a sentence of sixteen to 26 years in prison according to the plea agreement, which is on view below. The original charge of first-degree murder/extreme indifference was dismissed as part of the deal.
Prosecutor Tim Twining said the prosecution discussed the deal with Hollis's family and made its decision "with the family's understanding."
Hollis was killed on June 24 at City Park while working off-duty to provide security for City Park Jazz. At a preliminary hearing in September, Denver police detective Jamie Castro testified that Oliver admitted to firing at least two shots in the park. A bullet found at the scene bearing Hollis's DNA matched Oliver's gun.
Oliver told police that he and a friend were confronted at City Park by a group of people he assumed to be Crips gang members, and they beat his friend badly. Oliver said he ran away, Castro testified, and as he did, he said he fired the gun over his shoulder.
But his defense attorney argued that Oliver didn't mean to kill anyone that day. The reason he had a gun, public defender William Drexler said, was for protection; Oliver had been shot at a party a few years earlier, causing "severe damage to his pelvis."
Oliver is listed as a member of the Bloods gang on his booking form, though his defense attorney sought to poke holes in that theory at the preliminary hearing. Oliver has no criminal history and no gang tattoos, Drexler said.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense discussed the reasons for the plea deal in court today. The hearing was pro forma, with Oliver answering a series of standard questions from the judge about his plea with either "yes" or "no." When asked, "Do you need any more time to think about what you're doing today?," Oliver paused. "No," he said.
The judge scheduled Oliver's sentencing hearing for June 21 at 1:30 p.m. Prosecutor Twining said he anticipates that several people will want to speak at the hearing.
Afterward, Twining made a very brief statement to the assembled media. He called the decision to cut a plea deal "very difficult" and said that prosecutors discussed it with Hollis's family. The family did not make a public statement.
Denver Police Chief Robert White and District Attorney Mitch Morrissey released the following statement, in which White says the family concurred with the plea deal:
On June 24, 2012, Oliver fired multiple rounds from a gun into a crowded area of Denver's City Park just as a jazz concert was ending. Denver Police Officer Celena Hollis died at the scene when one of the shots struck her in the head.
"The death of Officer Hollis is a great loss to the community, and the circumstances are tragic for everyone," Denver DA Mitch Morrissey said following the guilty plea. "Our thoughts are with her family and all those affected by her death."
The Denver Police Department is also acknowledging the guilty plea today. "The death of Officer Celina Hollis has been, and continues to be, a tragic and difficult reality for the men and women of the Denver Police Department," said Denver Police Chief Robert White. "Along with the community, DPD has supported the Hollis family since the fatal shooting occurred on June 24. Today, we continue to support them and their decision to concur with the District Attorney's recommendation of guilty plea to second-degree murder charges. It is my sincere hope that this decision will bring the Hollis family comfort as they remember an exceptional woman and officer who was devoted to her family and friends, her community, and to the citizens of Denver."
Read the plea agreement below.
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More from our Mile High Murder archives: "Thomas Guolee, white-supremacist-of-interest in Tom Clements killing, busted in Springs."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org