Law Enforcement

Gunfire Erupted at Large Halloween Party at Airbnb in Capitol Hill

No one was seriously injured at an Airbnb party in early November.
No one was seriously injured at an Airbnb party in early November. Getty Images / Sami Sert
The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses and the City Attorney's Office are building a case to revoke the license of a Capitol Hill Airbnb that hosted a raucous party on November 1.

The party didn't result in serious injuries or death, but the department, which oversees short-term rental properties, says the case is strong enough to revoke owner Shannon Baker's license. The city will host a hearing in January to determine the fate of the license.

Not long after 11 p.m. on November 1, Denver police were dispatched to Baker's property, on the 600 block of East 12th Avenue, after receiving reports of a "disturbance and shots fired," according to a Department of Excise and Licenses report detailing the grievances against Baker. Baker and her husband, Jason, offer two rentals, both at the same location, on Airbnb: a one-bedroom apartment that sleeps up to six guests, and a "historic home" that sleeps up to twelve guests.

Reports to police indicated that there had been gunshots, yelling, people running and the sounds of glass breaking. One 911 call reported that there were "dozens" of people in the apartment. Neither Shannon nor Jason were in attendance (and they did not respond to a request for comment for this story).

When police arrived, they estimated that there were approximately sixty people on the premises. Officers then created "a perimeter around the property with spotlights pointed at the windows and doors" and told people to vacate the premises. Only two obliged.

Police then contacted Jason Baker, who sent them security-camera footage of a fight on the front porch and a male firing a handgun toward the street.

Emergency dispatchers received several more calls about alleged assaults at the apartment, and police reportedly saw a young man exiting the front door with "minor trauma to his face." He refused to give emergency responders his information.

Denver Police Department spokesperson Jay Casillas wrote in an email to Westword that police are "working on identifying the suspect that discharged a firearm." No arrests have been made.

Short-term rental properties across the U.S. have been the scene of dangerous and even deadly parties. Five people were shot and killed at a massive party at an Airbnb in a suburb of Berkeley, California, on October 31. In the early hours of December 18, a man was shot multiple times at a party of fifteen people at an Airbnb in Philadelphia.

The city's case against the Bakers revolves around a regulation Denver City Council passed in April that prohibits short-term rental properties from "operating in a manner that adversely affects the public health, safety, or welfare of the immediate neighborhood in which the property is located." The city also requires that short-term rental operators use their rental as their primary residence; Jason reportedly has a home in Castle Rock. And Shannon applied for her short-term rental license using a Colorado's driver's license, which is required, but allegedly applied for a California driver's license a month later.

Jason Wolfe, the attorney representing the Bakers, says he hopes the hearing won't be necessary. "We’re trying to resolve things with the city, and hopefully we won’t have to go to the hearing," Wolfe explains. Airbnb declined to comment to Westword about the case.

Earlier this year, the Department of Excise and Licenses began mailing short-term rental operators affidavits to sign affirming that their property is also their primary residence; hundreds of operators have either withdrawn their applications or forfeited their licenses since. Over the summer, four short-term rental operators were charged with falsifying their affidavits.

In early December, Airbnb announced that it was banning open-invite parties, like ones advertised on social media, and large parties in apartment buildings and condos.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.