Ten days after a double murder outside a bar on one of RiNo's hottest blocks, no arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified. But the Denver Police Department is hoping to change that, and is asking for the public's help in identifying the killer or killers of two fathers, Guillermo Ornelas and Jose Herrera-Cabral.
"A lot of times, witnesses who actually saw what happened don't come forward," says DPD technician Jay Casillas. "If they could come forward to us now, that'd be great."
Gentrification has caused a great deal of controversy and discussion in metro Denver of late, as the protest over an Ink! Coffee sign in Five Points indicates. But the changes in the RiNo area haven't eliminated crime.
In March 2017, for instance, we shared a Whittier Neighborhood Association representative's estimate of eight shootings over a two-week period. Among them were a broad-daylight gun-down near 31st and Gilpin that ended in serious injuries for two men, and a disturbance in the vicinity of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Marion in the Cole neighborhood that resulted in shots being fired.
These events were associated with gang violence, and anti-gang activist Reverend Leon Kelly believes, as he's told us on numerous occasions, that the tension caused by gentrification may have exacerbated the situation.
After a rash of gang-related shootings in 2015, for instance, Kelly argued that "one of the contributors is the migration in the neighborhood. Thirty years ago, that neighborhood used to be all black. Then, twenty years ago, it was majority Hispanic or Latino. Now there's a majority of whites moving in."
He added: "Back in the day, the blacks and the browns could co-exist because there was room for each of them to occupy territory. Now the whites are consolidating, boxing in the blacks and browns, who are trying to hang on to this little bit of space — and that's forcing them to get closer together, and it's causing a reaction."
More recently, in September 2017, we reported about a shooting near the intersection of 31st and Marion that seriously wounded one individual.
As we pointed out at the time, Westword has covered plenty of homicides within a radius of a mile or so from that intersection. Examples include the January 2010 slayings of Lonell Franklin and DeShon Lee at Martin Luther King and Adams; the March 2015 killing of Jeffrey Starks at MLK and Pontiac; and the April 2015 murder of Nolan Ware near 32nd and Gilpin, while he was attending the funeral of another homicide victim, Abdul Muhammad.
Thus far, Denver police have released only the basic details about the killings of Ornelas and Cabral-Herrera.
At approximately 7:57 p.m. on the 5th, officers responded to the New Welcome Inn bar at 3759 Chestnut Place, next to the ultra-popular Blue Moon Brewing Company and just steps from the well-known Pepsi bottling plant. Upon their arrival, law enforcers found Ornelas, 43, and Herrera-Cabral, 35, suffering from gunshot wounds. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
At this writing, no suspects have been identified in the shootings, and the DPD's Casillas admits that "there's not much more to update you on. Unfortunately, we don't have much more information. But it's still an active, ongoing investigation."
He encourages witnesses or anyone else with information about the case to contact Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7567). Tipsters can remain anonymous, and an award of up to $2,000 is being offered in the case.
In the meantime, a GoFundMe page has been launched on behalf of Ornelas. Its introduction reads:
We have lost a loving son,father,brother,friend,cousin etc. He was an outgoing man, goofball, loved his sons & family lots! He was a great father to his three boys; Brandon, Guillermo & Giovanni. Always was at every one of his boys basketball games to support them. Enjoyed being around his family & friends. Family is devastated by this loss, anything helps! Thank you from the Ornelas family.
At this writing, more than $4,000 has been raised toward a goal of $10,000. Click for more details.