Guardian Angels increase patrols in Capitol Hill in reponse to recent violence

November has been a violent month in Capitol Hill. To start, there was the stabbing death of Ryan Haldeman, 28, near Pub on Penn on November 2. Two days later, 47-year-old Ronald Smith was shot to death outside The Hive. And on November 16, 30-year-old Jonathan Michael Hammond was shot in the leg in the alley between Pearl and Pennsylvania streets. Denver's Guardian Angels have taken note and are concentrating patrols in the area.

Few details have been reported on Hammond's shooting. According to a police report, Hammond and an unknown suspect "became involved in an argument." The suspect struck Hammond and then walked into the alley. Hammond followed. The suspect drew a handgun and shot Hammond in the left thigh. The suspect fled south while Hammond made his way north to Colfax Avenue, "where he was found by police."

The suspect is described as a black male between 22 and 29 years old who stands about five feet, ten inches tall and weighs approximately 175 pounds.

Guardian Angel Carl "Doc" Webster says the keep-the-peace group is responding to the recent violence by devoting more attention to the area where it occurred.

"We talk to the police department and say, 'Hey, do you have some place in particular you'd like us to be?'" says Webster, a 65-year-old VA nurse who's been with the Angels nineteen years. "Right now ... we're saturating our work on the area around Logan and Pennsylvania and Pearl streets. Just trying to keep people in that area safer."

The Guardian Angels are a civilian safety patrol started in New York City in 1979. The Denver chapter began in 1993, following the so-called Summer of Violence. The Angels' membership has fluctuated over the years, but Webster reports that five to ten Angels currently patrol Denver's streets on weekends. Unarmed but trained in self-defense, the Angels concentrate their efforts downtown, in Capitol Hill and along Colfax.

Several months ago, Webster says the Angels started spending less time on Colfax and more time in the neighborhoods surrounding it after speaking with the District 6 police commander. Around the time Haldeman was stabbed, he says the focus became patrolling the area between Washington and Logan streets from about 10th Avenue to 18th Avenue.

Commander Tony Lopez was unavailable for comment due to the holiday week. But according to the Denver Post, he told a Capitol Hill neighborhood meeting on November 8 that police had increased patrols in the area. Police spokeswoman Raquel Lopez confirms that, adding that officers are "conducting special operations in plainclothes and uniforms."

Thus far, the police have made an arrest in just one case: Marvin Joel Rosario-Lopez, 24, is charged with murdering Smith, who was at The Hive to see his son's band play.

Overall, crime statistics for Capitol Hill show that so-called "crimes against persons," which includes murder, assault and sex offenses, are down from last year. The posted Denver Police Department stats only go through the end of October, however.

But crime statistics for all of District 6 -- which includes Capitol Hill, LoDo, Lincoln Park and Five Points -- show that the number of crimes against persons were up through October. Murders, however, were down -- from nine last year to just two this year. Haldeman and Smith aren't included in that number.

No matter the statistics, Webster says the Angels will keep patrolling.

"We're trying to recruit. If I had more people, we could do more and be seen more and we'd have more red coats and red berets on the streets," he says, referring to the uniform of the Guardian Angels. "Just knowing that is quite often enough to get these people to think twice about doing something that they normally wouldn't do."

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Denver Police Department finishes major reorganization, with many demoted."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
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