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Glacially paced investigation into DNC visitor Gabriel Pico's death finally moving forward

Gabriel Pico died outside the Diamond Cabaret just over a day after the DNC concluded.

Democratic National Convention visitor Gabriel Pico, 41, a member of California's Pechanga Tribal Council, died during the wee hours of August 30 following a scuffle outside the Diamond Cabaret. Since then, news about the investigation has trickled out so slowly that members of the Pechanga community have been left to speculate about what actually happened. Finally, though, the autopsy results are back, and the coroner has concluded that "the manner of death is homicide." But that doesn't mean anyone's been charged to date in Pico's killing -- and at this point, there's no guarantee anyone will be.

The Denver Post account linked above states that Pico was being assaulted outside the Diamond Cabaret by three men "who were reportedly kicking him." At some point, a Diamond Cabaret bouncer apparently joined the melee in an attempt "to separate [Pico] from his assailants" -- and while this was going on, the bouncer "had his arm around the decedent's neck." The scenario implies that the subsequent asphyxiation of Pico may have been accidental -- or at least that the bouncer hadn't purposefully tried to harm him. Yet the account is too muddled to tell for certain. Denver District Attorney's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough confirmed to the Post that two men, Justin Ludwig and John Nelson, were arrested and charged with second-degree assault in relation to the incident; they were taken into custody (and subsequently posted bond) on October 2, well over a month after Pico died. But since four people are said to have been involved in the matter, that leaves two unaccounted for. Moreover, a comment credited to Denver Police Department spokesman Sonny Jackson only muddies the water further:

Now that the autopsy report is done, with the exception of blood-screening results, police investigators are expected to turn over their findings to the Denver DA's office to see whether criminal charges are warranted, Jackson said.

The coroner ruled that Pico died by homicide -- and yet it's still up in the air as to whether criminal charges are warranted? This case just keeps getting stranger and stranger. -- Michael Roberts

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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