15th and Market Murder One of Block's 21 Violent Crimes in Past Five Years

The scene of the quintuple shooting at 15th and Market early on March 10.
The scene of the quintuple shooting at 15th and Market early on March 10. @CBSDenver
The quintuple shooting early March 10 on the 1500 block of Market Street, which killed a man later identified as 25-year-old Vayron Garcia and wounded four others, was the third major firearms incident along this stretch in the past six months, and the second to end with a loss of life.

But this level of crime is hardly a new phenomenon. There have been at least 21 violent episodes on the same block over the past five years, including a previous murder.

The Denver Police Department first tweeted about the most recent shooting at 4:46 a.m. on Sunday, March 10. The DPD initially cited four victims; One (Garcia) was deceased, and three others were in critical condition. Within a few hours, the DPD issued an update to note that the three survivors had stabilized. Following a press conference that began just after 11 a.m. on March 10, the department confirmed that a fifth victim had also been shot; those injuries were not life-threatening. At this writing, the DPD has released no additional information.

Because of the investigation, Market remained closed between 15th and 16th streets until nearly 2 p.m. on Sunday, and yellow crime tape roped off traffic coming past Larimer Square, one of the city's busiest weekend draws.

At the press conference at police headquarters, Lieutenant Matt Clark, a commander with the DPD's homicide unit, revealed that the department had received the shooting report at 4:06 a.m.; officers were already in the area and immediately responded to the scene. One individual was pronounced dead at the site, while two others were transported to Denver Health. Two more were transported to medical facilities by other means.

Clark said that investigators were still trying to determine the root cause of the incident. But preliminary information suggested that there had been "a conflict between two individuals." It was possible that more than one person had discharged a weapon, but that had yet to be confirmed.

The suspects were only described as adult males, and Clark couldn't say for certain whether they had fled on foot or in a vehicle. Garcia was identified by the Denver coroner's office on March 12.

At the press conference, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen offered some remarks before taking questions, as seen in the video accessible below:

Pazen deflected questions about the specifics of the shooting, noting that the investigation was continuing. He stressed that the individuals at the heart of the matter "were using weapons as part of their resolution for this. That's dangerous anywhere in our community" — a remark that may have been intended as a preemptive strike against critics who suggest that shootings in LoDo get more attention than those that take place in lower-profile places.

"We are focusing on...getting guns off the streets," he continued. "This year alone, there are nearly 300 guns that the Denver Police Department has recovered.... We believe [in] getting guns out of the hands of individuals who feel this is the way they want to handle disputes."

Several individuals have used that approach at 15th and Market streets over the past six months. On September 16, 2018, three people were shot on the block; they all lived. Just twelve days later, on September 28, security guard Lucardio Kroener was killed; Harrison Hall was later charged with his murder.

As Westword has documented in previous stories, the corner of 15th and Market has long been a hotspot for crime.

• "Walk This Way," a February 2003 item about safety on the 16th Street Mall, refers to "the lamppost at 15th and Market streets, where until recently a makeshift shrine marked the spot where 26-year-old Michael Garth was shot to death on December 31."

A June 2008 piece published in advance of the Democratic National Convention notes that "in December 2007, Anthony Chavez was arrested in Mexico for shootings the previous month in front of Hush, a nightclub at 15th and Market."

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The March 10 closure of Market Street between 15th and 16th lasted until the afternoon.
Buckley airman Shaquille Hargrove was fatally shot after a street fight broke out near 15th and Market in July 2013.

• In July 2015, a pedicab driver was arrested for sexually assaulting a drunk passenger near 15th and Market the previous year.

Then there was the February 2017 shooting that killed 33-year-old Clarence Thomas, 33. And in July 2018, Thomas Busch was taken into custody near 15th and Market following a bizarre tractor chase through downtown.

More information about offenses on the 1500 block of Market is documented on the Denver Crime Map, an invaluable tool on the city's website that documents crime data for the past five years. In addition to the crimes cited above, it registers sixteen violent incidents between March 9, 2014, and March 9, 2019.

The breakdown: five aggravated assaults and one robbery between March 2014 and March 2015; four aggravated assaults and one robbery between March 2016 and March 2017; three aggravated assaults from March 2017 and March 2018; and two robberies between March 2018 and March 2019.

Is this block the most violent in Denver? That's certainly the impression of many who frequent the area, which is renowned as a late-night favorite.

This post has been updated to include the name of homicide victim Vayron Garcia.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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