Did a Denver 911 operator accidentally contribute to the slaying of twenty-something Jimma Reat? That appears to be a strong possibility.
After all, a dispatcher told Reat and his companions to return to Denver to report damage to their vehicle -- and when they did, Reat was murdered in the latest tragedy being borne by his family.
The previous one? At around 3 a.m. the day after Christmas, Youn Malual, a Sudanese immigrant and father of five who Reat considered an uncle, was murdered by an unknown assailant near his apartment building at Mississippi and South Xenia in Arapahoe County. In our January post linked above, Bruce Williamson, a bureau chief with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, told us that the lack of progress in the case was frustrating. "We really want to get this one going," he said. "From everything we know, he was an upstanding, hardworking man just trying to care for his family. And to be gunned down the way he was...."
Unfortunately, the frustration in the Malual killing continues; no one has been arrested or charged in the matter. And what went down yesterday only compounds the agony.
At 4:15 a.m. on April 1, according to the Denver Police Department, a 911 call reported an altercation between two vehicles near 10th and Sheridan, with suspects continuing north on Sheridan following the matter. A DPD release notes that "the victims were advised to return to Denver to report this crime," and they did so, heading to the vicinity of 29th and Sheridan to wait for cops to turn up. Instead, the suspect's vehicle materialized instead and shots were fired. One struck a man identified by 9News as Reat, who was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly after 5 a.m.
That's all the DPD is sharing thus far -- but 9News has more details. According to the station, the altercation involved "bottles and other debris" that were thrown at the car containing Reat and two companions. A window was broken in the process.
Did the 911 operator inadvertently escalate shattered glass into a homicide? Hard to say at this point. The distance between the 10th and Sheridan address and the fatal drive-by at 29th and Sheridan is considerable -- about two miles. But reports that Reat and company were waiting for police when he was killed raise a whole slew of troubling issues, as Ernest Franssen, Denver 911's operations manager, acknowledged to 9News. "The outcome of the call, absolutely, it's a very sad situation. And we're apologetic for what it appears that may have happened," he said.
Meanwhile, Reat's brother, Gatwec Dengpahot, already appears to have reached some harsh conclusions. "I am furious with the dispatcher," he told the station. "I'm so, so, so furious. I believe the system has failed us."
Thus far, no suspects have been arrested in Reat's murder -- a terrible echo of the Malual death. There may have been as many as four people involved, with the vehicle in question (which may or may not be in possession of the police) described as a red Jeep.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Look below to see 9News' coverage.
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
More from our Mile High Murder archive: "De'Quan Walker-Smith ID'd as 29th and Franklin homicide victim: Gang-related? (43)"