Will 14th and Broadway Shooting Lead to Federal Troops in Denver?

The aftermath of the 14th and Broadway shooting on July 23, as seen from the air.
The aftermath of the 14th and Broadway shooting on July 23, as seen from the air. Courtesy of CBS4 Denver
Late on the afternoon of July 23, a triple shooting near a homeless encampment at 14th and Broadway left one person dead. The Denver Police Department has not yet announced any arrests or charges related to the killing.

The incident — the latest in a month filled with gun-related Mile High homicides — is the very sort of crime decried by state senator Dave Williams in a letter sent earlier in the day to President Donald Trump. In it, Williams requested that Trump expand Operation Legend — a federal law enforcement operation intended to crack down on violence in major U.S. cities during the months before the 2020 presidential election — to Colorado in general and Denver in particular.

Mere hours before the bullets started flying, Governor Jared Polis, appearing at a press conference to discuss the state's COVID-19 response, made it clear that he hadn't asked for Trump to release the hounds. "The State of Colorado has not requested federal troops," he said, noting that while he wouldn't hesitate to ask the administration for help if he felt it was necessary, he would first turn to the Colorado National Guard, which is already on call owing to the pandemic and is "under my command."

Polis pointed out that in places where Trump has sent in troops — most notably Portland, Oregon, where Mayor Ted Wheeler and other protesters were tear-gassed by federal agents — "it was obviously like putting oil on a flame," he said. "It makes the situation worse. It escalates it. The way we would approach anything in Colorado would be to work to de-escalate rather than escalate. We want order rather than disorder. We want people to respect the law. We don't want people to be chaotic and fight with federal troops."

The shooting location did come up during Polis's talk earlier that day, for another reason: The block-long state park in the block between Lincoln and Broadway, just down from the Colorado State Capitol, has become the site of a major homeless encampment. Although he admitted that he didn't have a thorough knowledge of Denver laws, Polis said he'd welcome the removal of tents from state property and said he had "zero tolerance" for vandalism of the sort that's marked buildings in the vicinity for weeks; the graffiti removal process is under way.

Meanwhile, at 5 p.m. tonight, the State Capitol is slated to be the site of a protest named "Fuck the Feds," promoted by an online flier that reads in part: "We reject the invasion of Portland, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Kansas City. ... Our insurrection has called into question the legitimacy of the state, its role in our communities, and its use of force to defend the interests of the powerful and propertied class at the expense of the most vulnerable. We have sought justice for our Black, Brown and Indigenous siblings and radical change of an oppressive machine for exploitation. They have responded to these calls with unconditional violence and terror using a secret police force. This tactic has been used for centuries now and we say HELL NO!" Click for more information.

As for the shooting, the DPD has issued only the most basic information. At 4:24 p.m. on July 23, the department tweeted, "Alert: Officers are investigating a shooting in the 1400 block of Broadway with three victims; conditions unknown. Officers are attempting to identify and locate the suspect." A 5:24 p.m. update confirmed that "all 3 victims of the 14th/Broadway shooting are adult males. One victim was pronounced deceased at the hospital; the other 2 victims are in critical condition." This was amended in an 8:56 p.m. message that revealed, "The two surviving victims of today's shooting at 14th/Broadway have non-life-threatening injuries. We are continuing to investigate the circumstances and develop suspect info."

The shooting was just a few hundred feet from the spot in Civic Center Park where, on July 19, a group voicing its support of law enforcement clashed with protesters against excessive police force. This dust-up is another major theme of Williams's letter, which blames the conflict on Antifa groups — a common tactic during the downtown Denver demonstrations prompted by the police killing of George Floyd, but one based infinitely more on politically motivated rumors than facts.

Thus far, social media hasn't exploded with calls for federal intervention based on the 14th and Broadway shooting. Note that Truth Transparency Freedom, which copied its tweet decrying the gunplay as an example of "Lawlessness and Disorder" to Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, has a grand total of fifteen followers. But no one will be surprised if Williams, whose tweet about his letter lumped Polis in with other "selfish bastards" (the description the governor used earlier this month to describe people who don't wear masks), takes such a tack.

Here's the Williams letter:
July 23, 2020
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

CC: The Honorable William P. Barr

RE: Request for Justice Department intervention and expansion of "Operation Legend" to protect law-abiding Colorado citizens abandoned by Governor Jared Polis while also helping to stop Governor Polis from issuing unconstitutional mandates that jeopardize Coloradan’s freedoms and way of life.

Dear Mr. President,

As a lawmaker representing Colorado House District 15, I officially request that your administration expand its "Operation Legend" efforts to include Colorado, specifically in the city of Denver as violent, deadly crime is on an upswing according to many news reports.

Sadly, the violence is being largely ignored by radical Democrats who are in a position to stop it.

Recently, various national media outlets reported that law-abiding citizens who peacefully assembled in the city of Denver to show their support for our law enforcement community were attacked by members of the domestic terrorist organization known as "Antifa."

The raw footage from the event shows numerous violent altercations that were incited by these "Antifa" thugs against innocent people who included prominent public figures like national political commentator, Michelle Malkin, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, and Colorado House GOP Leader, Rep. Patrick Neville, who you’ve personally hosted at the White House.

What was especially appalling about this incident was that the Denver Police Department was given orders to not protect the innocent from the mob.

Additionally, Governor Polis, who is charged by law to protect our State Capitol building, has allowed criminals to vandalize, deface, and destroy the Capitol grounds as well as the surrounding public and private property near it.

Governor Polis is also enabling these criminals to openly defecate in public areas, harass hardworking bystanders, and engage in drug use near locations that businesses and the public operate in.

The situation is becoming more and more untenable and many Coloradans are wondering what it will take for those in power to stop the lawlessness.

To make matters worse, Governor Polis, who is refusing to restore law and order by stopping these criminals, is instead punishing hard-working, honest citizens who are desperately trying to pay their bills and make ends meet while the economy is artificially shut down.

By using the Chinese coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for his unprecedented power grabs, Governor Polis is issuing unconstitutional mandates that have shuttered businesses, churches, schools, and other community activities. His latest two orders were a statewide mask mandate and an order for restaurants to stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m.

Colorado is going too far with these restrictions and a recent study that was reported by the Colorado news publication, Westword, found that Colorado was one of the most restrictive states in the country.

The good news is that there are those of us who are trying to fight back against the overreach of radical Democrats led by Governor Polis.

Recently, restaurants represented by the Tavern League of Colorado have filed a lawsuit against Governor Polis to stop his unconstitutional mandates, which set outrageous capacity limits and prohibited the serving of alcohol after 10 p.m.

Additionally, our Colorado House GOP Leader, Rep. Patrick Neville, will be filing a lawsuit in the days ahead to stop the Governor’s unconstitutional statewide mask mandate.

Given that lawsuits are being filed to combat Governor Polis’ overreach and the commitment by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to oppose radical state restrictions, I also officially request that your administration, through the Justice Department, provide legal resources and assistance to the Tavern League of Colorado and Rep. Patrick Neville for their respective lawsuits against Governor Jared Polis.

Governor Polis, in his smug arrogance, is violating the right of citizens to freely make health care decisions for themselves and families while also coddling criminals who are continuously encouraged to violate the rule of law by the Governor’s willful inaction to protect the public he falsely claims to serve.

Mr. President, we need your help now more than ever.

The people of Colorado have been left to fend for themselves and you, being the President of law and order, are our only hope.


Dave Williams
Representative, House District 15 (R)
Colorado General Assembly
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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