The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner has identified the two victims of a double homicide in Montbello on February 3 as Byron Ware, seventeen, and Abisai Ponce Gutierrez, eighteen. As their loved ones mourn their shocking deaths, which took place on the same block where the burning body of a murder victim was dumped just eighteen months ago, members of the community are scheduled to take part in a march today, February 6, that will call to an end of violence in the fast-growing neighborhood.
As we've reported, Montbello, which was recently named Denver's fastest-growing suburb, has been fighting a reputation as a magnet of crime and recently scored a success on that count when a Sav-a-Lot grocery store opened in a neighborhood that had previously been a food desert.
But this past weekend brought a far less happy development on the 13100 block of East Elgin Place, near the intersection of East Andrews Drive, which looks like a typical city residential area but has seen more than its share of tragedy lately.
On July 24, 2016, the body of Walter Bracken Jr., 39, was found burning on the side of the street. The following September, the Denver District Attorney's Office issued formal charges against 22-year-old Delshon Giles. Investigators believe that Giles killed Bracken after an altercation at the 5100 block of Victor Way, then ditched his remains on Elgin Place and set them ablaze.
Giles is also believed to have lit a fire at the Victor Way residence, presumably in a bid to hide evidence. He stands accused of first-degree murder and both first- and second-degree arson.
Around a year and a half later, at 8:05 p.m. on the 3rd, the Denver Police Department tweeted that officers had been dispatched to the 13100 block of East Elgin Place "in regard to a reported shooting. One male has been transported for treatment."
Less than an hour later, the DPD tweeted again, and this time the message confirmed a significantly higher body count.
"In relation to the case on East Elgin Place," the item reads, "this matter is now being investigated as a double homicide. In addition, there is a 3rd victim being treated for critical injuries."
More details were revealed at a February 4 press conference at which the DPD noted that one of Saturday's victims was transported to a hospital. The other two walked into a separate facility, where one later died.
Additionally, officers made contact with Octavio Morales, eighteen, at one of the medical centers and consider him to be a person of interest in the shooting. Thus far, there's neither word of an arrest or charges involving Morales nor an update about the third victim's condition.
Then, yesterday, Denver's medical examiner identified Ware and Gutierrez. Releases about each ended with the same two distressingly blunt sentences: "An autopsy was completed and the cause of death was from a gunshot wound. The manner of death is homicide."
Grief over the teens' passing spilled out on social media. One relative of Ware's wrote on Facebook, "My family can't get a fucking break, man," and later shared a graphic that reads: "Tell someone you love them today. Because tomorrow is not promised. To my family and my friends, I love you!"
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About Gutierrez, one friend shared his thoughts on Facebook: "RIP, Abisai. Wish I could've done something to prevent you from being there! You will be missed by many!"
Meanwhile, online neighborhood activists have been distributing the following message: "R.I.S.E Network is Organizing a March Against Violence in response to the recent shootings in Far Northeast Denver. JOIN US and make a STAND AGAINST VIOLENCE. We are meeting at Silverman Park tomorrow February 6th @3 p.m. We will start the march to New Life Christian Center at around 4 p.m., where a Safe Haven will be set up until 8 p.m."
The note concludes: "This is a time to support the community, families experiencing pain and loss, and to make known that Montbello will not tolerate violence."
Silverman Park is located at 12875 Andrews Drive. New Life Christian Center's address is 12505 Elmendorf Place.