DSST Cole Middle School Shooting: Confusion, Chaos, Suspect in Custody

The scene after the August 28 shooting at DSST Cole Middle School.
The scene after the August 28 shooting at DSST Cole Middle School. Denver7 via YouTube
Moments ago, the Denver Police Department tweeted that an arrest had been made in the shooting of a student outside the DSST Cole Middle School campus on August 28, during the second week of the new academic year. The student who was shot in the incident remains in critical condition.

This development is the latest twist in a fast-moving story that's generated shock and confusion among members of the school community, as well as complaints about subpar communication by Denver Public Schools, which prematurely announced that a suspect was in custody, and the Denver Police Department, whose new police chief, Paul Pazen, referred to the facility by the wrong name throughout a press conference at the scene.

Thus far, the shooting victim hasn't been identified. Chief Pazen referred to him only as a "juvenile male." As for the suspect, we're told by DSST sources that he's another student at the campus, but that hasn't been confirmed by authorities to date.

Pazen and Michael Eaton, DPS head of security, spoke briefly to the assembled media outside the school, located on the 3200 block of Marion, more than an hour after the shooting, which is said to have taken place just prior to 2 p.m. on the 28th. As you'll see by the video of the exchange, shared here, Pazen identified the facility as Mitchell Middle School, a name that hasn't been used since 2011.

Here's the video:

Few particulars were shared during the briefing — something Pazen teased at the outset.

"We do not have too much information we can share at this time," he allowed. "We are actively looking for an individual and are seeking the community's assistance."

Beyond this, Pazen concentrated on putting off questions about most topics, including the possible involvement of gangs — something else mentioned to us by our DSST sources. He stressed that it's too early in the investigation to talk about particulars.

He also declined to provide a description of the suspect, but noted that investigators had talked to multiple witnesses.

click to enlarge Investigators outside DSST Cole Middle School. - DENVER7 VIA YOUTUBE
Investigators outside DSST Cole Middle School.
Denver7 via YouTube
DPS's Eaton, for his part, dealt with complaints that parents weren't notified about the shooting in a timely manner.

Eaton emphasized that the safety of students and staff was the first priority, adding, "We apologize if it does take a little longer to get that out."

It certainly did. More than an hour after Eaton's words, at least one DSST Cole Middle School parent still hadn't been informed that anything out of the ordinary was happening.

Students, meanwhile, were processing the shooting in a variety of different ways. One burst into tears upon seeing her mom. Another shrugged off the incident, saying it didn't strike him as especially scary because "I live around here."

click to enlarge An evidence marker being placed outside DSST Cole Middle School. - DENVER7 VIA YOUTUBE
An evidence marker being placed outside DSST Cole Middle School.
Denver7 via YouTube
The mess got messier just shy of 7 p.m., when DPS posted on Facebook that a suspect had been busted. Personnel from both Denver7 and CBS4, among others, quickly tweeted about this development, only to learn from Denver police reps shortly thereafter that it wasn't true.

DPS responded by amending its original Facebook item with this line: "UPDATE: Earlier reports that there was an arrest are incorrect."

Just prior to 9 p.m. last night, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock tweeted about the shooting. He wrote: "I had the opportunity to visit with the parents of the teen shot near Cole Middle School, and while in shock, they know #Denver is with them. @denverpolice are working developments in this case and we should know more very soon."

He was right about that. At 6:27 a.m., the Denver Police Department tweeted, "Update: Overnight DPD arrested a juvenile male for the shooting at 3200 Marion St. near Cole school. He’s being held for investigation of Aggravated Assault. Victim remains in critical condition. More details will be released later today."

Anyone with information about the shooting is encouraged to call Denver Crimestoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867).
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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