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How Many of Denver's 44 Homicides So Far This Year Were Motivated by Pot?

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In an interview with Westword published yesterday, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, who wrote a letter of support for an anti-marijuana legalization measure up for vote in California next week, said he believes legal pot has contributed to a crime increase in Colorado, including more homicides. But he acknowledged that data to prove it is hard to come by.

He's right about that. However, an analysis of homicides in Denver circa 2016 provides more information. Our look at the 44 homicides that have taken place in the city so far this year (including a shocking twelve last month) shows four with a marijuana connection — one death fewer than the number of people killed by Denver police officers this year to date.

These numbers can't be considered definitive, as law enforcement either hasn't released information about motives in every case or doesn't have it available because no suspects have been arrested or identified. As a result, it's possible that marijuana was a motive in additional homicides — though it's just as likely that it wasn't, and perhaps more so given that the most common crimes fall into the categories of domestic violence or possible gang activity.

Below, get details on all 44 homicides, drawn from Westword coverage and other media sources — most importantly, the Denver Post's ongoing Denver Homicide Report, a valuable repository that gathers statistics going back to last year. Note that the marijuana-related homicides took place in two separate incidents, one of which was particularly bloody, resulting in three deaths.

Number 1: Teodoro Leon III
January 1
1025 Acoma alley
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Leon was stabbed to death by Calvin Johnson, a homeless man who, as we've reported, admitted that the two had past beefs over stolen items. Johnson, who has been convicted in the slaying, is said to have referred to himself as "Calvin/Elijah the Prophet/crazy killer."

Number 2: Ramone Lonergan
January 11
Speer and Zuni
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

As we've reported, Lonergan was killed in an officer-involved shooting after he'd allegedly emerged from a vehicle holding a gun.

Number 3: Varnell Jenkins
January 23
12300 Albrook Drive
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Jenkins was reportedly shot and killed after an altercation with an unknown individual who has yet to be arrested, despite a Crimestoppers alert with photos showing a man considered to be a person of interest.

Number 4: Victor Mendoza
January 30
National Western Complex
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Mendoza was killed during a January brawl at the Colorado Motorcycle Expo at the National Western complex involving a rival motorcycle club. No charges were filed in the case.

Number 5: David Castillo
February 4
2011 West Gill Place
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Castillo was shot in front of a residence. Few details about the case have been made public, and no arrests have been made for the crime.

Number 6: Sheryl Thompson
February 21
3400 block of Park Avenue West
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Jeremiah Halsey told some Denver firefighters that "he had hurt somebody." He had: Thompson died of asphyxia, and Halsey was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Number 7: Gerardino Gonzalez
February 22
35th and Lowell
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Gonzalez was killed by police officers investigating a burglary he is believed to have committed prior to a carjacking and a chase.

Number 8: Tarell Burton
March 9
Bruce Randolph and Cherry Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Teen father Burton was killed, and Bernice Serrano, who was with him, suffered severe injuries in a shooting for which two men, Keon Nixon and Eli Mayfield, have been charged. The case was investigated by members of the Denver police gang unit.

Number 9: Jose Moran Cortez
March 12
4800 block of Morrison Road
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Cortez was found dead around 6 a.m. on the 12th. Alonso Nunez-Cabrera was named as a person of interest in the case, but no arrest has been reported, nor have any details emerged.

Number 10: Scott Breitinger
April 3
3200 block of West Nevada Place
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Breitinger was riding his motorcycle when he is believed to have gotten into a confrontation with an unknown individual who shot him to death. No arrests in the case thus far, nor any revelations about motive.

Number 11: Dion Damon
April 12
1300 block of Bannock Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Damon, who was wanted in connection with a bank robbery, was shot to death by police while he sat in a car on Bannock Street. He was unarmed at the time, but no charges were pressed against the officers involved.

Number 12: Marc Koenig
April 13
Alley between the 3200 blocks of Race and High streets
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Koenig's body was found in a dumpster. The Denver coroner determined that he died of blunt-force injuries. No arrests have been made, and possible motives haven't been made public.

Number 13: Jairo Perez Bojorquez
April 22
200 block of Osceola Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Daniel Gutierrez was arrested on suspicion of murder after Perez Bojorquez was found shot to death. No information about motives has been shared with the citizenry.

Number 14: Temujin Clark
April 24
1600 block of Vrain Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

After Clark was shot to death, his father, Danny Clark, was taken into custody on suspicion of having pulled the trigger.

Numbers 15: Shane Richardson
May 2
725 East 26th Avenue
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Richardson's body was found after a fire was extinguished in an apartment above Rosenberg's Bagels, which was closed for months due to the damages. Tattoo artist Brian Pattison was arrested for the crime. While Pattison's criminal record includes a past drug-possession conviction (along with arrests for  burglary, speeding 25 to 39 mph over the speed limit, escaping a felony conviction and carrying a concealed weapon), there has been no information made public about a marijuana motive in the case.

Continue to get the details about 29 more Denver homicides from 2016 and how many of them are known to have been motivated by marijuana.

Numbers 16-18: Sean Pointe, Derrius Woods, Devonne Burton
June 3
3600 block of Hudson Street
Suspected marijuana-related motive?: Yes

Shortly after the North Park Hill triple shooting that killed Pointe, Woods and Burton, the Denver Police Department characterized what happened as a "drug deal gone bad" — a conclusion based on marijuana plants that were found inside the home. Three people with Oklahoma roots were indicted and charged in the case, including former CU Buffs football player Chadd Evans.

