Inside Colorado's 24 Mass Shootings During the Last Six Years

Emergency responders outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch in May.
Emergency responders outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch in May. 9News via YouTube
The weekend shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, with a combined death toll that has now reached 31, continue to dominate conversations nationally and locally. But focusing on these two incidents, as horrific as they are, tends to distract from the frequency with which shootings that injure or kill multiple people take place across the United States, including in Colorado, and the way so many of them either earn little attention or are quickly forgotten because of how commonplace they've become.

A case in point: According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 24 mass shootings in Colorado, nine of them in Denver, during the past six years, and the majority are likely to be unfamiliar to the average person. All of them are listed below, complete with links to additional archive information and previous Westword coverage.

GVA identifies a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people are injured or killed, and like another major data compiler, Mass Shooting Tracker, it places no restrictions on such episodes. But other organizations define the term differently, as noted in a 2018 RAND Corporation report. For instance, Mother Jones counts only so-called "indiscriminate" incidents with three or more fatalities other than the shooter and excludes crimes of armed robbery, gang violence or domestic violence. Likewise, Stanford University's Mass Shootings in America database skips shootings related to gangs, drugs or organized crime, but requires just three fatal or nonfatal injuries aside from the shooter.

But those who get hung up on these distinctions are at risk of missing the larger point about the frequency of multi-victim shootings — one underscored by the two dozen items below, which run from June 2013 to June 2019

Most people will be familiar with at least three of the shootings: the November 2015 assault on a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, the lethal SWAT team raid in Douglas County on New Year's Eve 2017, and the shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch this past May. But that leaves 21 other incidents — one in which a popular rapper was killed, another that saw four people gunned down outside a high-brow bash at a trendy dance club, and a broad-daylight frenzy in the Ballpark neighborhood that took the life of an innocent bystander. And that's not to mention a triple homicide in a tiny Colorado town that got virtually no media coverage in Denver.

It doesn't take a math genius to realize that 24 mass shootings in Colorado over six years breaks down to four per annum, or one every three months.
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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