Before he turned twenty, Darius Ratcliff took part in a crime that left one man dead and several injured. On December 22, after a four-day trial, he was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Ratcliff was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, and to 48 years in prison for each of the attempted-murder convictions. He was also sentenced to 32 years for his June conviction of first-degree assault-peace officer in connection with an officer-involved shooting.
All of the sentences are to run consecutively, or life plus 128 years. In short, Ratcliff has committed a lifetime's worth of crimes before he could legally order a beer or possess an ounce of marijuana in Colorado.
As Michael Roberts has reported, the incident that put Ratcliff on law enforcement's radar took place around 11 p.m. on Friday, November 6, 2015, at a residence in the Baker neighborhood.
The Denver Police Department tweet sent out early the next morning read, in part, "#BREAKING #DPD resp to Bayaud & Bannock on report of shooting. 4 victims. 2 trans unk cond, 2 walk in @ hosp unk cond." That was followed a few hours later by another DPD tweet sharing even grimmer news: "1 party has been pronounced deceased, 1 critical, & the other 2 have non life threatening injuries. Ongoing investigation."
Prior to an official announcement of the homicide victim's identity, family members of Christian Martinez confirmed his death, with his brother, L.J. Cisneros, posting a series of tributes, including a photo collection captioned, "FUCK I MISS MY BROTHER...."
The shooting took place during a fight in which combatants spilled out of a house party, and Martinez was fatally shot in the back — and Ratcliff was subsequently named a suspect in a Crime Stoppers alert. Another alert was issued in June 2016, and a few weeks later, at 9:40 p.m. on July 31, officers spotted a suspicious vehicle on North Olive Street. that matched the description of a vehicle involved in a drive-by shooting early that evening. Ratcliff was driving; he fled the vehicle but was located nearby, when he fired shots at the police officers and one returned fire, striking Ratcliff in the abdomen.
After a four-week trial that ended on June 23, 2017, a jury found Ratcliff not guilty of trying to kill the officer, but the first-degree-assault charge stuck.
And according to Denver District Attorney's Office spokesman Ken Lane, there are still more charges pending against Ratliff:
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· Three counts of burglary and one count of criminal mischief, in connection with the alleged burglary of a marijuana dispensary on June 3, 2016, in the 4000 block of Jackson Street.
· Four counts of attempted murder, four counts of attempted first-degree assault, four counts of menacing, and one count of illegal discharge of a firearm, in connection with an alleged shooting on September 27, 2015, in the 3300 block of Colorado Boulevard; charges in that case were filed August 9, 2016.
· One count of escape from pending felony for allegedly fleeing from police as he was being escorted from the city jail into Denver Health Medical Center on September 23, 2016. He was captured moments later.
Arraignment is scheduled for those cases on January 22, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. in Denver District courtroom 4G.