Justin O'Donnell murder: Denver police justify leaving body uncovered for hours (3, 4)

Update: The shooting on Friday that killed Justin O'Donnell and Deon Rudd stirred controversy in part because the former's body was left in view of a large throng for hours. Denver Police spokesman Detective John White stresses that no disrespect was intended -- and he hints that the investigative work undertaken during that period may have helped lead to the arrests of Marquise Davis and Denzel Richardson in connection with this brutal crime.

"I certainly understand the frustration of some family members," White acknowledges. "But at the same time, it was extremely important that our investigators were allowed to have full, complete access to that crime scene. When there's a double homicide and two other individuals injured" -- the latter are expected to survive -- "there's a tremendous amount of documentation that needs to be done. You don't want to rush through the documentation of the scene and miss a critical piece of evidence."

White adds that "we tried to move around our apparatus, our police cars, to provide some concealment of the body."

In retrospect, is there anything the DPD could have done to improve the situation?

"We feel like we did everything we could," White says, noting that clues at such scenes "can ultimately lead to helping us find out who is responsible."

Was that the case this time around? "I know that investigators were able to gather enough information to request and be granted arrest warrants for these two individuals" -- Davis and Richardson.

Thus far, White is unwilling to call the crime gang-related. "That's something our investigators are still trying to determine," he says.

Look below to see our earlier coverage.

Original item, 6:17 a.m. May 29: Denver Police are still not confirming that the shocking daylight slayings of Justin O'Donnell and Deon Rudd were gang-related: The arrests of Marquise Davis and Denzel Richardson for the crime should help investigators make that determination. Meanwhile, community members are expressing outrage at the way the crime scene was handled even as activists warn about rising gang violence that's been largely unacknowledged by the press.

The Denver Police Department release from Friday outlines the incident in the simplest terms. At around 2 p.m., members of the DPD arrived at the 3300 block of Bruce Randolph Avenue to find that four young men had been shot. Two -- O'Donnell, 21, and Rudd, 30 -- were pronounced dead at the scene, while the other pair were rushed to a local hospital for treatment even as officers searched for a pair of armed suspects who reportedly approached the quartet, drew weapons and fired multiple rounds before fleeing on foot.

In a second release, police revealed that Davis, 25, was arrested on the 15800 block of East 13th Place in Aurora early on Monday morning, with the bust of Richardson, 22, taking place at approximately 3:45 p.m. on the 900 block of South Peoria, also in Aurora.

But that's hardly the end of the story. O'Donnell's family has told the media that the young man wasn't involved in gangs, while Rudd reportedly counseled other young people to stay out of such violent groups, raising the question of whether both of them were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And then there's controversy over the DPD's handling of the crime scene. As the Denver Post's Kieran Nicholson and Joey Bunch reported in especially vivid and moving coverage, more than 100 people gathered at the scene, including O'Donnell's mother, with many of them practically overcome with emotion. At one point, a man passed beyond the police line, arms outstretched, and beseeched the heavens with the question, "Who killed my brother? Who killed my brother?"

Meanwhile, the bodies of the victims were allowed to lay on the street in sight of the throng for as long as three hours. Police claim they couldn't be covered because of the need to search for evidence, although they tried to obstruct the view via the strategic placement of vehicles.

Violent shootings in the area appear to be increasing, and most, if not all of them, display the earmarks of gang violence; the March homicide of De-Quan Walker-Smith is a prime example. The following month, The Youth Connection's Heidi Grove decried the situation, which she believes is related to a massive February cocaine-ring bust

"We knew when that hit the news that it could potentially have major repercussions," Grove said. "A lot of people don't understand that gangs are a hierarchy. They function, in lay terms, like a corporation: Everybody has a boss, and information goes up and down. And when that bust happened, a lot of the major shot-callers went to jail. That means everything is very disorganized and convoluted, and people are fighting for power. I would say there's a turf war going on in various parts of the city."

Look below to see an interactive graphic of the area near where the shooting took place (if you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map") plus two 9News reports -- one from the day of the shooting, the other noting the arrests of Davis and Richardson.

View Larger Map

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More from our Mile High Murder archive: "Ten unsolved Denver murders: Read personal stories of the victims."

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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.
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