Crime

Marlene Zacevich-Rodriguez's Attack on Denver Fire Chief "Random & Unprovoked"


Update: Yesterday, when we told you about the stabbing of Denver Fire Department Chief Eric Tade (see our previous coverage below), we noted that the attack allegedly committed by Marlene Zacevich-Rodriguez, 42, appeared to be "an entirely random act of violence," rather than an attempt to target Tade.

Now, the Denver Police Department is confirming this theory even though the investigation is ongoing.

In addition to sharing a new booking photo of Zacevich-Rodriguez (a previous image dated back to 2009), the DPD is offering its own description of what took place on Tuesday, January 19.

According to the department, Tade was behind the wheel of an unmarked city vehicle when he stopped at the traffic signal on westbound Colfax Avenue at North Speer Boulevard.

That's when  Zacevich-Rodriguez allegedly entered the passenger side of the vehicle and stabbed him.


Tade suffered non-life-threatening injuries to his leg and hand. He was treated and released on Tuesday from an area hospital.

Meanwhile, witnesses helped law enforcers track down  Zacevich-Rodriguez, who is being held on suspicion of aggravated assault.

Family members say  Zacevich-Rodriguez suffers from hallucinations, with one maintaining that she's not "right in the head."

In the meantime, the DPD offers three bullet points about the crime.
• There is no apparent prior connection between the victim and suspect.

• The victim was not targeted due to his position as Denver Fire Chief or as a public safety official.

• The assault appears to be random and unprovoked.
Continue for our previous coverage, which we've supplemented with a full-size version of Zacevich-Rodriguez's latest booking photo, near the bottom of this item.


Original post, 5:55 a.m. January 20:
It's among the most bizarre attacks on a public figure in recent memory — the broad-daylight stabbing of Denver Fire Department Chief Eric Tade while he was sitting in his SUV at a busy intersection.

And while Tade has been at the center of controversy in recent years — critics such as fired Denver Fire Department Captain Harold Johnson charge that the DFD has had a diversity problem on his watch — it appears thus far that he was the victim of an entirely random act of violence.

The suspect has been identified as 42-year-old Marlene Zacevich-Rodriguez.

And this brush with the law wasn't her first.

At about 1:30 p.m. yesterday, Tade was on the job and in uniform.

But at the intersection of Colfax and Speer, not far from Denver Fire Department headquarters, Zacevich-Rodriguez allegedly jumped into his unmarked SUV and began stabbing him.

During the assault, he sustained injuries to a hand and a leg.

As soon as he could, Tade abandoned his vehicle — and as seen in footage obtained by 7News and on view below, his ride began slowly rolling toward the intersection.


A crash seemed to be in the offing — at least until a bystander hopped into the SUV and drove it safely to the nearest curb.

In the meantime, bystanders reportedly pointed responding Denver Police Department officers to Zacevich-Rodriguez, who was promptly taken into custody.

The Zacevich-Rodriguez booking photo seen in this post is from a 2009 bust for driving under the influence and other traffic charges.

She's also been cuffed over the years for assault, providing false information, obstructing police and more.


In an off-camera interview with 7News, Zacevich-Rodriguez's son said that his mom wasn't "right in the head."

He maintained that she suffers from hallucinations.

Her visions are said to be severe enough that family members feared she would "go crazy" some day, her son added.

At this point, Zacevich-Rodriguez is being held on suspicion of aggravated assault.


Other charges from the Denver District Attorney's Office could be forthcoming.

As for Tade, he was released from Denver Health Medical Center last night to begin his recovery from what were described as non-life-threatening injuries.

In a statement, the Denver Fire Department offered thanks to "the Denver Police Department, Denver Health Paramedics and Denver Health Physicians for their quick response and extraordinary care," adding, "We are requesting privacy for Chief Tade and his family while he recuperates."

Continue for a larger look at the aforementioned 2009 booking pic, followed by a 7News piece on yesterday's incident.


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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