Number 19: Cara Russell
June 29, 2016
1536 Wynkoop Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Cara Russell was shot to death by her estranged husband, Mickey Russell, in an incident that shut down a significant portion of lower downtown. Mickey Russell took his own life after killing Cara.

Number 20: Tyrone Moore
June 30
East Colfax Avenue and North Pennsylvania Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Moore was shot and killed outside a McDonald's on East Colfax. No arrests in the case have been made, and no motive has been made public.

Number 21: Kurt Gillotte
July 3
1100 block of South Pecos Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Gillotte died from a gunshot wound, and a woman was shot several times in the same incident. She hasn't been publicly identified.

Number 22: John Field
July 9
West First Avenue and Bannock Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Field was shot in July but didn't die of his wounds until October 22, while in hospice. No arrests have been reported.

Number 23-24: Maira Cordero-Cuesta, Raquel Cordero-Cuesta
July 22
5500 block of North Revere Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

The two women were killed by sharp-force trauma, the Denver Medical Examiner determined. Angel Chavez was arrested for their deaths.

Number 25: Walter Bracken Jr.
July 24
East Andrews Drive and Elgin Place
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Bracken's remains were found beaten, stabbed and burned. Delson Giles was arrested in the case; he allegedly killed Bracken after an altercation.

Number 26: Gailen Armstrong
July 30
18th and Market
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Armstrong was killed in a gunfight between rival gangs that took place in what some observers see as one of LoDo's most dangerous parking lots.

Number 27: Santy Orozco-Uribe
July 30
1800 block of South Knox Court
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Orozco-Uribe was killed in a murder-suicide involving Jose Ibarra-Corral.

Number 28: Terry Salazar
August 27
8 Fox Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Salazar was killed by police officers. He was said to have been wielding a knife at the time of the shooting.

Number 29: Frank Chavez
August 28
100 block of South Knox Court
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Chavez was killed during a home invasion. No arrests have been made and police haven't publicly discussed a motive.

Number 30: Michael Ferguson
August 31
2600 block of West Bates Avenue
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Police killed Ferguson during a scuffle. He was suspected of having stolen a car.

Number 31: Gerald Hammons
September 11
29th and Welton streets
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Hammons was shot to death after leaving an after-hours club. His killer is still at large.

Number 32: Gervais Spencer
September 13
5521 Xanadu Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Spencer was found dead in his home after having been shot multiple times. No arrests, no publicly announced motive.

Number 33: Jose Sanchez Jaime
September 26
16100 block of East Randolph Place
Known marijuana-related motive? No

Roxanne Monique Sanchez-Jaime, the mother of Sanchez Jaime's four children, reportedly told officers investigating the slaying that she'd "shot the motherfucker in the head."

Number 34: Rene Wells II
October 1
500 block of East Colfax Avenue
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Wells died of multiple gunshots fired at him outside a 7-Eleven. No further details have been released in the case, and neither have any arrests been made.

Number 35: Keylin Mosley
October 9
2830 High Street
Suspected marijuana-related motive?: Yes

Mosley was a fifteen-year-old killed by homeowner Keith Hammock, allegedly for trying to steal marijuana plants from his backyard grow. Another youth was paralyzed in the shooting, which was not deemed justified under Colorado's Make My Day law.

Number 36: Tyrone Adair
October 10
2700 block of Larimer Street
Suspected marijuana-related motive?: No

Adair was known in the hip-hop community as rapper BossMan Goodie. His shooting led to the public-nuisance closure of the Cold Crush nightclub, which Adair had been visiting, though authorities subsequently allowed the venue to reopen.

Number 37: Deonta McDonald
October 12
1300 block of South Birch Street
Suspected marijuana-related motive?: No

McDonald was killed outside the apartment building where he'd been staying. Further information about the case remains elusive.

Number 38: David Henderson
October 12
400 block of South Galena Way
Suspected marijuana-related motive?: No

Multiple gunshot wounds killed Henderson, but police haven't released any other details in regard to the crime.

Number 39: Quinasia Russell
October 15
8338 East Colfax
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Russell was shot to death at the Airway Motel on East Colfax. An arrest warrant for Brent Kelley was issued, but no reports about his whereabouts have been shared at this writing.

Number 40: Jordan Valdez
October 17
1400 block of South Federal Boulevard
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Valdez was stabbed to death. Lorenzo Mark Simental has been charged in the case; he's said to have attacked Valdez at a location where two girls involved in a Facebook argument had arranged to fight.

Number 41: Thomas Johnson Jr.
October 23
4700 block of North Ireland Court
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Michael E. Lewis Jr. has been arrested in Johnson's death, whose outlines suggest an execution. Johnson was shot twice in each leg and once in the back of the head.

Number 42-43: Orlando Jackson, Terrence Ashley
October 29, October 30
4300 block of Columbine Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Jackson, Ashley and a third man who survived were shot in the same incident, about which no more information is currently available. The first two men died a day apart.

Number 44: Araceli Esparza-Miranda
October 29
4800 block of Kingston Street
Known marijuana-related motive?: No

Jose Vallejo-Cano has been arrested on suspicion of fatally strangling Araceli Esparza-Miranda, the mother of his four young children.

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